INSSA Security Risk Management Competency Framework

by International NGO Safety and Security Association

On December 13, 2017, the International NGO Safety and Security Association (INSSA) launches the first in a series of competency based qualifications for security risk management professionals working in the humanitarian and development sector. The independent, on-line exam for staff at a country level with security responsibilities, enables individuals to demonstrate their competencies and organisations to recruit and develop staff with the right skill set.

While as a sector we recognise that there will always be some risks, NGOs have both a moral and legal duty of care to ensure these risks are reasonably managed and mitigated – without organizations becoming risk averse or losing access to the most vulnerable people. Ex-military security professionals and seasoned aid workers do not make easy bedfellows, so security management and humanitarian principles are often perceived as incompatible. This is where the professionalisation of humanitarian security risk management can really make a difference. The INSSA competency framework is designed for anybody who is interested in a career in humanitarian security risk management, from individuals with a traditional security background who wish to move to the humanitarian sector to humanitarian professionals who want to become effective security risk managers.

The country level is the first in four stages of security risk management professional development reflected in the INSSA Security Risk Management Competency Framework, and is followed by regional, global and executive levels. Each level will require candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through a mix of on-line exams, continuous learning and interviews.

The competency areas covered are:

  • risk assessment;
  • principles, policies and protocols;
  • information management;
  • leadership, management and implementation;
  • critical incident response.

These competency areas form the basis for all the professional development levels, each level requiring a greater depth of understanding, starting from a knowledge of what exists and how it should be used to support access and programme implementation, through the development of strategic systems to form the foundation of organisation good practice reflecting the organisation’s mission and mandate. The regional level competency exam will be launched in the spring of 2018 and the global and executive levels later in the year.

Each competency area covers a broad spectrum of the issues that humanitarian and development security risk management professionals need to know to be effective and appropriate for the sector – the competencies are so much more than those often perceived as the primary requirements for a security officer, i.e. communication and creating an enabling environment, rather than compound security and asset tracking.

The INSSA competency framework is designed with both national and international staff in mind. The sector is relying more and more on national staff and local partners to be able to access and implement life-saving responses and development projects for their communities. An assumption that national staff are less vulnerable to risks is belied by the statistics that show most serious injuries, deaths and abductions happen to national staff. The on-line platform is accessible anywhere internet is available and encourages national staff to develop their competencies in humanitarian security risk management to support their colleagues as well as for their own professional development.

For more information visit or contact