Key Issues

Responsibilities in Managing Security

The security of humanitarian workers and persons of concern is, as already mentioned, the responsibility of the state. However, the Camp Management Agency must have a knowledge of all aspects of daily life in the camp, including the threats present like civil unrest, crime, hazards, armed conflict and terrorism. The Camp Management Agency needs an understanding of the triggers that may cause deterioration in the security situation of the camp and be in a position to implement measures and policies that may prevent such deterioration. Contingency plans should be prepared for the potential deterioration of the camp situation.

The Camp Management Agency has a role in supporting mandated protection agencies to respond to protection risks, at the very least through effective information management and coordination. Often the Camp Management Agency may already have defined a SOP agreed with the security coordination actors in the field. This may include national authorities, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster/ Sector Lead or an established international non-governmental organisation (NGO) security forum.

☞ For more information on coordination and information management, see Chapter 4, Coordination and Chapter 5, Information Management.

The Camp Management Agency needs to ensure or advocate for:

  • Nomination of a security focal point (potentially assisted by a security expert or adviser) to conduct security risk assessments and carry out ongoing analysis. This will identify the relevant risks and then guide the choice of security strategies and development of specific SOP and contingency plans to mitigate them. In higher risk contexts the Camp Management Agency might consider dedicated security staff as the security focal point.


Security Risk Assessment

A security risk assessment should:

  1. include a context assessment
  2. include a threat assessment
  3. identify the potential impact upon aid workers, operations and the camp population
  4. assess the vulnerability of aid workers and the camp population to all possible threats
  5. assess the level of risk to aid workers and the camp population
  6. identify potential or existing mitigating measures, including the capacity of the state to reduce the risk
  7. recommend further mitigation measures to reduce the risk level.

☞ For more information on security risk assessment, see the template included in the Tools section.


  • Following the risk assessment, consideration is given to camp design and, to the extent possible, to protection, safety and security requirements, including location, layout and access to services. If completed from the onset this may reduce potential for future threats.

Elements to consider include:

  1. distance from armed conflict or other sources of violence
  2. location in relation to natural hazards such as flooding, landslides or volcanic eruptions
  3. criminality in the area under consideration
  4. size of the camp
  5. community participation in family plot layout
  6. allocation of adequate space per family
  7. safe access to resources, such as food, water and firewood
  8. services, such as police, camp management offices, sanitation facilities, schools, markets and community centres
  9. security lighting
  10. establishment of child friendly spaces.
  • Adequate and equitable provision of relief assistance is planned. This can reduce exposure or mitigate the effects of crime, violence and abuse. Relief distributions should take into account persons with specific needs and the needs of the host community. It is important to acknowledge that while such measures may reduce crime risks, they do make the camp a point of interest for armed groups.
  •  Adequate reporting mechanisms are established for incidents of crime, violence and human rights abuses under the guidance of security coordinators. There should be relevant and easy-to-understand information on when and how to access such mechanisms. A referral system must ensure that information on incidents is properly recorded, coordinated, followed-up, and processed by relevant agencies. There must be due attention to confidentiality concerns.
  • Community groups and committees, including relief distribution committees, are non-discriminatory, participatory and broadly representative, particularly of women and members of other groups with specific needs. All possible efforts must be made to ensure the community’s engagement in education or vocational training and cultural, religious and sports activities. This not only limits exposure to risk, but also reduces the chances of persons resorting to violence, helps individuals recover from the effects of violence and helps build livelihoods.


Threat Specifics

A security risk assessment identifies the impact that the five main categories of threat may have on security, safety and protection within a camp. This chapter only highlights certain specific threats considered more common. It does not provide a comprehensive list of all possible threats and their variants.

Civil Unrest

In elaborating a risk assessment, the Camp Management Agency should take into consideration the many indicators and triggers that may lead to civil unrest, such as demonstrations, strikes and riots. These may include conflicts between the camp population and the host community, ethnic or religious conflicts within the camp population, disruption of distribution activities, political events and general unrest.

Host Community Relations

In a number of situations of forced displacement the relationship between the surrounding host community and the camp residents may be strained and create or exacerbate protection problems for both groups. Good relations with the host community help reduce protection problems or prevent them from arising. For example, the host community may have valuable information that may impact on the camp or may be willing to facilitate the local integration of the camp population. A hospitable local community can also contribute to the well-being of the camp residents and assist them in leading dignified lives.

A good relationship between the two communities is therefore of utmost importance. The Camp Management Agency must endeavour to ensure, from the beginning, that attention is paid to the concerns of the host community and any sources of conflict. The Camp Management Agency must seek to ensure that measures are taken, wherever possible, to maintain or improve a mutually beneficial relationship.

Conflict between the host and camp communities may exist for a number of reasons, including ethnic or racial tensions, or fears on the part of the host community that the arrival of the camp residents will expose them to armed attacks, increased criminality, insecurity or disease. The arrival of a large number of refugees or IDPs may also lead to increased competition over scarce resources, particularly in remote or underprivileged areas. Water, food, agricultural or pastoral land, as well as firewood, may be limited. Host communities wanting to protect their access to such resources may resort to violence or demand that national authorities take action to limit the camp residents’ movement outside the camp.

