In Saving Lives and Staying Alive, the authors look at the drivers of the professionalisation of humanitarian security and its impact on humanitarian practices, with a specific focus on Syria, the Central African Republic and kidnapping in the Caucasus.
Most humanitarian aid organisations now have departments specifically dedicated to protecting the security of their personnel and assets. The management of humanitarian security has gradually become the business of professionals who develop data collection systems, standardised procedures, norms, and training meant to prevent and manage risks.
A large majority of aid agencies and security experts see these developments as inevitable – all the more so because of quantitative studies and media reports concluding that the dangers to which aid workers are today exposed are completely unprecedented. Yet, this trend towards professionalisation is also raising questions within aid organisations, MSF included. Can insecurity be measured by scientific means and managed through norms and protocols? How does the professionalisation of security affect the balance of power between field and headquarters, volunteers and the institution that employs them? What is its impact on the implementation of humanitarian organisations’ social mission? Are there alternatives to the prevailing security model(s) derived from the corporate world?