Humanitarian security practices

Fabrice Weissman,

Most humanitarian aid organisations now have departments specifically dedicated to protecting the security of their personnel and assets. In the space of twenty years, the dangers inherent to deploying relief operations in conflicts and natural disasters have come increasingly to be treated as risks that can be controlled using methods developed by security specialists.



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 security risks management is also raising questions within aid organisations, MSF included. Can insecurity be measured by scientific means and managed through norms and protocols? How do risk management techniques affect the balance of power between field and headquarters, volunteers and the institution that employs them? What is their impact on the implementation of humanitarian organisations’ social mission? Are there alternatives to the prevailing security model(s) derived from the corporate world?



Building on MSF’s experience and observations of the aid world by academics and practitioners, our research of look at the drivers of the professionalisation of humanitarian security and its impact on humanitarian practices, with a specific focus on Syria, CAR and kidnapping in the Caucasus.

About the speaker
Fabrice Weissman is the director of the Centre de Réflexions sur l’Action et les Savoirs Humanitaires (CRASH) hosted by the Médecins Sans Frontières Foundation (Paris). Graduated from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, he joined MSF in 1995. He spent several years as logistician and head of mission in the Horn of Africa (Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia) and West Africa (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea). Since 2000, he has been alternating field missions and research work on humanitarian action. He has published several articles and books, including In the Shadow of Just Wars. Violence, Politics and Humanitarian Action (ed., London, Hurst & Co., 2004) and Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed. The MSF Experience (ed., Columbia University Press, 2011)

Venue: UNU-MERIT, Boschstraat 24, room 2.24

Date: 19 November 2015

Time: 11:00 - 12:00


UNU-MERIT