As the environment is often a key source of conflict, attention needs to be paid from the beginning to preventing or limiting environmental degradation caused by the camp or its residents. This will reduce the burden placed on the host community and may also help to reduce tension between the two communities.

☞ For more information on environment, see Chapter 6, Environment.

Intra-Camp Relations

There are often situations where different groups that normally live separately are displaced for similar reasons and suddenly find themselves living in close proximity. Populations displaced from different geographic areas may seek refuge in a common safe haven. These populations may have many differences or similarities beyond their immediate national or ethnic identity. Religious beliefs, social norms or political outlook may all be sources of tension with potential to cause unrest between different groups of camp residents. Much of what is suggested above regarding host community relations needs to be replicated for intra-camp relations. Failures to do so may lead to unrest between those of different nationality, faith or ethnicity.

Distribution Activity

Distribution of aid may become contentious, and who receives what may become a problem. Large distributions lasting several days may make certain sectors of the displaced populations fear that they are being excluded. For instance, certain goods may only be distributed to the most vulnerable or to new arrivals. In other cases, distributions may not meet the expectation of the general population. In all cases, grievances should be addressed promptly.

Political Unrest

Staff working in a camp environment should be aware of the political events that are relevant or suspected of being relevant to the camp population. Elections and election results, referendums and political statements all have the capacity to raise levels of tension. Within the camp context different factions are usually represented and may react unexpectedly to information received or become agitated by self-serving elements.

Presence of Agency Staff and Workers

Agency staff may be culturally different to the communities around them or come from a very distinct environment. Their presence may have certain consequences on the local economy. For example, large numbers of agency staff may cause an increase in food prices. In all cases, the conduct of agency staff towards the host and the camp populations, and towards each other in public places remains important. Equally important is awareness of the unintended impacts, positive or negative, that humanitarian operations may have on a community.

Other Triggers

Typically they include the natural or unexpected death of a member of the displaced population, sudden influxes adding to the camp population caused by a change in circumstances such as the opening of borders, a change in conflict lines, spikes in drought conditions or an abrupt change in camp agencies providing different services.


Cultural Awareness

Both national and international staff need to understand the culture in which they are working, to know how their project is perceived and how it relates to its context. If camp staff understands the local system of values and customs, they can act in a manner consistent with and acceptable to their host. This understanding is essential to successfully analyse and adapt to changing situations and to shape behaviour in ways in which a particular society functions, acts and reacts.


Measures That the Camp Management Agency Should Consider Implementing With the Camp Population:

  • Support and facilitate confidence-building measures, including regular meetings between Camp Administration, the refugees/IDPs and host communities and establishment of joint committees.
  • Support and facilitate sensitisation campaigns among the host community to foster a climate of understanding, acceptance and tolerance. These can be targeted at the community at large as well as at specific groups or institutions, such as schools, religious communities, local authorities and the media.
  • Organise recreational and sports activities for all communities.
  • Support establishment of facilities and activities to which camp residents and the host community have equal access, such as health and educational institutions and services. This could involve maintaining or improving local infrastructure, such as roads, schools and hospitals, or constructing water installations to provide potable water to both the camp and host communities. It could also include access by the host community to programmes set up for the camp population, such as skills training and other livelihood activities.
  • Promote campaigns to sensitise both the camp and host communities to environmental concerns, including possible deforestation if collecting and cutting firewood is an issue of concern, and over-grazing if the IDPs or refugees possess livestock.
  • Advocate for improvements to assistance packages and programmes to ensure that natural resources needed by the host community are not overtaxed by camp residents. In situations of scarce firewood, this may mean the identification and distribution of alternative sources of heating and cooking which do not require firewood, or at a minimum, require reduced quantities of firewood.
  • Set up, in coordination with the lead protection agency, conflict management and resolution forums as well as feedback mechanisms to address issues in a timely manner before relationships become strained, or before tensions or violence destroy trust.


Voice From the Field - Experiences of Humanitarian Workers Facing Civil Unrest in a Camp

“To ensure that we were not caught out in the event of any disturbance, we prepositioned the vehicles so we could get away easily and the drivers could watch for trouble. The security detail had also been reinforced for the distribution as well as all the work we had done to sensitise the camp population about which group would get their goods when.”

“When the team ran from the camp, having practiced the different routes quietly in the past, it was easier for everyone to make it to the rendezvous point on the edge of the camp. It was very difficult to regroup in the forest with it being so dark but we had agreed on a clear landmark which helped. We had always grouped back at the police station before, which ended up being the centre of the trouble, so having an alternative was a relief.”

“The fact we had radios with us helped enormously. When the trouble started and the men were trying to crowd us in we could call quickly for the cars to come. We had tried with the phones but they would not go through. However, the radios gave us immediate contact.”

