A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Active acceptance

Last week we looked at the acceptance fallacies that sometimes prevent NGO’s from properly implementing an acceptance strategy as part of an overall NGO security plan. Today we’ll look at a more robust approach to pursuing acceptance for humanitarian actors and activity.

Real acceptance is ‘active acceptance’. It needs to be continuously pursued and won. In order for an NGO to develop an active acceptance strategy an acceptance plan needs to be written, resources allocated to it, and deliberate action taken. Active acceptance involves regularly communicating with governmental groups, non-state actors, armed factions, and other key parties. The communication can be direct or through intermediaries when discretion is required. The communication needs to be two way.

All NGO staff need to be involved in the acceptance effort. Whether they are program managers, humanitarian field staff, or drivers, they need to be able to clearly communicate the humanitarian mandate of their organization. They also need to act in a manner compatible with the mandate. One misbehaving staff member can quickly destroy an organizations acceptance.

Other considerations:

• Active acceptance is costly in terms of time and resources but is cheap compared to the consequences of poor acceptance.

• Acceptance can be difficult to achieve in fluid conflict environments. New factions require new negotiations and agreements need constant reinforcement.

• Negotiations, especially with armed factions can be particularly stressful for staff.

• A rapid expansion in the number of NGOs in a country during a humanitarian emergency can make it difficult for any organization to maintain an independent identity. The actions of NGO’s with no pre-crisis experience in the affected area can have a negative effect on the acceptance of more experienced organizations.

• Your organization doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The actions of other aid organizations effect the perceptions of yours. Joint acceptance strategies should be considered.

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This work by Kevin Toomer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
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