[Photo credit: United Nations Photo/Stuart Price, Flickr.]

The Program on International Law and Armed Conflict grows out of and expands upon the Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project (CHE Project) of the HLS-Brookings Project on Law and Security. With generous support from the Swiss FDFA, as well as project support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs facilitated through the Norwegian Refugee Council, the CHE Project has produced high-level, independent, and impactful research and analysis on emerging challenges of humanitarian protection in situations of armed conflict where listed armed groups control territory.

Since 2012, the CHE Project has utilized the research resources and convening power of the Harvard Law School to bring the central issues of the project to the forefront of the agendas of numerous humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, counterterrorism bodies, and governments. The CHE Project has done so by:

  • Establishing and developing through its Senior Law and Policy Working Group the leading network of practitioners engaged at the intersection of humanitarian action and counterterrorism regulations;
  • Providing on-demand, high-quality, and independent analysis of the potential issues regarding an array of counterterrorism regulations on humanitarian action for Ministries of Foreign Affairs; for INGOs, such as the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Services, and World Vision; and for UN system actors, such as the World Food Programme and UNICEF;
  • Publishing independent research and policy papers on legal, policy, and operational issues of greatest concern to its community of stakeholders;
  • Catalyzing durable policy changes among Working Group members’ organizations; and
  • Providing independent, research-informed, on-demand briefings and consultations to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, including its Task Team on Revitalizing Principled Humanitarian Action.

Now, as a part of PILAC, the CHE Project harnesses its research capacities and insights to shape constructive dialogue and engagement with donors, the humanitarian community, and the counterterrorism sector.


If you have questions regarding the CHE Project or the CHE Working Group, please reach out to Ms. Jessica Burniske by sending an e-mail to pilac@law.harvard.edu.

Research Assistants

Related Projects


The CHE Project seeks to inform and shape debate regarding the intersecting trajectories of counterterrorism norms and humanitarian principles. Since March 2013, the CHE Project has produced—in addition to a bibliography of relevant resources—the following documents and references as part of its publications and resources series.

Proceedings of the Bruges Colloquium

Dustin A. Lewis, Humanitarian Exemptions from Counter-terrorism Measures: A Brief Introduction, in 47 Proceedings of the Bruges Colloquium 141 (2017)

Pilot Empirical Survey Study & Comment

Joint publication of the Study and accompanying Comment (March 2017): [link].

Jessica S. Burniske and Naz K. Modirzadeh, Pilot Empirical Survey Study on the Impact of Counterterrorism Measures on Humanitarian Action, March 2017 [link].

Naz K. Modirzadeh, Comment on the Pilot Empirical Survey Study on the Impact of Counterterrorism Measures on Humanitarian Action, March 2017 [link].

Study and Comment landing page [link].

Working Group Briefing Memoranda

Katie King with Naz K. Modirzadeh and Dustin A. Lewis, “Understanding Humanitarian Exemptions: U.N. Security Council Practice and Principled Humanitarian Action,” Working Group Briefing Memorandum, Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, April 2016.

Online Compendium

International Counterterrorism Efforts: An Initial Mapping,” February 2015. 

Humanitarian Practice Network Paper

Jessica Burniske, with Naz Modirzadeh and Dustin Lewis, “Counter-terrorism laws and regulations: what aid agencies need to know,” Humanitarian Practice Network Paper, Overseas Development Institute, No. 79, November 2014. (See also the related launch event.)

Research and Policy Papers

Sean Watts, “Under Siege: International Humanitarian Law and Security Council Practice concerning Urban Siege Operations,” Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, Research and Policy Paper, May 2014. 

Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, “An Analysis of Contemporary Counterterrorism-related Clauses in Humanitarian Grant and Partnership Agreement Contracts,” Research and Policy Paper, May 2014.

Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, “An Analysis of Contemporary Anti-Diversion Policies and Practices of Humanitarian Organizations,” Research and Policy Paper, May 2014.

Neal Cohen, Robert Hasty, and Ashley Winton, “Implications of the USAID Partner Vetting System and State Department Risk Analysis and Management System under European Union and United Kingdom Data Protection and Privacy Law,” Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, Research and Policy Paper, March 2014.

Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, “Partner Vetting in Humanitarian Assistance: An Overview of Pilot USAID and State Department Programs,” Research and Policy Paper, November 2013.

Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, “Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement in Somalia and Mali,” Research and Policy Paper, March 2013.

Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, “Enterprise Risk Management: A New Approach to Managing the Risks Posed by Counterterrorism Regulations,” Research and Policy Paper, March 2013.

Background Briefings

Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, “Congressional Inquiries,” Background Briefing, March 2013.

Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, “OFAC Licensing,” Background Briefing, March 2013.

Case Studies and Exercises

Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, and Humanitarian Aid,” Harvard Law School Case Studies Program, February 2015, by Naz K. Modirzadeh, Dustin A. Lewis, and Molly R. Gray, with Lisa Brem:

Part A: General Background Document

Part B1: The National Security Council Dilemma

Part B2: The NGO General Counsel Dilemma

Senior Law & Policy Working Group

Alongside its academic and policy portfolios, the CHE Project provides a space for research-informed engagement between international humanitarian NGOs, intergovernmental agencies, academic centers, and governments concerning the complex legal, policy, and operational facets of humanitarian response in situations involving counterterrorism laws.

A central facet of the initiative in this connection is the CHE Project Senior Law and Policy Working Group. The Project provides members with an informed space for dialogue regarding shared and emerging concerns by:

  • Producing independent analyses of legal, policy, thematic, and regional challenges;
  • Providing regular, curated, and timely shorter analyses of salient recent developments; and
  • Hosting policy workshops that bring together diverse viewpoints.

With over 90 members, the Working Group has representatives from many major operational humanitarian organizations and UN humanitarian and counterterrorism agencies, as well as several key research and policy institutes.

Private Working Group webpage [link].