An important shift in how international nongovernmental organizations view security is now under way. Given the spike in life-threatening incidents in recent years, coupled with ever-rising humanitarian need, international NGOs are rightly looking to do “something” to increase the safety of their staff. But a significant percentage of NGO leaders are still uncertain exactly what that “something” ought to be.
There are seemingly obvious measures, such as establishing evacuation procedures, purchasing insurance, buying GPS tracking mechanisms, hiring guards etc. But without an overall organizational security risk management framework, just buying new insurance or equipment leaves organizations exposed. Simply stated, doing “something” about security is not enough. Organizations need to establish an overall Security Risk Management System.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just needs to be systematic.
Simply put, an SRMS is a set of tools, protocols and mechanisms used by international NGOs to manage security. Like human resources departments or financial management systems, an SRMS applies to and covers the entire organization, and includes staff care. There are four standard categories in an SRMS: policies, security plans, security systems and training.
Basile “Laky” Pissalidis directs InterAction’s Security Unit. He previously served as the senior security advisor for the American Red Cross, and has worked for a variety of NGOs and U.N. agencies over the past 20 years serving in field missions in Bosnia, Pakistan, Indonesia and Haiti.
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