UK urged to better protect aid workers from violence
19 August 2019 at 5:12 pm
The UK Department for International Development (DFID) must use its diplomatic power to protect aid workers from violence, a parliamentary committee says.
A report from the International Development Committee said there was a growing threat of violence against aid and healthcare workers which was putting humanitarian efforts at risk.
The committee said DFID should use diplomatic pressure to encourage nations to enforce international law when dealing with violent incidents.
Stephen Twigg MP, chair of the committee, said while the legal framework to punish aggressors was there, the willingness to enforce it was lacking.
He called on DFID to take the lead in ending violence against aid workers.
“This should include building international consensus on how better to enforce humanitarian law, but also investigating how diplomatic pressure can be applied against states who hold it in such disregard,” Twigg said.
“We must assess the threat to all humanitarian workers equally. It would not be acceptable to ensure the safety of international aid workers by placing locally-engaged workers in greater danger.
“There is a duty of care to all those who do such great work in helping people in desperate need, we cannot forget any of them.”
Last year, 126 aid workers were killed in the field globally.
The three nations with the highest number of attacks experienced conflict in different ways.
South Sudan primarily witnessed shootings and assault, Syria was plagued by air strikes, and Afghanistan was prone to kidnappings.
The report warned that resources were being diverted away from providing essential services and toward protecting aid workers from violence.
It said these security measures were creating a barrier between aid relief efforts and recipients, building distrust and increasing threats.
Twigg said the UK needed to work with local communities to rebuild trust and end suspicion around the nation’s aid program.
“There (also) must be greater support for agencies such as the European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) and the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO) whose sole purpose is to ensure humanitarian workers can operate in safety,” he said.