The purpose of this toolkit (2018) is to offer guidance to humanitarian actors for responding to violence against humanitarian action. It aims to complement and strengthen operational and security responses and facilitate the development of more effective and coordinated policies geared toward addressing this issue.
Attacks against humanitarian actors and operations endanger lives; violate the protection of civilians, including humanitarian actors, under international humanitarian law (IHL); and jeopardize the provision of life-saving aid where it is needed most. Moreover, such violence represents a particularly serious manifestation of denial or hindrance of humanitarian access and assistance to populations in need – a dilemma that has become dangerously normalized in certain conflict settings.
For the purpose of this toolkit, “violence against humanitarian action” refers to acts of violence or incitement to violence against a humanitarian mission, or humanitarian organizations’ personnel, facilities, assets, and activities. A few examples of such violence include bombing, shooting, murder, rape and sexual assault, armed robbery, abduction, hostage-taking, kidnapping, harassment, and illegal arrest and detention, whether against national or international staff of local or international NGOs, United Nations (UN) personnel, first responders, or healthcare providers. It also includes attacks on humanitarian convoys or acts of destruction and looting of their assets.
Focusing on the aftermath of serious incidents of violence against humanitarian action, this toolkit seeks to provide a range of options and guidance regarding sharing information, speaking out, and challenging impunity in response to attacks. These options are meant to highlight possible and complementary responses to incidents of violence against humanitarian action. The toolkit applies to cases where an organization has been directly affected, as well as to incidents perpetrated against other organizations in a particular setting. The following sections contain resources and templates to help country directors; regional directors and desks; security managers; communications officers; as well as advocacy, policy, and legal staff – at global and field levels – make informed decisions about whether and how to share information, speak out, and challenge impunity in cases of violence against humanitarian action.