Research review of nongovernmental organizations' security policies for humanitarian programs in war, conflict, and postconflict environments.

Elizabeth Rowley, Lauren Burns, Gilbert Burnham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


To identify the most and least commonly cited security management messages that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are communicating to their field staff, to determine the types of documentation that NGOs most often use to communicate key security messages, and to distinguish the points of commonality and divergence across organizations in the content of key security messages. The authors undertook a systematic review of available security policies, manuals, and training materials from 20 international humanitarian NGOs using the InterAction Minimum Operating Security Standards as the basis for a review framework. The most commonly cited standards include analytical security issues such as threat and risk assessment processes and guidance on acceptance, protection, and deterrence approaches. Among the least commonly cited standards were considering security threats to national staff during staffing decision processes, incorporating security awareness into job descriptions, and ensuring that national staff security issues are addressed in trainings. NGO staff receive security-related messages through multiple document types, but only 12 of the 20 organizations have a distinct security policy document. Points of convergence across organizations in the content of commonly cited standards were found in many areas, but differences in security risk and threat assessment guidance may undermine communication between aid workers about changes in local security environments. Although the humanitarian community has experienced significant progress in the development of practical staff security guidance during the past 10 years, gaps remain that can hinder efforts to garner needed resources, clarify security responsibilities, and ensure that the distinct needs of national staff are recognized and addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
JournalDisaster medicine and public health preparedness
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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