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Published: April 21, 2021

GISF Goes Global – one year on

By: Lisa Reilly

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‘I’m grateful for the GISF team and their work. I am always impressed and really happy that there is future thinking leadership in place! GISF is a much stronger platform than EISF could have been going forward.’ GISF Member, Forum March 2021

Last week we celebrated one year since the transition of EISF to GISF, and what a year it has been. Some of the most noticeable changes over the year have been how much the work of security risk managers has changed, what new skills have been developed and how many of us fully unpacked our ‘travel bag’ for the first time in years.

Within the NGO sector, most global security managers were very involved in the Covid-19 response. Organisations quickly realised that as risk managers, we were more able than most to understand and operate within the level of uncertainty that existed, and in many ways still exists today. While most organisations set up crisis response teams in the early days of Covid-19, many struggled to return to an organisation focused on programme delivery. To maintain effective collaboration, the key will be how we sustain the recognition earned by security managers as the world returns to ‘normal’.

At GISF we had a rapid learning curve as we moved our activities online. We still remember the GISF launch event which was our first online event. Fortunately, the trepidation with which we approached the event didn’t show. And as we organised our two most recent forums as hybrid and online events, we realised how far we have come in just one year.

Since this time last year, we have run 35 virtual events, presented at 18 external events (virtually) and released six podcasts. We are also about to start our most ambitious series of virtual events yet at the Humanitarian Networks Partnerships Week (HNPW) 2021, but more of that later!

‘Despite the many challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the new virtual ways of working, GISF not only adapted but reached a wider and more diverse audience.  We will continue to strive for an even more diverse membership, and continuously incorporate a wide range of voices and expertise into its events.  I’m hopeful that all of the lessons learned in 2020 will help GISF to strengthen its collaborative and innovative approach and continue pre-empting and responding to all of its different members’ needs.’

Laura van de Vloet, GISF Project and Membership Officer

As travel restrictions continue to be lifted, I look forward to meeting our North America team. While Tara has been with GISF for a while, I have only met Jason (Deputy Director) and Camila (Programme Assistant) virtually. It’s odd to build a relationship with people we have never met in person, a situation I’m sure many of us have faced this last year. As effective security risk management is built on relationships and trust, the ability to develop new ways of building trust is a skill many of us have had to work on. As many organisations are now reviewing the need for staff to travel for financial and environmental reasons, they will need to adopt a long-term approach.

‘Moving to GISF was an unexpected development in a year of incredible uncertainty. The chance to work with nearly 130 NGOs to help improve safety and security outcomes in the humanitarian space was the type of opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. In the coming year, I look forward to helping our member network grow in North America and strengthen our strategic partnerships.’

                                                Jason O’Connor, GISF Deputy Director, North America

‘What continues to inspire me about our work, and what it means for us to be global, is the chance to experience the calibre of our membership at work. As the world’s challenges evolve, so too does our need to collaborate across wider intersections.’ 

Tara Arthur, GISF Project and Membership Officer, North America

We were fortunate enough to complete the field research for the paper Partnerships and Security Risk Management: from the local partner’s perspective before travel restrictions came in and the paper was published in September 2020.

‘Kudos to you and everyone involved for surfacing so many important issues, both specifically related to risk management and also as an opening into fundamental structural issues that are serious problems in development in general (power dynamics, the dominance of the contracting model, short-time frames, etc..)’

Ann Hendrix-Jenkins

The supporting guide Partnerships and Security Risk Management: a joint action guide for local and international aid organisations was released last week. The guide aims at supporting local and international NGOs to move from transferring to sharing risks in partnerships.

‘I recommend that it [the guide] should find its way soon to as many NGOs as possible.’

L/NNGO – Myanmar

As well as several full research pieces and five translations, we published more than 20 blogs on key topics including Disinformation and security risk management for NGOs, Changing perceptions: meet the faces of today’s NGO security and Myanmar – shifts in the humanitarian landscape. GISF also continues to release new modules to its Keeping up with COVID-19: essential guidance for NGO security risk managers series, including modules on Preparing for the new normal and Gender-based harassment and abuse risk for personnel.

‘Looking back at this ‘exceptional’ year, I am proud to say that the GISF team worked relentlessly to fulfil its mission of protecting aid workers and the communities they assist. Looking ahead, we are excited to carry on this work, with a new research project looking at aid organisations’ acceptance.’

