While access impediments continue to hamper the delivery of humanitarian assistance as a whole, protection actors and services are often disproportionately affected. Communities or groups experiencing severe protection risks are often those with the least amount of access to life-saving support and some of the hardest to reach. In some contexts, this is by design, with access-related restrictions part of the strategies used by parties to a conflict to inflict harm on civilians. Protection-related actions can also be perceived as particularly sensitive or threatening by relevant authorities or parties to conflict, which at times results in self-censoring by humanitarians. Protection-related activities require safe, timely and sustained access for proximity, ongoing trust-building, engagement and the delivery of specialized services. It is a constant struggle to ensure that much needed protection is provided and accessible in contexts where often protection itself is not allowed or not feasible.
The Global Protection Cluster (GPC) campaign on access that protects is about greater complementarity and impact between efforts to improve humanitarian access and those to strengthen protection for and with people affected by crises.
Ultimately, humanitarian access forms the foundation for life-saving humanitarian action and protection. The deprivation, denial of, or impediment to access to basic services and assistance, crucial to survival, is a grave protection risk – one that threatens the safety, rights and wellbeing of people – and one that must be addressed collectively as an integral aspect of response efforts.
In 2022, the GPC has undertaken a focused effort to better understand how access constraints globally are impacting protection action specifically and what can be done to address these challenges. Based on a series of consultations, events, and reflections throughout the year, the GPC has developed two priority areas for change, reflecting the opportunity to further ensure that humanitarian access is centered around protection objectives.
Each of the two priorities represents an aspect through which the GPC, together with Protection Clusters and other stakeholders – including Humanitarian Country Teams and Access Working Groups – can help ‘move the needle’ on the kind of sustained, quality access that is critical for protection. They complement and align with existing initiatives, bringing forward the overarching objective of protection that all humanitarians share. The GPC is committed to working closely with a range of members, partners and allies to take these priorities forward.