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Published: August 5, 2019

Reflections on GISF’s ‘At What Cost?’ Campaign

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On 8th July 2019, GISF launched a month-long campaign to reinitiate dialogue on, and raise awareness of, outdated funding processes for safety and security in the aid sector. The campaign began after GISF’s Director Lisa Reilly and Steering Group Chair Fredrik Palsson gave evidence to the UK International Development Committee during an enquiry on violence against aid workers. During the session, Fredrik spoke about the challenges of not having direct budget lines for safety and security. In the following session, Matthew Wyatt from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) responded to the question of inadequate funding processes by saying;

 ‘…we certainly do not get NGOs [non-governmental organisations] coming to us saying, “You are screwing us so far down on costs that we cannot do the security we need to do”, and certainly, were anyone to suggest that they were worried about that, we would be very sympathetic to ensuring that that was not the case and that they could properly finance the security that they needed from our programmes.’

As an NGO security risk management network, we at GISF are aware of the struggles that many security professionals in the aid sector face when trying to budget for safety and security. By allocating an arbitrary percentage of all programme budgets to security risk management, organisations and donors fail to recognise the many differences between the contexts of operation, the programmes, and, for donors, between the different aid agencies that they fund. In continuing to treat security risk management as a general administrative cost rather than a justifiable function with its own budget lines, both NGOs and donors risk falling short of their duty of care.

Responses to the campaign have overwhelmingly reflected these same experiences across the field of NGO security:

‘A constant failing in security is finding the funds for it! Excellent initiative from GISF to put this issue in the spotlight.’

Julian Harris, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

‘I have been raising the same issue to my own senior management since I started working in my current role, as well with the heads of the administration, finance and HR departments.’

Massimo Salsi, International Centre for Migration Policy Development

Was really good to see this open letter. Also very timely as I’m trying to get commitments to properly resourcing the security function suitable to the Movement’s scope of operations.’

Toby Woodbridge, Amnesty International

DFID’s comments at the parliamentary evidence session demonstrated a lack of communication between aid agencies and donors on the subject of funding for safety and security. In an effort to rectify this, GISF composed an open letter to NGOs and donor organisations. The letter aimed to raise awareness of current problems and the impact that they can have on programming, as well as to open dialogue across the sector – both between aid agencies and donor organisations and within them.

In just over two weeks, the letter was signed by 188 stakeholders from 38 countries around the world.

The letter has been endorsed by the following implementing organisations;

and the following training and security organisations;

Since the letter was released, DFID has announced that they are updating the template and guidance for their Rapid Response Facility (which provides bilateral funding to NGOs for humanitarian emergency responses) to include a specific line for security risk management.

This will ensure that organisations actively consider the cost of meeting their duty of care obligations to staff for any given project. This is a huge opportunity for NGOs to understand and include both hard (e.g. communication equipment) and soft (e.g. developing an acceptance strategy) security as direct costs into their proposals. For support with this, see GISF’s open-access guidance.

DFID’s call for proposals, like most donors’, already requires the submission of a log-frame that includes identified risks and mitigation measures. Security and access risks are often forgotten in this process and having this budget line means that the costs of the mitigation measures for the security risks can be easily identified within the proposal.

Can security managers rise to this challenge? How many security staff are able to prepare a budget? And how do we maximise this opportunity for security risk managers to increase their influence on the programme and proposal writing teams?


An open letter to non-governmental and donor organisations from the European Interagency Security Forum

As part of the #AtWhatCost campaign, GISF has published an open letter to NGOs and donors about ineffective funding structures for security risk management.

Global 2019

Securing aid worker safety through effective budgeting

In this article for the Crisis Response Journal, Aisling Sweeney, GISF's Communications Officer, puts forward the case for remodelling funding processes for humanitarian security risk management.

The Cost of Security Risk Management for NGOs

The Cost of Security Risk Management for NGOs explores the costs related to safety and security management for aid programmes, and aims to assist all aid practitioners to determine their risk management expenditure more accurately.