(The Humanitarian Social Network)
Comment by Robyn Kerrison 2/5/2012
A question to all (which I think, given we're only 8 here so far, I'll cross-post): How often are NGO security restrictions (curfews, limitations on what modes of transport are acceptable, which locations, restaurants etc are off-limits) cut and pasted from what applies to the UN in the same city?
**This question was originally posted in a different group, then moved here but placed under comments instead of an actual discussion so I moved it in the hope that Robyn would get more input.
I am the Director of Risk Management & Global Security for a large non-profit NGO who I would classify as more of a development NGO, and the former Director of Global Security for a medium size humanitarian emergency response NGO who I would classify as a pure Relief NGO.
In short anyone copy and pasting anything UN Security related in terms of policy or procedure for an NGO to follow is completely wrong. That said I know a lot of NGO’s on the relief side (that do not employ professional NGO Security staff, so safety, security and risk management is more of a collateral duty for some poor sole with a different full time job) who do this routinely.
Doing this is wrong for many reasons; however it pisses me off when I see it because it does nothing but inhibit implementation. Security policy and procedure should be based on two things and two things only (in my humble opinion) which are: a specific security assessment combined with organizational risk threshold. That said, the security assessment should not be undertaken without detailed knowledge of the program goals and work plan. The idea of taking an embassy’s or the UN DSS security policy or procedure and applying it directly to an operational NGO is ridiculous as they have nothing in common. The NGO is more often than not funded to implement a program, something UN DSS is never tasked with. The motivations are at odds.
There would be some value in looking through an operational UN agencies security procedures (like UNHCR) for a specific area, as a reference point if you have no idea where to start, but taking guidance from a dissimilar organization (like DSS) and applying it with no analytical scrutiny or your own organizations operational requirements is foolish.
You may want to check out the International NGO Safety & Security Association (INSSA) for further input from other professional NGO Security officers, managers and directors: www.ingossa.org
Ok, I realized I ranted and didn’t answer your question. For me if my staff came and said "the UN approved it “or "the UN uses it" it would actually tell me that we need to take a closer look at things as depending on what country it is in, we don't necessarily want to be identified or affiliated with the UN.
Liability, responsibility and the morality involved in the duty of care, in my mind require that an organization determine for itself what is approved and what is not. If they want to use other organizations findings as a source of information that is fine, but it is not responsible to use it as a mandate or be content with it as the only source.
You want your taxi company approved? Answer as much of the following as you can or think is relevant:
Who: owns it, do any other similar foreign organizations use it, are they registered, are they affiliated with any particular power broker in the area, do all drivers have valid driving licenses, do they speak the predominant language of your organization
What: what will you be using it for (business or pleasure, filed work etc..) will there be a signed contract, what safe guards are in place to deter fraud (what evidence will be used for invoicing), do they have a 24 hour dispatch, does their fleet have basic safety features (seatbelts, locking doors etc..) do they carry insurance
Where: Will they be written into your policy as the only approved taxi service, are they large enough to serve in this capacity, will they come into contact with your beneficiaries because of this contract
Why: why do you need this service, why are they the best option, what sets them apart from other taxi services, talk about the benefit of using one service and the ability to track your staff through this should someone go missing etc.. (If it exists)
How: lay out the contract agreement (if there is one), talk about how it would all work and benefit the staff and organization from both a business, financial, security, and moral perspective.
Organize your justification, present it logically and hit the points that are important to the decision maker, but most of all be honest and demonstrate your concern for the safety of your staff, your own safety and the organizations interests.
Howdy. I think most "reputable" NGOs do not cut and paste from the UN... at least in my experience. Perhaps I've been lucky, but I have always had very context minded CQ folks looking out for me. I never felt overly or stupidly restricted (even in some not so nice places). Rules that are explained and make sense are easy to follow... unlike UN rules which are f*ing ridiculous (and I worked for them too).