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Ethical Decision-Making to Enable Humanitarian Access in High-Risk Environments

Author: Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN), Humanitarian Outcomes, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Secure Access in Volatile Environments (SAVE)
Publication Date: November 2016

Description: This Network Paper seeks to contribute to solutions to an important and vexing problem: how can humanitarian organisations help people caught up in conflicts, when these conflicts make it dangerous for aid workers to operate safely? And the paper seeks to provoke discussion and reflection among aid practitioners about some of the difficult practical and moral questions they face when trying to reach people in need of assistance in war zones. It provides illustrative examples and suggests promising practice, drawing primarily on research conducted for Secure Access in Volatile Environments (SAVE), a three-year research programme (2013–16) exploring how to deliver an effective humanitarian response amid high levels of insecurity. The research involved extensive fieldwork in four of the most dangerous aid settings at that time – Afghanistan, South Central Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.

The paper has three specific objectives, one for each section:
1. To describe some of the hard choices and ethical problems that humanitarian organisations face as they take deci- sions to try to enable access in high-risk environments (Chapter 1).
2. To present a model for a risk management framework that better incorporates programme criticality, to enable more ethical decision-making (Chapter 2).
3. To present some decision-making practices that show promise in allowing organisations to access affected people in high-risk settings, and for people to access aid (Chapter 3).

To access the resource, please click here Ethical Decision-Making to Enable Humanitarian Access in High-Risk Environments.”


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