World Humanitarian Day 2017
Protecting National Staff
This World Humanitarian Day the International NGO Safety Organisation is calling for more measures to protect national staff. (see full graphic)

Whether they are working for a National or International NGO, national staff form the majority of any NGOs workforce and are naturally the most vulnerable segment, constituting 90% of all fatalities, 99% of injuries and 94% of abductions across the countries monitored by INSO this year.

Being responsible for the bulk of implementation roles, national staff proximity to conflict zones makes them vulnerable to direct violence while limited access to medical and emergency facilities makes them vulnerable to complications arising from injury or disease.

The pattern is not isolated to any one country we monitor, or towards any specific type of activity, and evidences a systemic vulnerability.

While preventing armed attacks against NGOs is the underlying solution, in the absence of any realistic means to achieve that, today we advocate for small practical changes in our own behaviour as a humanitarian community that we believe will strengthen the protection of national staff wherever they may be:

To National NGOs:

(i) Break the 'culture of silence' and speak up about the risks involved in delivery. Request funds to mitigate them and walk away from donors or partners who are willing to turn a blind eye.

(ii) Set clear internal risk management regulations, share them with your donors and partners and stick to them. Do not be tempted to break your own rules to obtain funding.

(iii) Develop a strong and professional risk management culture. Nationality alone does not invoke protection.

(iv) Take full advantage of any support opportunities available to you through your donors, partners or coordination platforms.  

To International NGOs:  

(i) Routinely request donor funding for national staff safety measures. More donors than you think are ready and willing to support it. Upgrading national staff health insurance is an effective and immediate improvement everyone can make today.

(ii) Review the focus of internal security procedures to ensure they address the 'most likely scenario. More than 90% of your staff illness, injuries and deaths will be national staff and the policy environment should reflect this proportionally.

(iii) Require risk management plans in selecting partners and engage in meaningful capacity building to help them implement it. Where possible this should be a full time role built in to the award. Avoid partners who do not acknowledge or manage risk.

(iv) Strengthen your local access negotiation capacity, ideally with a full time position or team. Include funding for this team as a standard part of any funding request.

To Donors:

(i) Develop new flexible funding mechanisms for high-risk countries that can better balance diligence and delivery with access and security considerations. NGOs need more space to pause, extend or alter plans in conflict zones. 

(ii) Encourage and support NGO requests for access negotiation initiatives, including extensive pre-implementation preparation and full time management and maintenance resources. Access funding must be highly flexible and acknowledge that results, if any, can be intangible, varied and reversible.

(iii) Tackle and resolve the clear contradiction between counter-terrorism legislation and the principle of neutrality enshrined in international humanitarian law. NGOs must be free to negotiate with all armed actors in the field.

(iv) Encourage and support funding requests for dedicated national staff safety measures including training, communication equipment and comprehensive insurance. 

To United Nations:

(i) Enhance efforts to deter state violations of international humanitarian law. 

(ii) Avoid all actions that undermine the real, or perceived, neutrality of NGOs, particularly statements made on behalf of the 'humanitarian community' must be reviewed and agreed by all the members of that community and must be politically impartial and neutral.

(iii) Strengthen your efforts to secure collective unconditional humanitarian access, especially with non-state armed groups.

National and International NGO are reminded to take full advantage of the free support services available to them through INSO including alerts and analysis, coordination meetings, training, crisis assistance and policy support. 

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