General

Security for Foreign Aid Workers

When we think about humanitarian aid workers, we have a tendency to think about the good work they do, and the personal sacrifices they make in their efforts to help others. But not often enough do we consider the dire circumstances and imminent danger that they put themselves in. The killing of several foreign workers at a UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif on April 2 brought this danger, and the question of how to address it, starkly into focus, as discussed by the Guardian

UN helicopterTraditionally the UN and other humanitarian agencies have only been able to provide aid in countries where their presence is accepted by both the local government and the members of the community where they are working. This is the closest they come to a guarantee of security. Without local acceptance and support, the workers are vulnerable and can’t continue their work. It is easy to see how, under these conditions, a change in public mood could put foreign aid workers at risk.

Some might argue that the shifting role of the UN from strictly neutral humanitarian aid, to more recent less neutral “stabilisation” tasks has put workers at greater risk. But then what of these transition countries that are unable to provide security for their own people; should the international community intervene?

Using armed forces to deliver aid seems counter-productive and has been proven to be disastrously ineffective in the past. So the question then is how do we protect the people who work so hard to help those who need it most? This is a question that needs to be more thoroughly considered before more innocent civilians are killed.

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