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Published: May 18, 2016

Aid Worker Security and Wellbeing at the World Humanitarian Summit

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EISF, ILS, and InterHealth Worldwide will have an exhibition stand at WHS focused on initiatives to improve aid worker security and wellbeing. If you are going to the Summit we would love to see you there!


The first ever World Humanitarian Summit is being held later this month in Turkey. It is being billed as a global call to action; an opportunity to change the landscape of humanitarian action and to address some of the most critical issues of our time. It is providing a platform to focus on global humanitarian needs and how we can do better for the people caught up in the numerous crises affecting the world today and in the future. It can safely be said that there are very mixed expectations regarding the outcomes, however the hope is that changes that translate into more effective humanitarian assistance will be seen as a result.

The Summit presents an opportunity to continue to highlight and raise the profile of the issue of aid worker safety, security and wellbeing; reinforcing the message that if you want to deliver effective humanitarian assistance you need a competent and fit workforce, well equipped to cope with the demanding conditions they will be working under. This issue surfaced in the consultations leading up to the Summit and indeed in the UN General Assembly resolution passed in December 2015 there was an explicit call for this issue to be on the WHS agenda. Despite this, the issue is notable for its absence; made all the more notable given that one of the 15 Special Session is dedicated to journalists and their protection.

Currently the issue is mentioned in Core commitment 4 of the Upholding the Norms that Safeguard Humanity Roundtable which calls for a commitment to “…promote and enhance efforts to respect and protect medical personnel, transports and facilities, as well as humanitarian relief personnel and assets against attacks, threats or other violent acts.” Of the 112 side events, there is one co-hosted by RedR UK on strategies to end attacks specifically on health workers and one co-hosted by Humanitarian Outcomes on improving access and assistance which is likely to touch on the issues. However, despite targeting of aid workers and repeated violations of International Humanitarian Law which directly affects their safety, wellbeing, and ultimately their ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, this issue does not appear to have gained any prominence.

In the run up to the Summit I worked with a global coalition of advocates* to propose a side event on the issue of aid worker wellbeing, however we were disappointed that this was not accepted. Wanting to find other opportunities to ensure this issue was represented in some way on the WHS agenda and in recognition of the need to create a strong voice around these issues I approached GISF to support our efforts. As a result of this collaboration we were able to galvanise stakeholders from the humanitarian risk management community to develop two commitments which have been submitted to the WHS. The details of the commitments can be found here. These have been endorsed by a number of NGO risk management coordination bodies, representing security focal points of 145 organisations, working in 129 countries, plus key stakeholders from the humanitarian security risk management community. We are hoping that GISF and ILS will have the opportunity to present them at the Summit.

You cannot have effective humanitarian action without effective humanitarians. The official hashtag of the Summit is #ShareHumanity. I would argue that in order to truly #ShareHumanity we need to ensure that those delivering humanitarian assistance are treated with humanity too. It is for this reason that we have worked hard with GISF to get aid worker security and wellbeing to feature more prominently on the agenda at the WHS.

*- Amy Brathwaite who has made a powerful documentary exploring the personal impact that working in emergency settings can have: (http://www.amybrathwaite.com/kick-at-the-darkness/)

– Emmett Fitzgerald, Director at the CBR Project for Humanitarian Relief Workers and Hadley Griffin, Program Associate, The CBR Project at the Garrison Institute (https://www.garrisoninstitute.org)

– Christoph Hensch who has written about his personal experiences and advocates for improved staff care. Curates Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers (http://www.scoop.it/t/psychosocial-support)

– Nuran Higgins who runs the Healthy Nomad website (http://www.thehealthynomad.org) and Emergency AIDio show

– Brendan McDonald who has written extensively on the subject (http://7piliers.com) and launched a petition to get aid worker wellbeing included as a key issue at the World Humanitarian Summit

– Megan Nobert, Founder and Project Director at Report the Abuse, addressing sexual violence within humanitarian settings (https://reporttheabuse.org)

Rebecca Maudling is a founder and Company Director at International Location Safety (ILS). She has been instrumental in the establishment and growth of ILS, bringing a strong understanding of ILS’ core client base having followed a career in the development sector.


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