Photo by: EC/ECHO
Working in some of the most insecure places on the planet, aid workers are exposed to elevated risks to their safety while providing humanitarian assistance to communities who depend on aid for their survival.
The protection of aid workers is enshrined in international humanitarian law and rules governing non-international armed conflict as laid out in Additional Protocols I and II (1977) of the Geneva Conventions (1949) and more specifically in UN Security Council Resolution 1502 (2003) which gives greater protection to humanitarian workers and treats attacks on them as a war crime.
However, with the decline in international conflicts and corresponding increase in non-international conflicts involving non-state armed groups, often driven by political, religious or ethnic ideologies; there has been a clear erosion in respect for the legal frameworks that protect aid workers.
Moreover, a mistrust of NGO neutrality amongst such groups can lead to deliberate targeting of NGO staff or denial of access to populations in need. Due to their visibility and presence in unstable environments, aid workers also fall victim to opportunistic crime and collateral involvement in violent exchanges.
According to a Status Report by OCHA (August 2014), the year 2014 saw a major surge in humanitarian crises around the world in which 102 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance compared to 81 million in December 2013. This heightened humanitarian need means more aid workers on the ground in places where the State is unable, or unwilling, to provide basic services to crisis-affected populations.
The provision of pre-deployment security training to NGO staff and the presence of field security personnel are important steps in mitigating risk. However, in complex emergencies NGOs, especially smaller and local ones, may not always have the capacity to address the full scope of round-the-clock monitoring and long-term analysis required to adequately improve situational awareness and enable informed decision-making on a consistent basis.
As experienced humanitarians with a core mission to support the safety of aid workers, INSO experts have a first hand understanding of the risks, challenges and specific considerations of programming in insecure contexts.
The quality, depth, relevance and comprehensive nature of INSO's services mean that NGOs are able to reduce the risks faced by field staff and improve access to people in need.
“For our partners, INSO is a very valuable complement to any security strategy and network they have. Often NGO security officers are focused on the organisation’s programmes not necessarily factoring in all the external influences. It's a way to confirm their information, to cross check, to identify things that may not have been seen otherwise. It's always good to have this external perspective. There are only advantages.”
- Luc Verna - Technical Assistant, European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (Afghanistan)
“One of the things that INSO builds its name on is that they verify the facts. It’s reassuring that we're not just reacting to rumours. They have solid sources of verification.”
- Kate Moger - Country Director - International Rescue Committee (Mali)
“The quality of INSO services and the relevance of the information, analysis and warnings are excellent and have become an integral part of our security framework in the DRC. While any one NGO may have good access to information within their operational area, it cannot compare to the much wider access and knowledge of the NGO community, and INSO makes access to that information possible.
- Cheik Ba – Country Director – Norwegian Refugee Council (DRC)
“We work in hard to reach communities where security is not always good - I think right now in Kenya there is no place where you can say it is 100% safe. So what INSO does actually helps our work in that they are able to bring up issues or even a forecast of what could happen and then we are able to make decisions based on that information.”
Dr Lennie Bazira Kyomuhangi – Country Director - Amref Health Africa (Kenya)
“Not all agencies have security people or if they do, not all of them are able to analyse data and trends, this requires specific people and time; it's a full time job. So what INSO is doing through data collection and analysis - is extremely beneficial and it saves a lot of funds for both NGOs and donors.”
- Ekin Ogutogullari - Country Director - International Medical Corps (Kenya)
“Fundamentally, situational awareness is at the heart of good programming. For us INSO is absolutely essential in terms of informed decision-making, you can't operate without it. Each NGO ultimately has to determine its own risk level, its own programming modalities, how it operates on the ground but this has to be founded on very solid advice. The quality of INSO’s reporting and analysis is of an extraordinarily high order.”
- Aidan O'Leary - Head of Office - UNOCHA (Afghanistan)
"Given that humanitarian access became an integral part of any NGO programming in Afghanistan, INSO's updated and contextualised analysis on local acceptance - enriched by the engagement strategies of the various NGOs which are shared in INSO's forums - regularly informs the acceptance approaches both nationally but also locally where NGOs operate."
- Kyriakos Giaglis - Country Director - Danish Refugee Council (Afghanistan)