To Stay and Deliver: Good Practice for Humanitarians in Complex Security Environments
Humanitarian assistance providers have always acknowledged the risks inherent to their line of work, yet recent statistics demonstrate that this is a particularly hazardous time to be an aid worker. Within the past decade, casualty rates have tripled, reaching above 100 deaths per year. Since 2005, hundreds of major attacks have been reported on aid workers in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and other countries, prompting aid agencies to limit their presence in areas where assistance may be most needed. In response to the growing tension between maintaining humanitarian access and ensuring humanitarians’ safety, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has documented strategies and practices for upholding effective operations in high security risk contexts.
On June 21, the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement hosted the launch of the OCHA-commissioned study, “To Stay and Deliver: Good Practice for Humanitarians in Complex Security Environments,” with a discussion exploring risk management strategies to protect humanitarian operations and personnel. Panelists included Jan Egeland, former emergency relief coordinator of OCHA and current director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs; Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID; Joel Charny, vice president of the humanitarian policy and practice arm of InterAction; and Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, chief of the policy development and studies branch at OCHA. Senior Fellow Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.
After the program, panelists took audience questions.
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"You have to play the long game. It’s fine to add money, but when the commitment is volatile and your funding goes up and down constantly, you can end up creating more harm than good."
"We have been in Central America for a long time. It’s not just money that has made us effective in the region — there is a lot of hard-earned experience, trial and error, and institution building that is slowly reaping results. The worst thing that could happen now is to go back to zero."