Despite Coronavirus restrictions, 2020 saw only a marginal reduction in incidents impacting NGOs, reports INSO
13 January 2021, The Hague, The Netherlands - Despite worldwide Coronavirus restrictions, 2020 saw only a marginal reduction in incidents impacting NGOs across the countries covered by International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO).

During 2020, INSO recorded a total of 1,558 NGO incidents, just 4% fewer than in 2019, despite the reduction in NGO presence and movement resulting from lockdowns and travel bans.

Nic Lee, INSO’s Executive Director said: “Given the extent of global disruption, we expected to see a more significant reduction in incidents impacting NGOs.

“We did not see the kind of community-driven incidents that we saw previously in relation to the Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for instance, but this was a thin silver lining in an otherwise difficult year. NGOs remained very vulnerable to collateral damage, criminality and even direct targeting by armed groups.”  

Overall, incidents impacting NGOs resulted in 75 staff killed, 150 injured and 210 abducted, a figure which includes people unlawfully detained for a few hours as well as more traditional kidnappings.

There were only 33 NGO incidents directly related to the Coronavirus pandemic – 2% of all NGO incidents – the majority of which resulted from imposed movement and access regulations.

Dr. Caelum Moffatt, INSO’s Director of Global Analysis and Research said: “While the total volume of NGO incidents remained relatively consistent, there were some notable changes in the type and severity of incidents affecting NGOs in specific contexts.”

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), NGO fatalities tripled, and the number of staff abducted increased by 35% in 2020 compared to the previous year, as the eastern areas of the country experienced a spike in opportunistic roadside banditry.

In South Sudan, NGO fatalities rose from 4 in 2019 to 13 in 2020, mostly due to growing intercommunal violence, despite the overall incident count dropping by nearly a quarter. In Burkina Faso, almost twice as many NGO staff were abducted in 2020 than in 2019 as armed groups expanded their activity in the northern and eastern regions.

In the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, NGOs were victimised by increasingly hostile armed groups with two mass casualty incidents – Borno, Nigeria in July and Tillabery, Niger in August – resulting in 10 NGO deaths.

Lee adds: “Unfortunately, conflict has proven one of the few human activities that Coronavirus cannot disrupt, and our community will remain vulnerable to its challenges long after the virus has receded.”

About INSO
INSO is an international NGO dedicated to humanitarian safety. We work in 14 of the world’s most volatile countries to ensure that humanitarians are able to operate safely and deliver their services. We provide over 1,000 NGOs with information, analysis, advice and support, 40% of which are national humanitarian organisations.

In 2020, we provided a wide range of free services including training over 2,000 NGO staff, reporting over 90,000 incidents, delivering over 2,500 substantial security assessments and assisting organisations during 65 crises.

For interviews and further information please contact INSO’s Global Communications Manager at Jessica.Wanless@hq.ngosafety.org

Notes to editors:
The full NGO incident dataset can be explored here;
An incident is defined as all events recorded by INSO regardless of severity, perpetrator, intent or outcome;
NGOs are defined as legally established, private, non-profit and tax-exempt organisations;
In 2020, there were a total of 1,558 NGO incidents recorded by INSO, which resulted in 210 abductions, 150 injuries and 75 killings;
The Central African Republic saw the highest number with 361 NGO incidents, 5% of which resulted in abductions, injuries and killings;
Somalia saw the highest proportion of abductions, injuries and killings, which made up 40% of all reported incidents;
INSO presently operates and provides services in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine. Details of when INSO started tracking these contexts can be found on Page 2.

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