Always consider what can possibly go wrong and ensure that:

  • all staff are briefed as to what may go wrong and how to behave
  • specific staff are tasked to watch for issues
  • clear alert systems, such as radio communications and hand signals, are in place to inform staff
  • escape routes have been identified, acknowledged and practiced
  • rendezvous points are established with means of verification to ensure all staff are accounted for
  • that, where possible, pre-planned provisions can ensure transport away from the site
  • safe havens have been identified where staff will be secure
  • additional security staff are available for sensitive or difficult distributions.


Measures That the Camp Management Agency Should Consider for Staff:

  • All staff working in the camp must adopt a neutral approach in their relations with a camp population. No member of staff should express an opinion or participate in discussions regarding divisive issues such as ethnicity, beliefs or conflict. Common messages that can be disseminated and which indicate or reinforce this neutrality should be developed.
  • Standards of acceptable behaviour must be clearly explained to all staff. These should be reviewed and monitored periodically to ensure they are known by and relevant to the needs of new and longer employed staff.
  • All activities should be prepared in an appropriate manner. Camp populations should be kept informed and sensitised with sufficient information and time allowed before an activity. Clearly defined perimeters should be established for activity areas with sufficient staff in place to secure the site. Additional security resources, available on-site or upon short notice, should be planned for. Distributions deemed particularly sensitive or activities that have an extended duration will necessitate sufficient resources to ensure their completion. This may include the provision of adequate hygiene, water and shade.
  • Contingency planning should be put in place in case the planned activity goes wrong. This should include due consideration to known alerts, communications systems, rendezvous points, alternative escape routes, pre-identified means of transport, safe havens, medical support for any injured and any other foreseeable actions to enhance emergency response.


Voice From the Field - Field Staff Security

“Strikes hampered the opening and maintenance of a predictable, functioning and safe humanitarian corridor to access IDPs and supply assistance and protection to camps. In addition, strikes demanded the reorganisation of security strategies for camp management field staff. Camp management planning could never be considered separate from security. In some cases security risks dictated that camp management activities were simply halted, even when needs in the camps were on the increase.

Travel to camp locations sometimes needed to be curtailed due to increased risk on the roads. When the full Camp Management Agency team could no longer travel due to the risk, a smaller more mobile team of key staff was placed in the camps for short periods, given basic supplies like food, water, cooking fuel, petrol for vehicles, first aid and communications equipment. They became the eyes and ears of the camp, monitoring and reporting back to the office.

The complex security situation raised a number of challenges for the project:

  • genuine fear and safety concerns from staff about going to the field
  • a shortage of accurate and updated information coming in from the field about security
  • politicisation of information coming from formal parties involved
  • an absence of consistent, coordinated interventions by agencies
  • a lack of a clear response to strikes, with some organisations conforming and closing offices and others remaining open for ‘business as usual’.

The following actions were taken by the team:

  1. all field staff, including drivers and office personnel, were trained in security
  2. security indicators were monitored and reviewed regularly
  3. all strikes and demonstrations by the camp population or incentive workers were observed and the office stayed closed if required
  4. protection by presence was implemented whenever possible. Expatriate staff travelled with national staff to monitor the situation in the IDP camps
  5. a large and diverse team meant that camp management staff could be rotated in and out of the field to give staff days off and time to visit family members also living in situations of heightened risk
  6. confidential reporting lines and referral systems were in place for reporting violations.



The smooth running of a camp, like any other community, depends on the mutual respect of residents and their willingness to address conflicts and disputes in ways acceptable and adhered to by the community at large. A breakdown of law and order can have many contributory factors. While national authorities have the ultimate responsibility to provide protection to those on its territory, police and armed forces may lack the capacity to provide protection for refugee and IDP camps. This can be aggravated by other factors, such as an ongoing armed conflict and the collapse of institutions and infrastructure.

Displaced persons may struggle with traumatic experiences, anxiety and high levels of stress associated with displacement and the situation. Additionally there may be underlying factors which will vary from context to context but may include such considerations as poverty, limited education and limited livelihood opportunities, together with a breakdown of social norms and values. Such contexts are likely to lead to a marked increase in crime, exploitation and abuse.

Threats can range from a variety of minor offences, such as theft and vandalism to more serious forms of intimidation and exploitation or serious crimes, including physical assault, murder and forced disappearances. In camps, gender-based violence remains the most common crime, also occurring often in domestic settings. Rape and sexual assault, abuse or humiliation and sexual exploitation, including forced prostitution and sex in exchange for aid, are all examples of genderbased violence that can occur in camp settings.

☞ For more information on gender-based violence, see Chapter 10, Gender-based Violence.

Agencies working within the camp setting may not be immediately exposed to gender-based violence but will suffer from intimidation, assault, burglary and theft as well as hostage taking and, in certain contexts, abduction and kidnapping.

