New Toolkit for Responding to Violence against Humanitarian Action

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
 Toolkit: Responding to Violence against Humanitarian Action on the Policy Level

Violence against humanitarian actors and operations remains an unfortunate reality in many of today’s conflict zones. Just this year, the Aid Worker Security Database documented major incidents resulting in the deaths of aid workers – nearly all national staff – in emergency settings across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

In January, four employees of Save the Children, were killed when gunmen stormed their compound in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In February, six aid workers, were killed while traveling in a remote part of the Central African Republic (CAR) to train community educators; two aid workers were killed and one abducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) while supporting water and sanitation projects in North Kivu. In March, three aid workers were killed and 1 abducted in northeast Nigeria while working to aid people displaced by the conflict; one ICRC staff member was killed in a carbombing in Mogadishu, Somalia. In April, at least 5 aid workers were killed in separate incidents in South Sudan, and others taken hostage. In May, aid workers were killed in Somalia, Afghanistan, and a number of other conflict settings. In one of the most dangerous settings for humanitarian actors, at least 26 aid workers have been killed in Syria this year, along with many more healthcare workers

When such attacks occur, humanitarian organizations and practitioners can find themselves in an extremely difficult position. In the immediate term, they must manage the crisis and mitigate potential ongoing danger to staff and programs in the field while providing support and care to those directly affected and their loved ones. They also face difficult operational decisions over whether to suspend programming or withdrawal from insecure areas. And beyond the operational security and crisis management measures taken in the aftermath of an incident, humanitarian organizations also face difficult decisions over whether to speak out publicly, or pursue accountability for the perpetrators of attacks. Moreover, the steps typically taken to mitigate and reduce risks in response to each individual incident may fail to address the overall deteriorating environment for humanitarian action and erosion of respect for IHL, which such attacks exemplify.

A new professional resource is now available to support humanitarian practitioners in navigating these dilemmas of better protecting humanitarian action while continuing to enable aid to reach those in the greatest need. The Toolkit for Responding to Attacks against Humanitarian Action on the Policy Level was produced through a series of consultations in 2017-2018 with members of the Working Group on Protection of Humanitarian Action, an initiative gathering more than 20 partners and organized by ATHA and Action contre la Faim (ACF). The Toolkit offers guidance to humanitarian actors for responding to violence against humanitarian action, in order to promote a more protective environment for the provision of humanitarian aid to civilians.

Focusing on the aftermath of serious incidents of violence against humanitarian action, the Toolkit offers guidance on a range of response options for humanitarian agencies and practitioners, in particular with regard to three critical areas: i) sharing information; ii) speaking out in safety; and iii) challenging impunity. It aims to complement and strengthen operational and security responses and facilitate the development of more effective and coordinated policies geared toward addressing this issue.

ATHA is pleased to share this resource with practitioners operating in some of the most difficult operational settings around the world, and those supporting them in headquarters and capitals. We believe strongly that violence against humanitarian actors cannot be accepted as the “new normal”, and that concerted action is needed across the humanitarian sector and beyond to ensure that aid workers can continue to carry out their lifesaving mission around the world. 

Click here to access the Toolkit.

Click here to access additional resources on the protection of humanitarian action.


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