To Stay and Deliver - Good Practice for Humanitarians in Complex Security Environments [EN/AR]

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Executive summary

Providing humanitarian assistance amid conflict has always been a dangerous and difficult endeavour; however, over the last decade aid worker casualties tripled, reaching over 100 deaths per year. From 2005 onwards the largest numbers of violent attacks on humanitarian personnel have been concentrated in a small number of countries representing the most difficult and volatile operating environments. Attacks in some of these settings have also grown more lethal and sophisticated and the number of kidnappings has risen dramatically.

As a result, the humanitarian footprint has shrunk in some conflict areas where violence has surged in recent years, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Access can diminish both as a direct result of violence and as a consequence of the obstacles and conditions created by militaries, governments, and nonstate actors that hinder the impartial provision of aid. In an effort to maintain their presence and continue to deliver on their humanitarian commitments, a number of humanitarian organisations have strengthened their risk management capabilities, and they have explored innovative strategies and operational practices aimed at creating greater acceptance for their activities and increasing their access to affected populations.

In response to growing concerns regarding the insecurity of aid operations and the resulting decline in humanitarian access, the present study, commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), set out to identify and document those strategies and practices that have enabled humanitarian organisations to maintain effective operations in contexts characterised by high security risks.

In the second half of 2010 an independent research team, led by former Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, undertook six field studies in complex security environments, conducted interviews with 255 humanitarian practitioners and policymakers, surveyed over 1,100 national staff members, and carried out a desk-based review of organisational literature and case-based evidence. This report synthesises the findings as well as specific inputs and guidance received from the study's Advisory Group.

Much of the report is practical: What's working, and why, and what lessons can be drawn across contexts and between agencies? The resulting compilation of practices offers an opportunity for peer learning and knowledge sharing among humanitarian practitioners across complex security settings. In addition, the study examines the wider, political constraints to humanitarian action in complex security environments, factors over which humanitarian actors have less control, but which they could more effectively approach through increased coordination and advocacy.
What follows is a broad summary of the key issues and messages emerging from the research.

See also: Annex I Safety and security for national humanitarian workers

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.