Having lost the protection of their homes, families and communities, and lacking resources such as shelter, food and water, displaced persons frequently find themselves at greater risk of being subjected to violence, while at the same time their ability to recover from its harmful effects is undermined. Their situation also limits the capacity of individuals and families to address their own security concerns. The often claustrophobic environment of camps and settlements, coupled with anxiety, desperation, marginalisation and the lack of hope about a durable solution, contributes to an increase in both the frequency and seriousness of such acts of violence.

A specific criminal activity may be identified during an initial security risk assessment. It must be identified whether it is agency staff, the camp population or both who are exposed to the different threats. Measures introduced should, as far as possible, address all the present criminal threats.

Measures That the Camp Management Agency Should Consider Implementing With the Camp Population:

  • An adequate number of trained and professional civilian police, including female officers, should be deployed in close proximity to, but ideally not inside, refugee and IDP camps. Protection agencies may provide law enforcement agencies with material and training support, including communications equipment, to help them in the exercise of their duties.
  • The community can be assisted in organising and managing, in cooperation with the police when feasible, community security patrols. Security patrols should be inherently civilian in character. Personnel should receive appropriate training in basic principles of law enforcement and be adequately supervised, monitored and equipped.
  • Community-based initiatives should be encouraged to communicate information through various methods such as radio, theatre or printed media, providing objective security-related information and advice. This should include information on the obligations camp residents have with respect to camp regulations and law and order. It must be understood that if there are serious security concerns this may not always succeed.

Staff Security Measures That the Camp Management Agency Should Consider:

  • Security briefings should be arranged to ensure staff understand potential threats in the working environment.
  • Training should be delivered in personal security awareness and procedures.
  • Specific procedures must be introduced to reduce the vulnerability to crime. These may include restrictions on solitary staff movements, restrictive hours for movement within the camp (typically no movement during the hours of darkness), communication procedures with backup systems, if possible, and use of special or armoured vehicles, if appropriate.
  • Staff ought to be trained in how to respond if faced with crime. Usually this will consist of a call for help and compliance with the demands of the criminal.
  • Emergency call numbers need to be identified and distributed.
  • Security response capacity should be enhanced, if necessary.
  • Contingency plans must be elaborated, communicated and acknowledged in order to better respond to violent or other negative incidents. This includes identification of safe areas, police contacts and medical support.


Voice From the Field – an Example of Camp Management Training for Police Officers

In 2009 a Camp Management Training was conducted for police officers working in the surroundings of refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya. Trainers outlined the principles and approaches of camp management, focusing on the importance of community participation in all phases of the camp life cycle. The training provided basic information on camp design, camp care and maintenance and the rights of refugees. This capacity building initiative allowed the police officers to better coordinate with the different actors in the camps.



Threats categorised as hazards are generally safety-related or linked to natural conditions. Depending on the context, the number of hazards confronting a camp can be many and varied. Natural hazards are often the cause of the initial displacement and although camps should be placed away from such hazards, the availability of land may be restricted and the area may continue to suffer from flooding, earthquake aftershocks or eruptions. In addition, hazards may be the result of the presence of the camp staff and/or population, including, for example, disease, traffic incidents and fires.


Fires are usually caused by poor construction materials, poor storage of flammable materials, faulty electrical wiring or human negligence. This hazard within a camp situation can develop very quickly and become critical as fire can jump from building to building and shelter to shelter. Seasonal factors may aggravate this threat if the climate is particularly dry and winds persistent.

☞ For more information on fire, see Chapter 15, Shelter.

Traffic Incidents

In many contexts the population of the camp may have had little or no experience with vehicle traffic. This may be aggravated by poor local or agency staff driving habits, incompetence and the inability of children in particular to correctly gauge the speed and distance of moving vehicles.


The incidence of disease within a camp is exacerbated by close concentration of people in constrained circumstances. The presence of disease in a camp may also be influenced by the seasons as rains will inevitably increase the threat of water-borne infections, or by vermin, insects and other disease vectors.

☞ For more information on disease, see Chapter 16, Health and Nutrition.

Natural Hazards

Site location is dealt with elsewhere in the toolkit. Due to constraints in site selection some natural hazards may be difficult to avoid. It will be important to remember that the seasons will usually influence the impact of natural hazards. Rainfall and winds will invariably change with the seasons and have a consequence on the provision of many services. Other natural hazards may have a very rapid onset and occur with little or no warning. Typically this would include volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or tidal waves.

☞ For more information on site selection, see Chapter 7, Camp Set-up and Closure.

Human-Induced Hazards

This may consist of chemical or biological waste that is already present. In a conflict- or post conflict environment there may be remnants of war or unexploded ordinance still present. Human-induced hazards will usually require the intervention of specialist agencies to sensitise the population and agency and to effectively clear the site.

