Negotiating with Warlords, with Hichem Khadhraoui

As Director of Operations for Geneva Call, Hichem Khadhraoui spends his days convincing armed militias and non-state paramilitary groups to adhere to the Geneva Conventions on human rights in war. Turi asks what lessons we can learn from negotiating on the most violent of frontlines.

S2 E3: Negotiating with Warlords

“We have to come to the table, even if it’s just to say we disagree… then you have a chance to move forward”

The number of armed groups created in the last 6 years surpasses the number created since WW2. States themselves have been creating them, globalisation has linked them up, and the population displacement driven by climate change has only exacerbated the problem.

Through his work with Geneva Call, Hichem has worked all over the world - successfully convincing militias in Northern Syrian to not recruit child soldiers, and securing the release of hostages in the DR Congo.

His work is centred around Dialogue - engaging, listening and negotiating. How do you ask a militia leader to commit not to use human shields? How do you ask an armed group to divert some of its resources towards protecting civilians?

The guiding principles used by Geneva Call offer a way to approach dialogue in a polarised world.

Listen to Turi and Hichem discuss the three pillars of constructive dialogue

  • Ownership: granting the other side autonomy, and shared ownership of the dialogue.
  • Localisation: working with the physical reality of your interlocutor, understanding their community.
  • Contextualisation: every community is individual and different - we tend to apply the same rules everywhere irrespective of what is happening on the ground.

Read the Full Transcript

Hichem Khadhraoui

Hichem Khadhraoui is Director of Operations at Geneva Call, where he has travelled across the world negotiating with armed groups who violate human rights. Geneva Call works in situations of conflict or violence where armed groups are at risk of violating human rights law and endangering civilians. They have worked everywhere from Colombia (FARC) to the Philippines (with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front).

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 20 Jan 2021 at 10:58 UTC