Ampara, Batticaloa, Colombo, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Puttalam, Trincomalee, Vavuniya

Double standards?

A post here points to a powerful new report on the dangers on humanitarian aid work in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Reports in Groundviews, both from Citizen Journalists as well as news snippets from JNW featured on the site, clearly indicate growing concerns about the security and safety of aid workers, increasingly assaulting, vilified and killed for being perceived to be partial to non-state actors, biased towards operations of terrorists and / or acting to undermine the “national security” of the State.

This is the first report I’ve read that comprehensively debunks the myth that local INGO / NGO / staff and humanitarian aid workers are any less vulnerable to attacks. As it notes:

Humanitarian organisations have largely failed to fully consider the ethics of transferring security risks from expatriate staff to national staff or local NGOs. One of the core assumptions of remote management approaches is that national workers are at less risk than their international counterparts. But this assumption is often unfounded, and nationals may find it exceedingly difficult to decline the work for economic and/or altruistic reasons. Viewed against the significant rise in the relative risk of violence to national staff in the most dangerous contexts, this raises serious ethical and operational questions for the international aid community.

This study contends that passing responsibility to local partners need not be an ad hoc, reactive measure. Instead, international humanitarian actors should be encouraged to engage in prior strategic planning and adopt guiding principles on how these approaches can best be undertaken.

As we have seen last year, attacks against humanitarian aid workers are increasingly bloody – and show no signs of abating. Providing Aid in Insecure Environments: Trends in Policy and Operations is a sombre & urgent reminder that we need to more to protect those who in turn attempt to secure and strengthen the rights and dignity of civilians enmeshed in conflict, aware that if agencies and other stakeholders cannot ensure the safety and security of aid workers, Sri Lanka may also face an en masse withdrawal of aid agencies as in Darfur last year.