Humanitarian organizations have to operate in hostile environments, with Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Syria being among the most hazardous contexts for humanitarian operations over the recent year. According to recent data, in 2021 over 460 aid workers were victims of attacks and over 140 humanitarians were killed in these attacks. Of those killed, it has been reported that 98% were national staff, 2% were international staff, and more than half (53%) were staff of national NGOs. In such volatile environments, humanitarian professionals must negotiate with a variety of stakeholders to secure space and protection for humanitarian operations and infrastructure.
National staff members are particularly exposed at the frontlines of conflict and are disproportionately vulnerable yet receive significantly less protection and training than their expatriate colleagues. Despite efforts to build acceptance or to take protective and deterrent measures in insecure environments, significant gaps remain in securing their protection from targeted violence. This discussion will explore the opportunities and challenges of negotiating security, focusing particularly on tools and methods to strengthen the preparation and protection of national aid workers and national agencies who are most exposed in these conflict settings.