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Published: October 15, 2020

GISF releases first global research into local partners’ perspectives on security risks

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The Global Interagency Security Forum (GISF) has publicly released the first global research dedicated to examining security risks in local-international NGO partnerships, from the local partner’s perspective. GISF’s research has found that, while the aid sector advances towards ‘localisation’, the safety and security of local partners is being wrongly disregarded.

Sometimes we get a message of condolences when there is a death, but that’s about it.

National NGO Staff, Africa, from ‘Partnerships and Security Risk Management: from the local partner’s perspective’

Building on 4 case studies, over 70 interviews and a survey including more than 200 responses, ‘Partnerships and Security Risk Management: from the local partner’s perspective’ finds that security risks are rarely discussed – and, even less often, funded – in NGO partnerships. Several barriers prevent the adequate inclusion and collaboration of partners on security risk management, including lack of trust, power imbalances and short-term project funding. With the release of the paper, GISF aims to start a dialogue on the critical issues it raises.

In 2012, GISF (then EISF) published ‘Security Management and Capacity Development: International agencies working with local partners.’ While this paper provided guidance on how to improve security risk management in partnerships, we soon realised it did so from the INGO perspective. In response, this new paper looks at the topic from the local and national NGO perspective. Local partners’ contributions provided us with essential insights on processes of risk transfer and obstacles to sound collaboration.

By creating space for their voices to be heard, we hope that this research will encourage all partners to build more equitable partnership for sharing security risks and help keep frontline humanitarian staff safer.’ 

Lisa Reilly, Executive Director, GISF

The paper explores the specific security risks faced by staff of local and national NGOs, their experiences of risk acceptance, risk habituation and risk ownership and explores their existing security risk management practices and support needs. The paper also highlights the need to reconceptualise key terms such as ‘risk transfer’ to better reflect the lived realities of local partners and suggests ways to move towards sharing security risks.

Just because we are local, it doesn’t make us immune to threats.

Local NGO Staff, Africa, from ‘Partnerships and Security Risk Management: from the local partner’s perspective’

Raising awareness around the security risks borne by local aid workers is essential. As the localisation agenda moves forward, the efforts made may well appear short-sighted if they disregard the safety and wellbeing of the very actors they purport to empower. By unpacking these dynamics, highlighting obstacles and analysing the threats faced by local aid workers, GISF’s latest research paper aims to improve security risk management in NGO partnerships.


Notes to editors:

  • The Global Interagency Security Forum (GISF) is a member-led NGO forum that drives change through our global network of over 100 member organisations. We influence good security risk management practice that works for the whole humanitarian sector, improving the security of aid workers and operations for sustainable access.
  • For the past decade, GISF has produced original research and practical guides that fill knowledge gaps across the sector. The forum invests in capacity building by promoting learning through training and events, an online resource hub and a renowned research programme. Written by sector experts, the GISF Secretariat and GISF members, GISF research is conducted using participatory action research methods.
  • GISF logos can be obtained by contacting gisf-research@gisf.ngo.
  • Contact: Léa Moutard, +44 (0) 776 099 2240, gisf-research@gisf.ngo.