A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Acceptance and acceptance fallacies

burnt out humanitarian vehicles in Afghanistan
Vehicles burned by an angry mob — at least partially due to the ‘good program’ fallacy.

In the traditional version of the acceptance approach to security an aid organization seeks to cultivate an atmosphere of trust and familiarity with beneficiaries and the host community. The idea is that beneficiaries and host community members will not target their ‘friends’ and will provide warning of impending attack by criminals or outsiders.

It’s a good approach that fits well with humanitarian ideals. Unfortunately many aid agencies fall victim to one or more of three acceptance ‘fallacies’ that prevent proper implementation of a real acceptance strategy. The first two have been outlined in “Providing Aid in Insecure Environments: Trends in Policy and Operations”, by Abby Stoddard, Adele Harmer and Katherine Haver.

Passive or assumed acceptance fallacy: To put is bluntly this fallacy is the end result of faulty logic. The assumption is made that if the organization does not have protective and deterrent measures it must therefore have an acceptance based strategy.

The exceptionalist fallacy: The assumption that an organization can simply reiterate humanitarian principles and proclaim its neutrality and independence from all belligerent parties. The problem with this approach is that beneficiaries don’t read organizational policy documents and they often have learned to be suspicious of the moral proclamations of outsiders and those in positions of authority.

The good program fallacy: I sometimes refer to this as the ‘good houses’ fallacy. It is easy to assume that merely building ‘good houses’, or implementing good programming is all that is required to gain acceptance.

So how do we gain real acceptance? Stick around. We’ll discuss that in a future post.

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