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Risky business: maintaining a presence in dangerous environments

Time (GMT +00) 14:00 15:30
Sarah Collinson – Research Associate, Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) and co-author of Paradoxes of Presence

Mark Duffield – Emeritus Professor, Global Insecurities Centre, University of Bristol and co-author of Paradoxes of Presence 

Marc DuBois Executive Director, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) UK

Larissa Fast Assistant Professor, Conflict Resolution, University of Notre Dame and co-founder of the Security in Numbers Database

Chair – Mike Thomson - Correspondent, BBC Today Programme


As aid agencies move into increasingly complex and volatile environments, humanitarian organisations are struggling to strike a balance between ‘staying’ in insecure areas, and ‘staying safe’. Although attacks on aid workers are on the rise, the delivery of aid in war-torn countries continues to grow in reach and quantity, alongside the amount and array of organisations involved in aid delivery.

Aid agencies’ unprecedented exposure to risks has prompted a corresponding growth in a range of security initiatives. Fortified aid compounds, restrictive travel protocols, remote management – an attempt to operate from a safe distance through national and local field workers and subcontractors – and the use of private security companies have become commonplace safety and risk measures.

Far from improving programming and the safety of all aid workers, Paradoxes of presence argues that these security ‘fixes’ often fail to address the complex dilemmas and hazards that define the uncertain realities of being present and effective in conflict-affected countries. What risks are aid agencies willing to take? Who should shoulder the burden of risk? Drawing from research and operational experience in South Sudan and Afghanistan, speakers will address these pressing issues.