Managing the Security of Aid Workers with Diverse Profiles

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This report is relevant for humanitarian and development practitioners as it explores how to respect aid workers’ rights to privacy, equality and inclusion whilst ensuring aid organisations are upholding their duty of care obligations to their staff.

This report examines whether aid organisations are effectively taking the diversity of their employees into account when creating their security risk management systems. The report affirms that aid organisations have a duty of care to protect their staff from foreseeable risks that may develop as a result of their personal characteristics, including sex, gender and sexual orientation. It is argued that a failure to take such characteristics into account when developing an NGO’s security risk management plan can affect the safety of an individual aid worker, as well as the organisation for whom they work.

The research involved a literature review, a survey and key informant interviews. The research found that most NGOs do not sufficiently take the diversity of their employees into account when developing their security risk management plans. Some organisations were found to have adequate security risk management plans, and these positive examples are highlighted in the report. The findings reveal that, with regard to the personal identity and characteristics of NGO employees, a policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is common among aid organisations. The research further found that aid workers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex have a greater concern for threats from within their organisation than from outside the organisation, with many reporting that they feel the need to hide their identity at work.

The report highlights that developing security risk management plans based on the personal identities of aid workers may be perceived as an infringement of a worker’s right to privacy. However, the report argues that in high-risk situations, aid organisations may need to ask personal questions (which their staff can refuse to answer) in order to protect the safety of their employees. The report explores aid organisations legal duty of care and anti-discrimination obligations with regard to their employees with diverse personal profiles.

The report concludes by offering a series of case studies and recommendations for aid organisations to follow to better support and protect their employees with diverse SOGIESC, whilst respecting their employees’ rights to privacy, equality, diversity and inclusion.

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"The research, furthermore, found that aid workers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex (LGBTQI) or as being a person with a disability are more concerned about internal threats than external threats to their security. A number of contributors to this study voiced that while at work they feel they need to conceal certain aspects of their identity to protect themselves, which in some cases has had a profound impact on their mental health."

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This report examines whether aid organisations are effectively taking the diversity of their employees into account when creating their security risk management systems. The report affirms that aid organisations have a duty of care to protect their staff from foreseeable risks that may develop as a result of their personal characteristics, including sex, gender and sexual orientation. It is argued that a failure to take such characteristics into account when developing an NGO’s security risk management plan can affect the safety of an individual aid worker, as well as the organisation for whom they work.

The research involved a literature review, a survey and key informant interviews. The research found that most NGOs do not sufficiently take the diversity of their employees into account when developing their security risk management plans. Some organisations were found to have adequate security risk management plans, and these positive examples are highlighted in the report. The findings reveal that, with regard to the personal identity and characteristics of NGO employees, a policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is common among aid organisations. The research further found that aid workers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex have a greater concern for threats from within their organisation than from outside the organisation, with many reporting that they feel the need to hide their identity at work.

The report highlights that developing security risk management plans based on the personal identities of aid workers may be perceived as an infringement of a worker’s right to privacy. However, the report argues that in high-risk situations, aid organisations may need to ask personal questions (which their staff can refuse to answer) in order to protect the safety of their employees. The report explores aid organisations legal duty of care and anti-discrimination obligations with regard to their employees with diverse personal profiles.

The report concludes by offering a series of case studies and recommendations for aid organisations to follow to better support and protect their employees with diverse SOGIESC, whilst respecting their employees’ rights to privacy, equality, diversity and inclusion.