Operational security management in violent environments

Humanitarian Practice Network at the Overseas Development Institute
The first edition of this Good Practice Review on Operational Security Management in Violent Environments (also known as GPR 8) was published in 2000. Since then it has become a seminal document in humanitarian operational security management, and is credited with increasing the understanding of good practice in this area throughout the community of operational agencies. It introduced core security management concepts and highlighted good policy and practice on the range of different approaches to operational security in humanitarian contexts. When it was published, the majority of aid agencies were only just beginning to consider the realities and challenges of operational insecurity. Few international or national organisations had designated security positions or policies and protocols on how to manage the risks of deliberate violence against their staff and operations. The GPR thus filled a significant gap in the policy and practice of security management.

Although a good deal of the original GPR 8 remains valid, the global security environment has changed significantly over the past decade. Increasing violence against aid workers, including more kidnappings and lethal attacks against humanitarian aid workers and their operations, has had serious implications for international humanitarian assistance. Attacks have been both politically motivated and an expression of rising levels of banditry and criminality. This growing violence has generated a deeper awareness of the security challenges faced by operational agencies, giving rise to new adaptations and strategies in security management and growing professionalism and sophistication in humanitarian security practices and interagency coordination. Overall, the changes in the operational and policy environment in the last decade suggest that a review and update of the first GPR is warranted.

This revised GPR both updates the original material and introduces new topics. In particular, it presents a more detailed and refined approach to undertaking risk assessments specifically oriented to field practitioners. It also outlines a more comprehensive means of implementing an ‘active acceptance’ approach, as well as examining in detail deterrence and protective approaches, including maintaining a low profile and using armed protection. New topics include the security dimensions of ‘remote management’ programming, good practice in interagency security coordination and how to track, share and analyse security information. It provides a significantly more comprehensive approach to managing critical incidents, in particular kidnapping and hostage taking. Issues relating to the threat of terrorism are discussed in a number of chapters within the revised edition and have been purposefully mainstreamed rather than siloed into one chapter. A series of annexes examines issues such as the changing security environment for humanitarian action, the role of private security providers, insurance provision, and the role of official donors in supporting security management.