The safety of humanitarian personnel
The aim of this research paper has been to examine the relationships between states and agencies, from a SRM perspective, as a contributor to securing the safety of humanitarian personnel from the threat of terrorism. The resources utilised included both primary and secondary source materials, an electronic survey and a series of interviews with high-level humanitarian experts, however, the results should be interpreted contextually since the majority of the limited sample were purposely selected security professionals in order to maintain a SRM focus in the results. Additionally, the level of involvement from governmental officials has been limited; therefore the state perspective towards securing humanitarian operations is a topic requiring further scrutiny. Nonetheless, a series of recommendations has been extrapolated in furtherance of strengthening the coordinated SRM framework between states and agencies to secure humanitarian personnel from terrorist threats, in light of the deteriorating security environment in which these operations presently take place
The study has considered a number of reports supporting the proposition that attacks against humanitarian personnel have in fact increased, especially over the past few years. There is also a broad consensus that the politicisation of aid delivery is in part responsible for a dilution in the level of protection offered under the rubric of humanitarian 'symbols', effectively heightening the security risks to aid workers and in turn the threat of terrorist attacks; regardless of the form these might take. It is asserted this creates an opportunity for terrorists to use such attacks to deliver a political message and potentially to expel 'outsiders'. Subsequently public information campaigns delivering key messages about the aims, goals and 'neutrality' of humanitarian program delivery has been proffered as a counter measure to improve transparency, to restore the level of engagement with beneficiary communities so they might fully appreciate the longer-term benefits of program implementation and to go some way toward reinstating the sanctity of these symbols as a means of protection. Where resentment is dispelled, the targeting of humanitarian personnel may appear less palatable, especially if it threatens to diminish the level of local support for insurgencies. Additionally, emphasising impartiality is important in differentiating the goals of the humanitarian sector from those of the host government. Further, with respect to the environment in which humanitarian agencies often operate, it is more often the case that the capacity and resources of the host state are constrained, essentially limiting the likelihood that the documented framework, however vague, will be able to be implemented as intended. This places greater responsibility on the agencies to provide appropriate SRM models in protection of their personnel, and thereby intensifying the need for these protocols to be internally prioritised as opposed to being constantly subjugated by commitments to donors and beneficiary communities. Proper resourcing through adequate program budget allocations to support security measures is imperative. Also, the importance of standardised minimum security procedures, to create maximum awareness of appropriate responses in emergency scenarios, can not be overstated; however without insistence by senior managers that these protocols are widely observed and universally implemented, the lessons are forgotten before they are ever 'learned'. This is even more critical in the absence of support from host states; agencies simply must take the matter of personnel security seriously; which includes a robust training program addressing the needs of personnel in the field, managers responsible for implementation of the protocols and for the security professionals themselves. Adequate training is an imperative protection tool, especially since a level of insecurity is to be anticipated when working in the humanitarian sector
In examining state and agency relationships from a SRM perspective, in delivering a sufficient level of security aimed at diminishing the terrorist threat to humanitarian personnel, dialogue was found to be essential as opposed to the documented framework, which provides little direct input to forming an actual security framework from with to operate. Relationships between humanitarian agencies and host governments are too frequently unproductive and adversarial even if MOUs are in place. This is where the humanitarian community needs to commit to developing professional joint advocacy and communication strategies including for the purposes of engaging in dialogue and negotiation with host governments on safety and security issues. Communication between humanitarians and state officials should be open and transparent, honest and reliable, frank and fearless. Close coordination - but rarely if ever collaboration - should be actively pursued including through relentless networking and…relationship building. (Zaat, 2009) Too often, the documented ideal bears little resemblance to the situation on the ground. Although documentation provides a point of reference and a basic understanding, in the absence of rigorous and unlimited efforts to create and build a relationship between state and agency, the stated aims and policies become empty rhetoric incapable of contributing to the safety of humanitarian personnel. There is no 'total security' and this is not the benchmark in SRM, which is more realistically geared towards risk minimisation and mitigation strategies. Even where one risk might be eliminated, another will evolve to take its place and humanitarian personnel will remain vulnerable to a certain extent; however the point is to reduce the vulnerability to an acceptable level. To achieve this, a collective effort is required from host states, agencies and individuals alike, who can avoid taking 'unnecessary' risks in the performance of their duties. Minimising the threat of terrorism also takes a multipronged approach, by states and agencies in particular. Prioritisation of humanitarian staff safety: by increasing the level of transparency through greater communication, by creating greater awareness of the program objectives in the broader community, by indoctrinating a neutral approach to agency activities, and through appropriate resourcing dedicated to securing personnel in complex emergencies; is all within reach. If we are now to shift to a culture of 'how to stay' security must be the responsibility of us all; beyond the doctrine of state responsibility for maintaining security within demarcated territories
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