Measures That the Camp Management Agency Should Consider Implementing With the Camp Population:

  • Planning for the camp set-up is dealt with in other chapters, but should normally include the use of firebreaks and a thorough study of the materials that will be used for construction in the camp. Fire awareness training ought to include fire prevention, what to do if a fire is discovered, how to react upon hearing an alert, how to tackle a fire and the use of assembly areas and first aid treatment for burns. Fire prevention may be managed through daily activities undertaken by agencies operating in the camp and through education campaigns.
  • Education programmes, focusing primarily on children and general awareness messages, will invariably help to reduce traffic incidents and reflect the effectiveness of preparedness measures.
  • Hygiene, vector protection and medical capacity will all play key roles in preventative and response measures concerning health.
  • Concerning natural hazards
    • sensitisation of the camp population to the potential threat
    • community leaders and host community consulted to discuss potential emergency areas
    • identification and agreement of areas suitable for emergency relocation
    • community leaders briefed on process.
  • It will remain important not to cause panic. Discussions should convey the message that a hazardous event has not occurred and may not occur.

Measures That the Camp Management Agency Should Consider for Staff:

  • Fire awareness training should include means of fire prevention, what to do if a fire is discovered, how to react upon hearing an alert, how to tackle a fire, the location of assembly areas and first aid treatment for burns.
  • Traffic incidents are generally easily reduced by the application of simple guidelines and rules. Though the size of an agency and its available budget will be important factors, the following points should be considered:
    • vehicle choice: appropriate to the terrain and function
    • maintenance: daily checks and regular service intervals
    • driver selection: possession of a valid driving licence and knowledge of the area
    • driver training: so as to understand agency rules and procedures
    • driving rules: particularly speed and distance. Typically, vehicles should not exceed 20km/h in a camp environment.
  • Ensure that all staff are aware of the potential diseases present and are able to take measures as individuals to reduce their exposure by providing or considering:
    • pre-deployment briefings
    • personal hygiene, hand washing, availability of bottled drinking water
    • medication and vaccination
    •  protective clothing to provide protection from insect-borne diseases
    • times of day when staff should restrict movement
    • use of insect/mosquito nets.
  • Crucial needs in order to respond to a changed context in the event of a natural disaster should be considered. Security planning in this case may differ from that implemented for other types of threats. Armed conflict may mean that staff are barred from the camp for an extended period of time even if the fighting has stopped.
  • Relocation areas that are not reasonably expected to be affected by the natural event, for example, areas unlikely to be impacted by lava flows or floods, must be identified.
  • Contingency stocks and plans should, where possible, be prepared by the agencies operating in the camp. This may either be on location or in predetermined areas elsewhere.

Armed Conflict

The civilian and humanitarian character of camps is an important protection standard which is critical to ensuring the safety of refugees and IDPs. This is not always respected, and many locations are susceptible to militarisation. This is particularly the case where refugee and IDP camps are located in or close to a conflict area.

Militarisation of a camp means the pressure or infiltration of the camp by combatants. It may take the form of combatants infiltrating for rest, access to food and medical or other services or in order to recruit, by force or consensually, members of the camp population. This may be seen as a threat by other armed groups and attacks on the camp may result.

The militarisation of camps may also lead to an increased risk of crime and civil unrest, an increase in physical and sexual violence, a breakdown in law and order and a diversion of humanitarian aid from the civilian camp population to combatants. Staff working in a camp may be forced to limit their movements to the camp due to the presence of armed elements. They may themselves face serious security risks, including hostage-taking, assault or murder.

If camps are under the control of armed groups, the national authorities may react by forcibly sending back the population or limiting local integration. Additionally, voluntary repatriation or return to their place of origin may be jeopardised for refugees or IDPs, either by the armed group or the country of origin.

Militarisation of a camp invariably has a profoundly negative impact on relationships between the camp and the host population. In some cases, the warring parties may use the camp strategically as a human shield, in case of attack. A knowledge and understanding of the operating environment, other actors and the political, economic, social and cultural features that affect the context and the level of risk, is essential for effective safety and security planning. It is important to monitor the context continuously, so security systems can be adapted in line with prevailing or predicted dangers. Indicators and triggers for change in the context/operating environment will be identified in a security alert level matrix.


Voice From the Field - Witnesses From a Kidnapping

“When we looked back, there were lots of little things we could see that indicated the incident was going to happen. No one really wanted to say anything about the man watching us and making a phone call nor the fact that there was a group of men acting oddly as we got to the programme site.”

“The driver in the second vehicle had been well trained and because of our convoy procedures was able to get away and no one was hurt in his vehicle.”

“In hindsight the fact we organised so many people to come together in one place on what was normally a day of rest ruined any hope of information security being maintained. Our visit with so many key people involved really set themselves up as a target”.

Where a kidnapping threat is present:

  • Hostile environment training should be made available to staff.
  • Information security on movements of vulnerable/ high profile staff must be maintained.
  • Briefing and awareness training should be carried out specific to the threat.
  • Counter surveillance measures should be implemented.
  • Drivers need to be trained in convoy procedures and reactions to coming under fire.
  • Time should be limited in any given location.
  • Exceptionally, an armed escort may be considered.


