Security & protection
In conflicts and other situations where there are troubles and tension, both the population and aid actors are often targeted, despite the legal protection that is guaranteed by International Humanitarian Law (IHL). There are various operational strategies that allow this protection to be respected, but these are a genuine challenge in the majority of situations. Evaluating these activities is a difficult area in which the sector needs to continue to make progress.
The signatories of the Geneva Convention have undertaken to “respect and ensure respect” for International Humanitarian Law (Article 1 common to the four Conventions), that is to say, to supervise the methods and means of war to protect those who “are not, or are no longer participating in hostilities”. The status of political refugee has been established and is granted by states to protect those who are obliged to flee their country of origin “due to their race, religion, or nationality, their membership of a particular social group or their political opinions.”
Consequently, even though legal protection is primarily the responsibility of states, aid actors also have a role to ensure that IHL is respected and applied. Certain organisations, such as the ICRC and the HCR, even have a specific protection mandate, and the others should, at the very least, not expose aid beneficiaries to additional risks (Do no harm), and ideally, should contribute to reinforcing protection through their programmes and their advocacy activities.
The emergence in 2005 of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) raised a great deal of hope, in a context where the UN Security Council is to a great extent paralysed, it has changed little in practice.
In addition, the greater the violence directed at the population, the more those who seek to assist them become targets. The issue is therefore as much the security of staff as access to the population. As a result actors have to adapt in order to get round access constraints, by engaging, for example, in remote management or working in partnership with local actors.
These issues require extremely subtle analysis of the context and actors’ actions and in-depth understanding of operational approaches in order to reinforce the protection of people and actors.