Dealing with Danger - Risk and Security in the Everyday Lives of Aid Workers
Division of Sociology and Social Policy University of Southampton Southampton, United Kingdom
In this paper, I will explore how humanitarian aid workers experience danger and risk and what strategies they employ to deal with dangerous situations. Aid work encompasses a broad range of interventions, including development cooperation, peace-building and post-conflict activities as well as emergency relief. Depending on the assignment, aid workers find themselves in high or low risk situations. Three strategies of dealing with danger and risk will be explored in the paper. The first strategy refers to the security policies of international organisations, which include evacuating international staff, leaving local staff behind. While the first strategy highlights the differences between international and local aid workers and beneficiaries, the second strategy can be labeled "community approach" and is based on the knowledge and support of the local community. The third strategy is faith-based; in particular local aid workers described that they were not afraid to enter dangerous situations since they believed that their fate is predetermined. I will explore how these three strategies are employed differently by local and international staff. Furthermore, gender differences will be addressed. The paper is based on biographical interviews with 23 women and 21 men born between 1937 and 1980 who worked for a wide range of smaller and larger NGOs as well as UN organisations. Seventeen of the respondents came from the Western Europe, eight from North America, three from Central and Eastern Europe, eight from Asia and the Middle East, four from Africa and four from South America.