The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, otherwise known as the Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, or HD, is a private diplomacy organisation based in Switzerland that assists in mediation between conflicting parties to prevent or end armed conflicts. Founded in 1999, the aim of the organisation is to promote and facilitate dialogue among the leadership of the main belligerents.
It also conducts research and analysis on mediation and peacemaking in support of its operational work to improve international efforts to secure and sustain peace. To do so, HD opens channels of communication and mediates between parties in conflict, as well as facilitates dialogue and provides support to the broader mediation and peacebuilding community. HD will facilitate dialogue in both confidential settings as well as public ones.
It is headquartered in Geneva, which is also the location of its Middle East and North Africa programme. HD has regional offices in Africa and Asia.
The initial intention of HD was to explore new concepts of humanitarian innovation by serving as a venue for dialogue on humanitarian issues - where discreet discussions could take place among those who could have a practical impact on humanitarian policy and practice.
The organisation evolved this approach to include negotiations in support of humanitarian objectives and aimed to create space for humanitarian activities in conflict environments. It quickly broadened, at the behest of conflicting parties in Aceh, to include the resolution of the conflict through mediation and conflict prevention.
In July 2015, in recognition of its important role in the mediation of armed conflicts, HD was granted a special status by the Federal Council of Switzerland. Through this status, HD was awarded certain privileges and immunities intended to enable its peacemaking efforts worldwide.
The Founding Executive Director of HD was Martin Griffiths. He led the organization for more than 10 years, from 1999 to July 2010, when he stepped down from his position. Griffiths was replaced for a brief period (July 2010 to March 2011) by Angelo Gnaedinger, former Director General of the ICRC and the then HD Regional Director for the Middle East. Following this transitional period, David Harland was appointed as HD's new Executive Director in April 2011.
HD aims to bring parties together through mediation and dialogue on issues of common concern in conflict zones.
More specifically, this includes the following activities:Open and maintain channels to or between parties to a conflict;
Help prepare environments for mediation and the resolution of armed conflict;
Facilitate dialogue in support of wider mediation and dialogue processes, and;
Provide support to other mediation initiatives through advice, people and operational assistance.
HD has been involved in peacemaking activities in the Philippines, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Kenya, Libya, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Senegal, Liberia, Somalia, Mali, Indonesia (Aceh), Timor Leste, Burundi, Nepal, and Ukraine, as well as in a large number of confidential operational projects.
In Tunisia, HD supported an informal dialogue process between the country’s main political parties which culminated in July 2014 with the signing of a Charter of Honour on the fair, transparent and democratic conduct of elections.
In Libya, HD helped drafting the Humanitarian Appeal for Benghazi, a document signed by 76 “sons and daughters of Benghazi” including tribal leaders, parliamentarians, lawyers, judges and former military commanders who commit themselves and call upon others to improve the access for humanitarian workers, to respect international humanitarian law and establish a system of transitional justice for their hometown.
In the Philippines, HD is a member of the International Contact Group which has been supporting the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in a peace process which aimed to end decades of conflict in the southern Philippines. This process culminated in signing of historic agreements, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014.
In Kenya, HD supported a peace process between local communities in the Rift Valley of Kenya. This area had been the epicentre of post-election violence in 2007-2008. The process culminated in the signing of a peace agreement, the Nakuru County Peace Accord in August 2012.
In northern Mali, HD facilitated and moderated the meeting which led to the signing of the Ouagadagou Declaration by the six political and military movements of Azawad on August 28, 2014. The purpose of the declaration was to put an end to hostilities in northern Mali and to establish a political and legal status for Azawad.
In Nigeria, HD supported an inter-communal dialogue process with five local government areas (LGAs) from southern Kaduna State, which culminated in the Kafanchan Peace Declaration in March 2016. It is a commitment to non-violent conflict resolution by communities from five local government areas (LGAs) in southern Kaduna State.
HD seeks to improve the practice of mediation and strengthen capacity within the community of mediators.
Support activities include:Promoting the sharing of experiences in the mediation sector:
HD collaborates with the United Nations, regional organisations such as ECOWAS, governments, and civil society.Developing new ways to approach the many issues that surround the topic of mediation:
HD has launched a series of publications including the Mediation Practice Series, which seeks to provide mediation practitioners with insight into how challenges have been addressed by others in order to help them prepare for the demands of mediation. The Oslo Forum Papers aim to advance thinking and debate on issues linked to armed conflict mediation and international peacemaking.
HD seeks to promote the sharing of experiences within the community of mediators and peacemakers at The Oslo Forum. Launched in 2003, the Oslo Forum is an initiative led by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and HD to improve practice in conflict mediation, and to enhance mediation as a profession. The Oslo Forum features an annual global event in Oslo, as well as regional forums in Africa and Asia.
The organisation was founded to pursue Henry Dunant’s vision of a world more humane. The aim, through mediation and dialogue, is to reduce the suffering caused by armed conflict in the world – where possible, to prevent such conflict; otherwise to help resolve it; or to mitigate its consequences.
HD embraces a set of values that foster integrity, professionalism and respect for diversity in all areas of its work. It subscribes to the core humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence and are committed to respecting international principles in relation to human rights and humanitarian affairs.
HD receives a combination of project earmarked contributions and unearmarked grants from approximately 25 different governments and multilateral institutions as well as a small number of foundations and private philanthropists. In 2015, HD's annual income was 27 million Swiss Francs.