Load low-bandwidth site?
Help

Humanitarian action in the new security environment: policy and operational implications in Iraq

Published:
1 September 2006
Region:
Middle East and North Africa
Topics:

Share this:

Humanitarian action in the new security environment: policy and operational implications in Iraq

Humanitarian actors in Iraq have had to face a unique operational environment which is highly insecure, volatile and politicised evolving from a post-conflict scenario to a highly fragmented open internal war and a major front in the US-led ‘global war on terror.’ As insecurity forced a great majority of NGO to relocate expatriate staff in neighbouring countries, there was an exponential growth of local humanitarian actors. Efforts to intervene are hampered by insecurity, the prevention-of-access policy, the politicisation of aid and the lack of independent funding. Those who maintained operations in Iraq have had to deal with a wealth of challenges, starting with security management and constant adaptation to the changing operational environment to coordination, civil–military relations, organisational management and remote programming. In 2003, the failure to foresee or to honestly acknowledge the rapid deterioration in the security environment led to a failure to respond to the changes in the humanitarian operational environment. The analysis tools for contextual and situational analysis revealed that those tools were inadequate to build sound perceptions of insecurity and threat levels in a guerrilla-warfare environment. No specific security report encompasses the wide range of information necessary to analyse the security environment. The reporting of security events and information sharing is done on an ad hoc and fragmented basis. The process of collection and analysis of security events and information is not optimal and leaves room for rumours and speculation. With high turn over and highly subjective perception sometime disconnected from reality, quick adaptation to changes is slow. Other issues challenging humanitatian efforts included human resources where National staff recruitment and training are hampered by distance and insecurity. Furthermore, with remote control, the distance between expatriates and nationals has forced humanitarian actors to adapt their organisational strategy and to rethink the role and responsibilities of expatriates. All in all, the challenges presented by the security situation in Iraq to the humanitarian community led to the shutting down of Iraq operations for a great deal of agencies, to a reduction in the level of programming as compared to the needs of the general population, to a shift in the locations of programmes in order to avoid areas where access was not guaranteed and risks were too high (only a handful of international HAs currently work in ‘hot spots’), and to changes in the nature of the programming itself. All in all, the challenges presented by the security situation in Iraq to the humanitarian community led to the shutting down of Iraq operations for a great deal of agencies, to a reduction in the level of programming as compared to the needs of the general population, to a shift in the locations of programmes in order to avoid areas where access was not guaranteed and risks were too high (only a handful of international HAs currently work in ‘hot spots’), and to changes in the nature of the programming itself.

Related:

Security Advise – Hostage Survival

This short UNDSS guidelines provides useful tips to survive an abduction and hostage situation.

Risk appetite and risk tolerance. Guidance paper

This is the full report on IRM’s study ‘risk appetite and risk tolerance’.

Briefing Paper: Providing aid in insecure environments: trends in policy and operations

This briefing paper provides the conclusions of HPG Report 23 (doc # 357) in condensed form.