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Security Training: Issues of equity and effectiveness

Each year, Humanitarian Outcomes an independent, research organisation, produces the annual Aid Worker Security Report. This report provides the humanitarian sector with information about aid worker security from the previous year but also examines a topic related to aid workers security more closely.

This year they focussed on Security training in the humanitarian sector: issues of equity and effectiveness. Click here to download the full report.

The key findings of the report are critical for all organisations wanting their training to keep pace with the evolving nature of both risk and technology in order to keep peple safe, provide equitable duty of care and maximise their resources. The report's key findings confirmed what we have long been concerned about in the sector.

Namely, that:

“Training resources are disproportionately allocated toward international staff in less risky roles.”
“A paucity of language appropriate and financially and logistically accessible courses which further exclude local aid workers – who face the highest risks.”
“This inequity is discriminatory and a failure to meet duty of care.”
“Security training, especially HEAT courses, tends to be rooted in a white, Western, male, ex-military perspectives, which do not always reflect the diversity of aid workers, the type of work they do, or the most common risks they face.”
“…some security staff are questioning whether the old model of HEAT is obsolete, particularly when online courses are not only more accessible to frontline aid workers who are most in need of training – often nationals – but also more logistically flexible, financially viable and adaptable.”
“There is no evidence that costly HEAT courses lead to better security outcomes for aid workers.”
“There is an undeniable risk of traumatisation or re-traumatisation with security training.”

The report’s conclusion calls for a re-evaluation of who gets trained, why and how and suggest questions that organisations can use to select from the wide tool box of options currently available to them.

This includes:

  • What are you training for? What are the risks to your staff – in the context and related to your programming – that need mitigating?

  • What are the competencies needed for field staff to successfully manage risk?

  • Is HEAT what you need, or is some other form of training more appropriate and efficient?

  • Who among your staff and partners needs the training and how is it best to train them?

The report's findings confirm what we have seen across the sector. Organisations are increasingly willing to innovate and take advantage of all the training tools available to them. Organisations want to ensure that their training isn’t simply litigation mitigation catering to English and French speakers coming from Europe and America, but one that fulfils their moral duty of care to all staff in all locations. This includes ensuring that security training is made accessible, inclusive and affordable rather than relying only on high-cost, in-person, experiential training alone.

If you want to know more about the different training methodologies and technologies available to you, send us an email at: We’d love to hear about your specific training needs and talk to you about what other organisations in your sector are doing.


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