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Private security providers and services in humanitarian operations

Briefing/policy paper

Briefing/policy paper

Increasing insecurity and attacks against aid workers continue to challenge international humanitarian operations. In response, aid organisations have adopted a number of measures, including the contracting of external commercial entities to provide security services. Up to now, it has been difficult to obtain an accurate picture of how and how much these entities are used in humanitarian operations, primarily because very few aid organisations will discuss the subject openly.

A 2008 global survey of aid organisations conducted for this research revealed that the contracting of certain security functions to external professionals has become increasingly common among humanitarian operations worldwide. This trend has followed both the rise in aid worker violence and the proliferation of international private security companies around the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet despite alarming predictions, the use of armed protection by security contractors remains the exception and is confined to a small number of contexts.

Abby Stoddard, Adele Harmer and Victoria DiDomenico