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Florence School of Transnational Governance

A new UNOPS collaboration to equip senior leaders in humanitarian negotiation

From 1 to 5 October 2023, the EUI joined forces with the Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation (CCHN), to develop the executive training programme "Leaders’ Engagement As Responsible Negotiators (LEARN)”.

17 October 2023


The course was run in the framework of a project initiated by the Global Executive Leadership Initiative (GELI), acting under the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

Executive Director of GELI, Panos Moumtzis, expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative:  “We are delighted to be partnering with the “best of the best” trainers in Negotiations skills with lots of practical hands-on experience from the sector: the European University Institute and the Centre of Competence for Humanitarian Negotiations.”

The course, held in Panama City, featured a comprehensive curriculum divided into eight sessions, each focusing on a specific aspect of negotiation strategy and leadership, preparation, process structuring, humanitarian framing, powerful communication, scenario building, and effective management of challenges. It will continue for five more weeks with online sessions on key thematic areas.

When asked why humanitarian leaders need to enrich and boost their negotiation skills, Alain Lempereur, Lead Facilitator and EUI STG Professor replied, “Humanitarian leaders are responsible negotiators. They pursue responsible goals, they use responsible means, and they seek responsible outcomes, which make a difference for the most vulnerable on issues of life and death.”

On the basis of these principles, Toufik Naili, Senior Curriculum Adviser at CCHN, explains the objective of this initiative: “to gather a genuine diversity of actors in the humanitarian field to provide them with an opportunity to learn theories, concepts, frameworks and models through peer learning, simulations, tool applications on a real case.

Twenty participants based in 11 Central and South American countries honed their negotiation skills and gained valuable insights by attending sessions led by seasoned trainers and facilitators coming away with a newfound perspective on negotiation in the humanitarian context. The attendees, who gave overwhelmingly positive feedback, came from several different international organisations as well as international and local NGOs, such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), national Red Cross societies, World Vision International (WVI), and more.

According to Gabriela Alvarado, Country Director of the WFP office in the Dominican Republic, the course perfectly matched theory and practice: “It blended both perspectives giving structure to the concepts while grounding to real scenarios.

For some participants, it was a unique occasion to deeply understand the profound meaning of negotiations, beyond the simple idea of “winning” or “agreements”. As underlined by Mónica Portilla, Regional Head of Strategic Engagement and Partnerships at the IFRC in Guatemala, negotiation in the humanitarian context “is about finding common ground and supporting organisations to thrive when delivering assistance programmes.

Fabianna Alexander, President of the Governing Board of the Barbados Red Cross Society, was among those who considered the training as a transformative journey that positively impacted their careers: “The 5-day residential programme with experiential learning approach and the opportunity to interact, learn with and from other senior humanitarian leaders is rare and invaluable. The skills, knowledge and tools shared have provided me with additional resources to strengthen my negotiation skills and to build more sustainable partnerships.

The success of this 5-day programme marks the beginning of the broader project titled Responsible Negotiation for Senior Leaders. In the coming months, we will continue to offer senior humanitarian leaders similar opportunities for growth and development with online and residential coaching.

Future programmes are scheduled to take place this year in Amman (22-25 October) and Nairobi (6-9 November) where we will continue to further expand the reach and impact of this vital executive education initiative.

All in all, we are delighted to firmly state that this partnership represents a major milestone in equipping humanitarian leaders with the skills to contribute to a better and safer world.

If you would like to explore the possibility of partnering with us to design tailor-made training for your organisation, please contact us and let us know your organisation’s training needs.

We will be launching soon our 2024 Executive Education catalogue: register your interest now to be the first to know when applications open.

Last update: 17 October 2023

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