Léa Moutard, GISF Research Advisor

On 19 April the global Humanitarian Networks Partnerships Week (HNPW) started. Normally taking place over one week in Geneva, this year’s event will be held online over three weeks until 7 May. HNPW brings together NGOs, the UN, academia, governments and the private sector to facilitate cross-cutting discussions on the way forward for the humanitarian sector. GISF successfully lobbied OCHA and the Leading Edge Programme and, for the first time, ‘Integrating Security Risk Management across Humanitarian Action’ has been recognised as a priority topic. During the next three weeks, we are hosting eleven sessions on six key topics that aim to break down silos within and between organisations to better protect aid workers and the communities they serve:

Security Risk Management in the Changing Global and Humanitarian Context

21 April. 14.00 – 15.30 GMT+1 and 22 April, 09.00 – 10.30 GMT+1

This session will provide an overview of security risk management in the current global context for humanitarian response. It will bring together different perspectives to better understand the challenges and opportunities we face when developing and implementing effective and appropriate security risk management measures. The session is led by GISF with Hugo Slim as the Keynote speaker.

Sharing Risk: Building Stronger Partnerships

22 April, 14.00 – 15.30 GMT+1 and 23 April, 09.00 – 10.30 UTC GMT+1

The effects of the pandemic have emphasised the importance of having strong partnerships with local actors to deliver aid effectively. However, much progress still needs to be made to ensure that partners share rather than simply transfer security risks onto the shoulders of local aid organisations. Led by Lea Moutard (GISF) and Robert Whelan (ICRC), this session will explore practical solutions for security risk-sharing in partnerships with local humanitarian actors together with Phillipe Besson (Swiss Development Cooperation), Josephine Habba (Jireh Doo) and Caterina Becorpi (ICRC).

Acceptance & Access

26 April, 09.00 – 10.30 GMT +1 and 14.00 – 15.30

Effective acceptance is built on relationships with key stakeholders in humanitarian contexts to ensure continued and safe access to conflict- or disaster-affected populations. Yet all too often, acceptance as a security management approach is siloed and seen as distinct from other parts of an organisation. This session will discuss the challenges and opportunities in seeking and implementing acceptance across all parts of an organisation. This session is led by Larissa Fast (HCRI) and includes panellists such as Vincent van Belle (WFP), Antoine Grand (ICRC), and Sophie Solomon (UN OCHA),  who will highlight the humanitarian sector’s different acceptance approaches.

Managing Security Risks in the Digital World

28 April, 08.00 – 09.30 am GMT + 1 and 29 April, 08.00 – 09.30 GMT + 1

This session will examine how much we have all come to rely on technology, software, devices, apps and data to the point where we take it for granted; and how this has put the global humanitarian sector at risk. Looking at the broad scope of the challenges and what they may mean for the humanitarian sector, James Davis (ACT Alliance) and Professor Lisa Short will co-chair this session.

A Person-Centred Approach to Security Risk Management in Humanitarian Response

6 May, 12pm – 13.30 GMT+1 and 15.00 – 16.30

All aid workers have a personal risk profile that interacts with particular contexts and exposes them to a variety of risks. This session will show how the deliberate consideration of diverse profiles in security risk management processes leads to better alignment between security risk management and programmatic needs. Experts from UNHCR, ICRC, CBM, Save the Children International and UNDSS have developed this session together.

Donor Discussion on Security Risk Management (SRM)

This is an invite-only event

This session’s objective is to show donors security risk management’s critical role in improving the protection of aid workers. While security risk management is a vital element of managing humanitarian responses, actors often neglect it in their day-to-day planning. Donors can play a key role in ensuring that their partners have the necessary funds and understand the importance of good security risk management practices. This session is chaired by the Estonian Delegation with contributions from FCDO and BHA, as well as GISF, DRC and Medair.


If you want to join us as we take these conversations forward, do get in touch. We look forward to another exciting year of change and growth!





Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Weeks (HNPW) x GISF 2021

HNPW The Leading Edge Programme (LEP) The Leading Edge Programme, launched in February 2017 and replacing the Consultative Group for Emergency Preparedness and Response (CG), is a year-round collaborative platform for humanitarian expert networks and partnerships with the aim of developing sustainable solutions to recurring, cross-cutting issues in emergency preparedness…

Partnerships and Security Risk Management: a joint action guide for local and international aid organisations

This guide aims to support L/NNGOs and INGOs in the aid sector to better manage and share responsibility for security risks in partnerships. It builds on findings from the GISF briefing paper, Security Management and Capacity Development: International agencies working with local partners, (2012) and GISF research paper, Partnerships and…

HNPW 2021 – GISF to lead the priority topic ‘Integrating SRM across Humanitarian Action’.

Today marks the start of the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW), where GISF is excited to drive a new and one out of nine priority topics: ‘Integrating Security Risk Management across humanitarian action’.

Global 2021