Takeaways for APRA-GISF Joint Event

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Who Is Protecting Aid Workers? The People Behind Security Risk Management

Jessica Sumner

Do not worry if you were not able to join us live for APRA's joint event with GSIF on Friday December 4 2020. APRA's Think Tank team has prepared these takeaways for you.

The Association for Political Risk Analysis (APRA) would like to thank the Global Interagency Security Forum (GISF) for moderating this joint event and contributing to a wonderful discussion concerning security risk management within the humanitarian sector.

During this talk, we heard from representatives of GISF, Christian Aid, Danish Refugee Council, and RNW Media. Our speakers clearly outlined the importance of their work which ensures the safety of the humanitarian sector and the challenges they have faced throughout their career. Particularly, they emphasize that their job is to ensure that the process of policy implementation is made safe and that one’s colleagues avoid any security challenges that could interfere with policy implementation. Our speakers came from a variety of backgrounds, some starting in security, some in the private sector, and all of whom range in their role in the humanitarian risk sector whether it be analyst, journalist, or aid worker. Concurrently, they have experience in a vast amount of places, whether it be Afghanistan, Nigeria, Tunisia, or Kenya, our speakers have experiences in an array of situations ensuring the security of their colleagues and local staff. Once again, we would like to thank everyone who participated, especially our panel for their thought provoking insight.

From our speakers, we gained insight into the day to day activities that someone working in the security risk management of the humanitarian sector faces, and ways to further pursue a career in this field. The duties of working in this sector vary greatly depending on one’s role. For example, it can include delivering training on personal security and risk management, ensuring security of diversity within a company, and adapting to new contexts. Furthermore, this field is rewarding in a multitude of components including the number of global actor’s one gets to interact with and the problem solving capabilities one can enact. This is clearly demonstrated in the role security risk management has on streamlining of policy, where some of our speakers described how they must ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible, to ensure the safe implementation of policy procedures. While it was noted that often this requires a degree of forecasting the possible dangers of a situation, flexibility was a key proponent that was mentioned to be a necessary skill for the job.

Some advice our speakers repeated was the sentiment that having a mentor is a necessity as one has impacted each of our speakers’ lives in some fashion, and can play a significant role in encouraging young professionals and masters’ students across sectors. Additionally, it is not necessary to come from a military or security background to partake in humanitarian security risk management, as our panellists demonstrate, this sector contains people from a variety of backgrounds.

While this sector is considered greatly rewarding to our speakers, they also emphasized the reality of several challenges they have faced. It was noted that a key responsibility of humanitarian risk management is to protect staff, whether this be within the company, meaning defending diversity, and ensuring that there is a constant dialogue to ensure an avoidance of unexpected security challenges. Whether it be Managing the global structure, regional offices, and the safety counterparts, working in this field requires flexibility. Often, strategies must adapt to evolving situations, which are further ameliorated by the great deal of collaboration in this field. Throughout this role, there is a range of tasks you are able to accomplish, just as they experience a variety of scenarios through the range of situations they must handle. There was a shared sentiment in regards to the humanitarian sector that people believe in the cause they are working towards, and thus, this is a particularly fulfilling line of work.

Our speakers left us with several points of advice and encouragement, whether it be for those seeking to delve into this sector or who are just curious about the nexus between security and humanitarian aid. First, it is key to be open minded due to the different capabilities that you may be presented with and the ways you can be useful. Flexibility is key, and therefore; it is best to go with the flow of the situation. The goal is to ultimately keep organizations safe, and ensure that policies are achieved without being put in harm's way. Particularly, this field benefited from the great deal of info sharing during the pandemic, and how organizations should adapt to this evolving problem. Another key pointer for being part of this profession is ensuring attention to detail and intellectual curiosity, because you possess an immense amount of responsibility. Overall, it was stated that it is a very rewarding and collaborative type of work which can benefit people from any background. As one speaker noted “you are part of the global strategy of key policies”.

Jessica Sumner is Editor of APRA's Think Tank Team.

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