Measures That the Camp Management Agency Should Consider Implementing With the Camp Population:

  • information and communication campaigns or other activities to sensitise the community about the negative impact of militarisation
  • warning procedures considered to alert the population via key leaders to potential upsurges in violence or potential attacks
  • agreed assembly areas/safe areas for the camp population that might be used in the event of an attack
  • a rapid response mechanism from appropriate agencies should be part of a prepared programmatic contingency plan.

Disarmament of combatants or residents of a camp is complex and will require agencies or security forces capable of managing the process. Where a peacekeeping force is present, and it is appropriate, support from that armed force may be considered. If such support is considered local force commanders should be visited so that their capacity and procedures are understood and that they are made aware of the Camp Management Agency’s presence. The Camp Management Agency may conduct awareness-raising activities for the camp population.

If it becomes known that there are armed elements in the camp, the Camp Management Agency should notify the relevant authorities, through the Camp Administration. At the onset of the operation the Camp Management Agency should discuss this issue with protection agencies working in the camp and agree with whom they should share information.

In situations of ongoing hostility, and where there are landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), awareness activities should be appropriately coordinated with all relevant actors. This should either be done by a specialised de-mining agency or, if not available, by a designated agency with experience.

Measures That the Camp Management Agency Should Consider for Staff:

  • development of an alert matrix that clearly identifies relevant indicators and triggers
  • conduct meetings with local armed actors explaining programme activities
  • monitoring of the situation in and around the camp
  • a warden system established to alert staff effectively
  • briefing of staff on the current situation
  • training in response to armed conflict
  • contingency procedures including:
  • hard cover defences (reinforced safe rooms or trenches)
  • increase first aid capacity by the provision of relevant training and the supply of appropriate materials
  • emergency evacuation/relocation procedures acknowledged and practiced.

The Camp Management Agency needs to ensure that key members of staff are trained on militarisation and how to monitor changes in the context and indicators that point to increased threats. An effective reporting system to management or a security focal point should then be established so as to monitor changes.


A Voice From the Field - Request for Political Support

“One day before a political rally was due to take place in the town, the militia came to the site and requested the camp leader to round up supporters amongst the camp community. The message he was told to deliver was that they should attend a discussion the following day in the town, about a housing scheme for the displaced.

However, the next day when the bus arrived to collect them, some camp residents were reluctant to go. The camp leader was threatened by the militia and asked why he hadn’t done more to persuade the community. In no position to do otherwise, the camp leader had to board the bus, along with some friends, and attended the rally along with other ‘supporters’ from local IDP sites.”

A number of issues are raised by this example:

  • Security focal points should be aware of sensitive changes in context and brief Camp Management Agencies accordingly on potential threats to staff and population.
  • Protection agencies should create a medium for confidential reporting of threats.
  • Communities within the camp should be sensitised on the danger of militarisation.
  • Security forces responsible for access to the camp should be trained in handling the presence of militia.


For a Camp Management Agency it is important to know that under certain conditions the military may be involved in humanitarian aspects of operations in order to fulfill a humanitarian obligation. This could be linked with providing security to refugee and IDP camps or the surrounding area and its population, providing security to humanitarian operations and humanitarian staff, or providing logistical support.

To conduct these activities while not confusing the humanitarian objective, it is necessary to establish close liaison arrangements, clear information-sharing networks and to ensure transparency towards refugees and IDPs. Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines for Working with the Military need to be included in the strategic planning of both intra and inter camp levels.


Civil-military Relations

For humanitarian action to maintain its neutral character it is imperative that it be clearly distinguished from military actions. If this principle of distinction is not adhered to, the objectives of humanitarian and military action become intertwined. Ultimately, this may seriously undermine the capacity of humanitarians to serve refugees and IDPs.

Ideally, once the immediate emergency phase is over, camps set up by armed forces or military groups should be managed by civilian authorities or organisations. The role of police and security forces should be limited to providing security. (See A.4.6 of Protecting Persons Affected by Natural Disasters IASC Operational Guidelines on Human Rights and Natural Disasters.)

In some contexts, the military establish and continue to run camps, as this may be the only option available or the military is held in sufficiently high regard to allow this to continue.

Emergency operations increasingly take place in highly militarised environments where humanitarian efforts would be seriously hampered or undermined if not supported and assisted by military resources. This is a highly complex issue that requires finding a balance between upholding the neutrality and the independence of humanitarian action while acknowledging that, in certain circumstances, support of the military will remain a necessity.

In all cases where interaction with the military occurs, it is important to be aware of the context and the impact this will have. It is also important to be aware that the context may change over time. A once popular military presence can become unwelcome and may go on to become the target for violence either by the camp population and/or by other armed actors.

Much policy guidance exists on how relations between civilian and military actors should be conducted. Many agencies will have their own guidelines on interaction with state and non-state armed actors.


Politically Motivated Violence by Non-state Actors and Acts of Terror


What Is Terrorism?

This toolkit uses the word terrorism as defined by the United Nations General Assembly (1994): "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."


