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Delivering aid in risky environments: what works?

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(New York, 12 April 2011): Recent attacks against humanitarian workers in Afghanistan and Côte d’Ivoire have again highlighted the security risks humanitarian actors are exposed to in complex security situations. In the last decade, lethal attacks against humanitarian personnel have tripled, reaching over 100 deaths per year, mostly in a few conflict areas where violence has increased significantly, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.

“Today, humanitarian workers are in some of the most volatile and insecure environments in the world. Even as they come under increasing attack, they find ways to continue delivering life-saving services to populations in need,” said Valerie Amos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

In the face of mounting insecurity, humanitarian workers have struggled to find ways to reach people in need. In 2010, OCHA undertook a study to review best practices for humanitarians in complex security environments.

The study, To Stay and Deliver, captures the practices that have enabled organisations to work in high-risk areas, maintain operations and provide protection and life-saving services to people in need.

The report makes clear that humanitarian principles – humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence – do matter. The study also explains how humanitarian aid workers manage risk within the United Nations’ (UN) security management framework, which has evolved from “when to leave” to “how to stay.”

In today’s volatile operating environments, building and maintaining acceptance of local residents is key to managing risk. Gaining acceptance is a process, requiring continuous dialogue with all stakeholders

The launch of this study took place in New York on 12 April and was followed by a panel discussion that included Jan Egeland, former Emergency Relief Coordinator; Gregory B. Starr, Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security; Kevin Kennedy, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, MINUSTAH, Haiti; and Nic Lee, Director of the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.