Collaborative efforts to improve safe access to populations in need: Revision of Good Practice Review 8, Operational Security Management in Violent Environments

December 6, 2010
by Chris Finucane, Security Management Initiative.

Today the context of aid work has changed substantially, as has the way agencies manage their security and seek to keep their staff and assets safe. New conflicts have created new sources of threat. Increasing violence against aid workers and their operations, including more kidnappings and lethal attacks, has had serious implications for relief work. Equally, though, aid agencies have made significant progress in their understanding of the risks they face and the types of personnel and resources they need to mitigate them.

To capture these changes, the Humanitarian Practice Network has produced a revised edition of Good Practice Review 8, Operational Security Management in Violent Environments. Since its first publication ten years ago, GPR8 has become the standard reference point for humanitarian agencies working in some of the world’s most dangerous places. As one user put it, GPR8 is ‘our Security 101. It was the primary reference – our go-to guide’. 

The revised 300-page guide provides advice on a comprehensive range of topics. It covers the basic principles of security management, as well as operational issues, including how to assess risk, how to work with communities to gain acceptance, how to stay safe on the road and how to manage a kidnapping. It argues that good security management is not just about having good plans and procedures: it’s also about developing a wider approach to security, understanding the context and the impact of an agency’s presence and its work, building the capacity of staff and collaborating effectively with other aid agencies.

The guide is designed for a wide range of users, from senior managers in headquarters to national staff in the field. It draws on experiences and practices from all over the world, and addresses a diverse range of staff responsibilities and functions. The guide is a product of collective thinking, shared expertise and contributions from a wide spectrum of individuals and organisations. As such, it will become an important benchmark in good security practice and, it is hoped, will contribute to keeping aid workers safe.

Many of the contributors to this revision are supporting other initiatives aimed at developing solutions to the security challenges facing aid work. One such initiative is a global awareness campaign to encourage meaningful efforts to support safe access to populations in need. The Price of Anything is a not-for-profit project intended to raise public awareness and the profile of aid worker security, increase the security management resources available to aid workers and influence and mobilise special interest groups to pursue issues of accountability, compliance and responsibility. To find out more about this project please visit the Security Management Initiative at

Meeting safety and security challenges requires a collective effort involving not only aid organisations and their staff, but also governments, aid donors and civil society. Understanding the issues surrounding security risks requires input from practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and academics. An example of these collaborative efforts will be presented at the 2011 Humanitarian Action Summit, where aid worker safety and security will be addressed by a working group on security and standards in staff protection. More information may be found at

If you are interested in supporting these initiatives, or know of other efforts addressing similar themes, we would like to hear from you.

Video link :

The GPR8 is available to download from the HPN website and the launch event, ‘A decade on: A new Good Practice Review on operational security management’, will be held on 7 December 2010. For more information or to register to attend, please visit the ODI website.


Comments are available for logged in members only.