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Humanitarian Principles and Protection Dilemmas: Addressing the Security Situation of Aid Workers in Darfur

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image of Journal of International Peacekeeping

The changing nature of armed conflict has resulted in increased need to safeguard civilians, including humanitarian personnel, which is reflected in the emerging protection of civilians agenda. This article considers the security of aid workers in Darfur. Specifically, it examines to what extent the traditional principles of humanitarian action provide security for humanitarian personnel. By performing a within-case analysis, this study portrays the humanitarian workers’ own perspective of the micro-dynamics of security in Darfur. It argues that neutrality, impartiality and independence provide protection and are pivotal for humanitarian security in Darfur. However, these principles do not protect against all threats and needs to be supplemented by other strategies such as protective walls, unarmed guards and barbed wire. On the other hand, relying too heavily on such measures may diminish security as aid workers are alienated from the local population. This is because proximity to the population is perceived as the most important measure for security. In addition, this article suggests that mandatory security training for all humanitarian personnel working in the field would greatly increase the security situation and their ability to protect themselves.


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