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Safety, Security & Aid Workers
"Security" has a dual focus for aid workers: security for the aid workers themselves, and security for the local people aid workers are in a country to help. This page discusses security for aid workers. There is another advice page of information on security for the local people aid workers are in a country to help. This advice page is only a partial introduction to security for aid workers - they are no substitute for proper training and management from qualified and experienced people. Safety and security threats faced by aid and development workers are very real. If you doubt such, go to Google and type in aid worker, UN staff, or volunteer and the word killed, robbed, raped, injured or kidnapped. Overall, the number of aid and development workers harmed is few compared to the huge number of workers in the field, but the risks are real. Among the threats to the safety of aid workers are politically-motivated violence, violence related to robbery or other criminal intentions, unsafe physical conditions in the country (poor sanitation, unsafe roads, land mines, poor medical facilities and substandard treatment, etc.). Security briefings for aid workers usually focus on preventing violence and responding to threats. Every duty station is different, and every aid and development worker will face unique security and safety concerns. In addition, different aid workers face different security concerns: someone away from field headquarters may have to worry about kidnappings, whereas someone at headquarters may have to worry about rioting and looting. In addition, women can face threats not faced by their male counterparts (and vice versa). All aid workers need to be aware of safety and security situations in whatever country they are working in, and ways to address such. Safety and security should be a concern for every aid worker, not just for security officers:
Managers: it is vital that you plan and manage the security of your staff thoroughly. This is time-consuming. But failing to do so may get someone killed, and can put your whole programme at risk.
Security preparation includes training, briefing and equipping your staff, and assessment of the risks in the area in which you plan to work. In an emergency it can be very tempting to leave one or more of these out. Don't.
Write a security plan, at least in outline, before you deploy staff to an insecure area, or (in the case of staff working in their own country) before work begins.
Good management of staff is one of the best ways of preventing security problems. This involves many things, including:
If staff are properly trained and managed, they are much more likely to react well to any incidents that to happen. Managing an incident also includes reporting, debriefing, learning lessons and if necessary investigating the causes of an incident.
Other things to look out for
Security management is a big subject. Further points to bear in mind include:
UN Security Phases
The UN has six security levels, which indicate the UN's assessment of the comparative security threat in an area.
An example of an NGO's security policy and security manual
See an example of an NGO's security manual. The NGO's security policy is included within it, at Annex A.
This isn't the only way to write these documents, but it's one way, and you may find it helpful to use as a source of inspiration for your organisation's security manual. Make sure you think all the issues through for yourself, and don't just copy this manual blindly - the issues may be radically different for your organisation and you may need different procedures.
This manual is long, yet it aims to be as concise as possible within each section. Consider whether there are some sections that you could leave out. Equally, consider whether your organisation might need a standard procedure on all of the topics listed here - and possibly some others too.
For more detail
The ECHO Generic Security Guide for Humanitarian Organisations is a comprehensive security manual. It has a table of contents at the front and a detailed index at the back, making it easy to find what you need. It's in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
It's aimed at humanitarian (i.e. emergency) aid workers and organisations. But it's also relevant, with minor adaptations, to long-term development work.
Most of the material in this Security section and related pages is taken from the ECHO Guide, with minor adaptations. Please note the copyright statement and disclaimer in the Guide.
Protection for Human Rights defenders
See the 'Protection Manual for Human Rights Defenders', produced by Front Line, an Irish-based NGO formed in 2001 for the specific purpose of protecting Human Rights defenders. Their website is at www.frontlinedefenders.org.
A further list of safety and security manuals is available at this NGO Security Blog.
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