14. Humanitarian dialogue with Non-State Armed Groups: The impact of geopolitical challenges


Learning outcome

Upon completion of this activity, students should come to terms with the geopolitical challenges facing the MENA region and their historical foundations. Students should also gain an understanding of the complexities involved in dealing and negotiating with non-state armed groups.


Please visit the link below, listen to the podcast in question and answer the following questions.


On 18 December 2013, the ICRC organized a conference at the Humanitarium in Geneva. The topic under discussion was humanitarian dialogue with non-state armed groups, focusing on the impact of geopolitical challenges in the contexts of the Middle East and South Asia. The event benefited from the presence of Dr Gérard Chaliand, a renowned expert on insurgency warfare and terrorism, along with three other specialists in humanitarian dialogue with non-state armed groups.

The Red Cross makes a podcast and a text-summary of the event available on its official website. It may be accessed via this link.

Take quiz

Question 11 pts

Insurgency warfare and terrorism expert, Dr Gérard Chaliand, opens proceedings with reference to several events which according to him, were all catalysts of the present day geopolitical world order. Through a timeline of events, Dr Chailand highlights the geopolitical challenges that the world faces today, but begins his trajectory by referring to a number of events that took place in one particular year in the 20th Century. Which year does Dr Chailand refer to as pivotal to understand today’s geopolitical landscape?

Question 21 pts

In his detailed account of the contemporary geopolitical challenges facing the world, Dr Chailand inevitably speaks of the ongoing Syrian crisis. He paints a picture of an Alawite dictatorship with strong ties to Shiites, helped by the state of Iran and supported by Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as by Nouri al-Maliki, the former President and current Vice President of Iraq. Dr Chailand states that this was “all produced by an American mistake.” What does he refer to in terms of an “American mistake?”

Question 31 pts

Dr Chailand refers to three states in the MENA region, namely Turkey, Egypt and Iran, which have had a long history of strong state, diplomatic, military and political traditions. Which of these three states does Dr Chailand refer to as a relative success story, having become the “number one” state in the Middle East?

Question 41 pts

The third successive speaker at the event, Dr Mahmoud Mohamedou, refers to an important development which he terms “the banalisation/normalisation of intervention.” He says that we have recently seen this being played out in the Sahel region generally, as well as within two countries specifically. From the list of countries below, select the two countries given as examples by Dr Mohamedou, as countries in which we have come to see the normalisation of intervention.

Question 51 pts

Dr Mohamedou speaks of a particular event that in his opinion, was somewhat trivialised when mentioned earlier by Dr Chailand. He warns that we should not diminish the significance of the event in question since in his view, it marks a significant milestone and “a real rupture” with authoritarianism in the Middle East. Dr Mohamedou speaks of this event as a catalyst to a long transition in the Middle East. Which event does Dr Mohamedou refer to in this regard?

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