The objectives of terrorist actions within a camp may be twofold: 

  • a statement against the Camp Management Agency and other agencies working in the camp, or against their governments of origin, with the intent to get the agencies to leave, to force them to change their behaviours or simply to coercively raise funds
  • to create terror among the camp population or a targeted ethnic group to force them to act in a certain way, such as boycotting elections, or as retaliation against a camp population for actions taken against them.

The nature of this threat may therefore be varied and include large scale assaults, grenade or bomb attacks, targeted assassinations or widespread shooting, forced recruitment, abduction, murder and kidnappings. The terrorist may also run criminal activities such as racketeering. In real terms, the key difference between crime and armed conflict may be that it is carried out by a terror group with a specific political intention rather than the relatively simpler acts of violence perpetrated by criminals.

Many of the actual threats presented here are the same as for armed conflict, crime and civil unrest and thus will not be further analysed here. A key activity for both the Camp Management Agency and population is to endeavor to identify which staff or population group may be targeted by the terror group.

This may allow for pre-emptive action to withdraw certain staff or relocate part of the camp population if deemed necessary or special measures for those staff/populations most at risk.


Ongoing Responsibilities in Managing Staff Security

The Camp Management Agency must, to the best of its ability, make sure that sound security systems are in place. These systems and associated measures will be outlined in the camp specific security plan. The security plan encapsulates all measures required to operate safely and securely within the camp environment and will be based on the security risk assessment. The plan will include updated information about the situation in the camp and the local environment, threat assessments, analysis of risks and vulnerabilities and periodic reporting and monitoring mechanisms. Systems should also be in place for incident reporting and for supporting staff with security issues, both in and outside working hours.

Security Plans

A security plan is the document that describes ways of working and behaviours intended to reduce vulnerability to a given threat and therefore to lessen the risk that it presents. It explains the preventive steps to take in order to reduce the possibility of an incident occurring and, in the event of an incident occurring, steps to reduce the impact. For example, a guard will know how often to patrol a building, what equipment to carry and what to do in case of an incident.

SOPs must be in place for the security of buildings, agency property, staff travel, communications, response to security incidents and evacuation plans. The security plan generally also includes safety rules, for example, seatbelt safety, speed limit respect, designed to prevent non-intentional harm to staff. Frequently, safety rules, when respected, will also reduce the risk posed by security threats.

All staff must be familiar with such procedures. While individual agencies should have their own security management arrangements, it is important for the Camp Management Agency to be aware of these arrangements and, through coordination, ensures that all agencies’ staff are covered. This could be achieved by a standard arrival briefing for all staff including Camp Management Agency’s staff and service providers’ staff working in the camp. Also, subject to the context, consider a weekly security update for relevant personnel responsible for security. The Camp Management Agency, in liaison with Camp Administration and CCCM Cluster/Sector Lead Agencies, may arrange for radio communication, personal security and driver training.

The Camp Management Agency must also assure that all their staff are properly informed on any security guidelines/security plans and have received security training on any procedures laid out in the security plan. This will include:

  • briefing on the various security documents including security plans, evacuation plans and medical plans, at the very least
  • training in standard procedures such as movement and communication
  • training in the use of specific hardware such as communication or first aid equipment
  • briefing and practice of contingency plans, including a walk-through of relocation or evacuation plans
  • explanation of incident reporting procedures that highlight how, when and what to report.

This is not only important for the security of the staff member but for the security of all colleagues working in the same operation. In conflict environments, Camp Management Agencies are recommended to have a security officer or security focal point among their core field-based staff.


Three Approaches to Security

Throughout the chapter there have been suggestions of measures that can be implemented in response to identified threats. There are, in broad terms, three approaches that can be taken to security risks: acceptance, protection and deterrence. By following these three approaches to security an agency endeavours to form what is known as the security triangle for protecting staff in an insecure environment.

Acceptance Approach

Acceptance and goodwill from the camp residents and the host population.

Protection Approach

Protective measures are taken to mitigate the threats, ranging from guarding an office, to evacuation plans and for example, radios, guards or window grills.

Deterrence Approach

Threatening retaliation to those who threaten, for example, active patrolling, legal, economic or political sanctions. This is not normally available to humanitarian organisations. Agencies can use suspension or withdrawal of programmes as a deterrent. These are elaborated in the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection ECHO Security Guide.

Chapter 12: Three Approaches to Security

The Camp Management Agency should carefully consider the objectives of its mission when adopting its approach or mix of approaches.


Approaches to Security

Acceptance Approaches

The Camp Management Agency and all the staff who represent it should actively and consistently work to establish a good relationship with the displaced community. This is essential to the security of Camp Management Agency staff, as it will give access to valuable security information and also generate acceptance and trust. Camp Management Agency staff must uphold the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality at all times. Camp Management Agency staff should be sensitive to religious and cultural traditions.

