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Humanitarian organizations of all types must negotiate with a wide variety of governments and maneuver through myriad types of political environments. Some of the most difficult environments are those where the regimes in power may be considered authoritarian in nature. An authoritarian regime may be defined as a political system which rejects political plurality and democratic norms, uses strong central power to manage society, and where the rule of law is subjugated to the maintenance of the political status quo. Many political observers detect an increasing growth of such regimes.
This panel will discuss how humanitarian organizations approach such regimes. Organizations may choose accommodation and fulfil all government demands in earnest. Or they may choose withdrawal and give up on the possibility of working in such an authoritarian environment. Another option may be counter-attacking, where an attempt is made to put the regime is put on the defensive and aggressively defend the value of humanitarian action. Or humanitarian actors may choose concealment and try to fly under the regime’s radar. There are surely many other options.
Papers are encouraged which explore the politics of negotiating with authoritarian regimes and the various ways in which humanitarian organizations respond to the constraints such regimes present to humanitarian action. Questions may include: On the part of humanitarian organizations, how are these political negotiations informed? And do national and international organizations take different perspectives to these negotiations?