Today’s key features of this professional field
Humanitarian Security Risk Management is intented to ensure physical and mental condition, as well as reputation, personnel, material and status of organisations during humanitarian operations. Despite being a relatively new profession in the humanitarian industry, safety and security teams have grown in the past 20 years. The reason for this is that humanitarian operations thrive in the medium and high risk environments. Type and nature of jobs related to security will vary, depending on the mandate of organisations, the risk appetite and humanitarian context, and geopolitics in which the organisation works.
Since 2010 many organisations include safety and security in the wider field of risk management to centralise the management of all types of risk (operational, reputational and financial), and to take better account of the protection of personnel and corporate responsibility. In many organisations security personnel is in charge of opening and ensuring uninterrupted access to humanitarian operations, by the analysis, relations and negotiations with official and non official organisations. This is a frequent situation in the most difficult and high risk environments.
Security as a term for protection against intentional human threats is widely used in the humanitarian sector. Term safety, accessibility or connection are also used in some areas to avoid raising suspicions of the authorities. This could cause confusion in the allocation of responsibilities, as safety (which is normally the term used for protection against non-deliberate threat events) generally falls under logistics team responsibility.
Four levels of responsibility
Humanitarian security is defined through four levels of responsibility, although this distinction depends on the size of the organisation.
Fieldwork, carried out mainly by national staff, includes supervision, daily organisation and control of plans and security policy, relating to the activities and personnel deployed in the field. This work involves ongoing contact with local actors, tracking activity for the staff travelling, resolution of minor problems, the negotiation of access and analysis of local risks, in close collaboration with the programs. The majority of professionals of humanitarian security are part of this field activities but they often seem to have the least amount of vocational training.
Activities at the national or regional level, carried out mainly by international personnel, include monitoring the effective implementation of security policy in different regions or field bases. They also include assessment, coordination with national or regional organisations and networks, security budgeting, the drafting of guidelines, conflict and risk analysis, and sometimes crisis management and participation in political discussions.
Work at the international level is generally carried out from headquaters, where personnel participates in policy design, briefing and staff recruitment, travel system supervision, contingency planning and crisis response.
Work at the strategic level consists in advising the management or governance teams; being actively involved in crisis response and cross-cutting issues such as due diligence, diversity and inclusion, protection, fraud investigation and anti-terrorist measures.
A specific job
There is still a significant gender imbalance in the area of security. Most of the jobs are carried out by men, especially on the ground, at the national and regional level. There also appears to be a lack of qualified staff. The experience in medium or high risk environments is a key skill that recruitment agencies are looking for and most of the candidates lack it. The majority of new recruits in this field are experiencied humanitarians who have already worked in humanitarian logistics; former police or army members; or younger workers with a strong analytical potential and capacity building but very little experience. Every one of them presents challenges for the organisations seeking to ensure that their personnel have the right skills in the field of security and humanitarian assistance.
The skills of this job related to humanitarian work
We consider several skills that distinguish humanitarian security from other fields:
- Knowledge of humanitarian priniciples, laws and standards, and understanding of humanitarian system, its actors and their mandates.
- Understand and be capable to implement NGO security strategies, such as acceptance and soft protection through dialogue and inclusion. Recognition and respect of wishes of the parties involved in issues such as humanitarian access.
- To be able to work efficiently in the multicultural environment, especially in terms of cultural differences in a team, between the partners, humanitarian workers and affected community.
- To be able to balance the humanitarian imperative and the duty of care. Take into account the context and show flexibilty, and pragmatism when applying safety practice, whilst ensuring that the security won’t be compromised.
- To be able to work with limited resources.
- To be empathetic, inclusive, a good listener and be able to dialogue with people; understanding / adapting to changing environments; knowing how to maintain networks and to have trainer skills.
What are the infrastructures that support professionalisation in this field?
There is no professional organization which provides Humanitarian Security Risk Management certification or framework of relevant inter-organisational competencies. This contrasts with the private sector, where certification of security professionals is well-established.
Neverthless there are a number of organizations and practice communities, such as The Global Interagency Security Forum (formerly EISF), Internation NGO Safety Organisation (INSO) and International Safety and Security Association (INSSA), which form an important infrastructure for professional development. These organizations propose several training programs and recently mentorship, by setting up inter-organisational initiatives. A wide range of safety trainings is also proposed by non-profit training providers and other commercials. Most of the international NGOs are putting in place in-house trainings.
Humanitarian Security Risk Management : New influences and latest trends
Professionals of the humanitarian security are increasingly focusing on the duty of care, corporate responsibility and transparence, as well as a number of other international trends:
- Objectives of an aid localisation and related capacity-building efforts imply that security risk managers should be more flexible and more in touch with culture. They must have strong communication skills and be able to ensure the embodiment of humanitarian values when working with local partners. Certification of organizations and individuals can play an important role in the standards localization and security procedures.
- Terrorism and anti-terrorist legislation have had an impact on an NGO perspective and challenge the effectiveness of acceptance strategies.
- The emphasis on the responsibility, protection, diversity and inclusion changed behaviours and conducts, and led to a more nuanced understanding of safety risk management.
- Security risk managers will join the efforts of preserving humanitarian space, resisting pressure from state and non-state actors, and will be able to interfere with political spaces, military, the United Nations and NGOs.
- Organizations will have to translate strategic visions of secuirity risk management into day-to-day practical operations. Professional organisations and networks will propose a space for learning and improvement, but humanitarian organisations should cooperate to maximise these opportunities and jointly advance on policy themes.
- Technological innovation creates great security opportunities, but organisations will have to invest in data management and improve information systems, as well as employee training. The humanitarian sector is lagging behind in implementing this technology.
International NGOs look for effective security risk management practice that works for the whole humanitarian sector. They improve the security of aid workers and operations thanks to new tools, skills and covers such as Security Assistance and Crisis management (Kidnap & Ranson).
Another pillar of Humanitarian security risk management strategies to ensure both humanitarian access and the safety of their staff and operations is Acceptance.
Acceptance is important and all NGOs are working on this strategy to reduce threats on their international and local staff.
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