Note also that appropriate dress codes, often thought of as just referring to women needing to cover their hair, are important markers in each context. Clothing and grooming is rarely for fashion and may carry political or ethnic overtones. Men may be expected to be cleanly shaven in sub-Saharan Africa but in parts of the Middle East and Asia a well maintained beard may be better accepted.

At all times, Camp Management Agency staff should demonstrate exemplary behaviour even when working under highly stressful conditions and be aware of how they are perceived. Rudeness, arrogance, unwillingness to listen, lack of respect for cultural norms and generally unfriendly behaviour will have a very negative impact on the agency’s credibility and affect staff security. All staff must strictly adhere to professional standards, including the code of conduct, training on which should be organised at the outset and regularly thereafter. It is up to each agency to decide how frequently they will conduct such training but refresher training is recommended, at least on an annually basis. Staff misconduct must be addressed and discipline imposed, as necessary, according to human resources regulations.

It is vital to develop and maintain relationships with all parts of the community including authority figures, religious leaders and women and youth groups. All emergency contacts should be verified and cross-referenced so as to confirm that individuals are who they claim to be within the community.

Informal relationships will play a key role in promoting acceptance. Making time outside formal meetings to greet and socialise with key people, will go a long way to broaden and strengthen relationships.

Be aware that it is essential to match styles. A former soldier, for example, may interact well with armed actors but struggle with youth groups. Consideration of gender, age and experience all add to the ability to create and maintain bonds.

In all circumstances it is important to be aware of the limitations of acceptance. Though acceptance will improve relations with the displaced and host communities this may take time and is easily upset by agency failures or weaknesses. Acceptance will generally not provide much security against threats presented by hard-line or external groups.


Image and Acceptance as an Approach to Security

security involves humanitarian agencies spending time trying to learn and understand what people think about the agency’s presence and programme. The way humanitarian organisations are seen by the community or communities in which they work affects not only the security of staff, but the overall success of programmes. Humanitarian agencies should first be clear on their own identity and how they would like to be perceived. Clarity on an agency’s identity includes knowing the mission statement, principles and values that drive the agency and then communicating these messages clearly and transparently to others.

The next thing is to consider how they are perceived by the communities in which they are working, and aim to build positive relationships as an approach to risk reduction. The factors that may influence how an agency is perceived include:

  • mission, principles and values
  • origin of the agency (including nationality and associated foreign policies of that nation)
  • programmes and camp population
  • donors
  • national partners
  • how resources are being used
  • recruitment and dismissal practices
  • policies
  • how staff are treated
  • how the organisation behaves
  • whom the organisation is in contact with
  • personal behaviour of staff from the organisation.


Protection Approaches

A protection strategy uses protective devices and procedures to reduce the vulnerability of the agency. It does not address the threat. Many of the measures suggested for consideration such as the use of curfews, appropriate communications, and convoys, frequently form the basis of a protection approach.

While many of these measures may be necessary, it is not sufficient to rely on them alone. The main weakness of the protection approach is that it focuses on the Camp Management Agency as the potential target, and does not deal with the person, group or circumstances posing the threat. It also tends to lead to a bunker mentality and may isolate the agency from its environment. This may in turn complicate the development of relationships with others, and reduce the ability to gain meaningful acceptance.


Camp Fencing as Physical Security

At times, the authorities insist on fencing a camp or putting in place other mechanisms to control exit and entry. At other times fencing can be requested by the community to enhance the physical security of the displaced population in the camp. In other situations it may be preferable that the camp is not fenced and that freedom of movement is upheld. Equally, in the event of spontaneous armed attack or natural disaster, a supposed protection measure very quickly becomes a trap.

When mounting fences key considerations include:

  • Effectiveness. Do they actually keep anyone in or out?
  • Accessibility. Is it possible for agencies to easily enter and exit the area where they work or live? Consider different entry and exit points.
  • How are they understood and how does the population react to them?
  • What other methods could be used over time? Thorn hedging, in many areas, can over time create more effective barriers.


Deterrence Approaches

Deterrence means to respond to a threat by a counter-threat. This ranges from legal, economic or political sanctions to, most significantly, a counter-threat by means of defensive or offensive use of force. In reality much of this may be impractical for many agencies at the camp level.

In real terms the counter-threats that a Camp Management Agency has at its disposal are usually limited. One such counter-threat is suspension of aid. This may not be easily achieved, however, during a drought or following a military offensive which has caused a massive movement of population with huge needs. To suspend aid under these circumstances is not realistic and would increase the trauma of such populations.

It should also be remembered that the threatening elements, particularly if they harbour a terrorist agenda, may want the Camp Management Agencies to suspend aid and indeed leave. To do so clearly has the potential to play into their hands as those responsible for making the threat will take the opportunity to highlight the failure of an agency to help when there is real suffering.

There are circumstance where some agencies may consider the use of armed staff or private security companies to secure premises or activities. It is difficult to imagine many scenarios where it would be appropriate to use armed force to resolve an issue, other than at a low level where an individual may be under direct threat and a guard intervenes to save his/her life. To resort to armed force may simply escalate a situation and have very negative consequences.