Can My Organization Get Sued?

Can My Organization Get Sued?

You’re a seasoned humanitarian professional with decades of experience in hostile environments. Knowing that humanitarian security incidents have been following an exponential curve in the last decade, you wonder if you and/or your organization can get sued, be held accountable and taken to court for not protecting your staff enough.
According to a Policy Paper issued by the Security Management Initiative as a result of an SMI research project, the answer is “Yes”. The survey pointed to several shortcomings. “Understanding on the part of INGOs of the range of legal responsibilities towards their staff remains deficient, with serious gaps existing between legal requirements and current practice as to employer obligations… Furthermore, INGOs generally fall short of compliance with legal standards and general notions of duty of care”.

Ultimately, “funding is not the root cause of these deficiencies. The principle causes identified were an absence of a ‘culture of security’, of understanding/knowledge, and of institutionalized willingness, decisions and mechanisms”.

A Culture of Caring

Today though, international best practices in the area of organizational support to humanitarian field staff exist, which can guide agencies in the strengthening of their HR strategies according on the base of their duty of care in insecure environments. The CHP has been consultant in this area for over a decade and offers an organizational support program for INGOs, which is detailed in the recent White Paper: Training, Support & Follow up for Humanitarian Field Staff – Model and Processes.

These guidelines have been published to inform organizations how best to look after the psychological needs of their field staff. The paper argues that there are both practical and moral reasons for humanitarian agencies to ensure they have a comprehensive in-house staff welfare program. Staff may have to endure high levels of stress while living in difficult conditions and experiencing culture shock.The paper outlines best practices to be followed before, during and after a staff member’s deployment.


The author, Claire Colliard, is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Psychology. She has been a trainer and consultant for many aid agencies in the last 20 years and is specialized in humanitarian psychosocial intervention.


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