Negotiating humanitarian access

When I started 15 years ago as an NGO security advisor, this term was used many times.
It was one of the basic steps on security management. Creating acceptance within the local population. Making sure that they understand and treasure your presence.

But that is easy said these days and I experience a few stumbling blocks in daily practice.
Unknown is unloved is a global phenomenon, and with the growing security maturity level of many organisation, compounds got walls and staff is not always allowed to walk freely around. Strict travel SOP’s do prescribe to make only use of NGO SUV’s. in addition, the rush and hectic paste in which the donor needs results makes the majority of NGO staff rather spend time behind a laptop then engaging with neighbours and host communities.

Without any hesitation I do agree with  implementing systematic security measures. I have proposed many of them and I am very happy to witness INGO’s treating their staff as critical assets for program implementation.
However, the combination of these elements makes me wander to what extend we are counterproductive in our strategies.
When we exclude ourselves from the communities and all that the local population sees of our presence is the dust from our cars, will they know who we are and why we are exactly in their community? Will they understand why are we reaching out for displaced and what we try to achieve in their region?

Diploid again as advisor for a humanitarian organisation I struggle with this. What I first and foremost would recommend is triple T. Time, Tea, Talk. Just taking the time to get to know community leaders, being truly interested in their stories, their analyses and solutions for the issues. Connecting with neighbours and social society. Investing time in drinking tea and talking might be an investment that returns pretty quickly.


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