Acts of violence affecting the delivery of aid are frequent in humanitarian settings, such as recently in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen or Afghanistan. They include physical attacks on aid workers, bombing of health facilities, attacks of humanitarian convoys, but also numerous lower profile incidents, less spoken of, affecting local or international staff, including threats, kidnappings, and robberies. Humanitarian organizations and practitioners in the field face mounting tensions between their ability to maintain access to populations in need, and to ensure the safety and security of their staff in a context of complex and protracted conflicts.
While humanitarian organizations find practical, field-based ways to “cope” with such contexts, these adaptations fail to address the overall deteriorating environment for humanitarian action in conflict settings. Speaking out against attackers is often very sensitive for all concerned actors, especially when individual victims and operations are at risk on the ground. In the absence of effective means or mechanisms of law enforcement, impunity characterizes the follow up of such incidents at the national and international levels. Hence the feeling often expressed by practitioners of “a new normal”.
In view of this situation, ATHA, as part of its work done to build operational capacity, facilitate learning across organizations in the humanitarian sector, and to mobilize change through communities of practice, and Action Contre la Faim (ACF), as part of its broader campaign for the protection of aid workers, have partnered to bring together practitioners to address the issue of the lack of protection of aid workers.