Skip to main content

You are here


To Stay and Deliver, Five Years On: The risk and complexity of delivering aid in highly insecure environments

21 Jun 2017


It has always been the greatest of challenges for humanitarians to be able to provide assistance and enhance protection when civilians in conflict and disaster victims need us the most. Civilians bear the brunt of conflicts and humanitarians are not spared. 

Presence and Proximity, To Stay and Deliver, Five years On, a new report released today by OCHA, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Jindal School of International Affairs, reviews and analyses the impact of the landmark study To Stay and Deliver (published in 2011) on policy and operations in highly insecure environments.

The To Stay and Deliver study, the title of which became a motto for many humanitarian organizations, provided advice and recommendations to practitioners on critical issues, such as risk management, responsible partnerships, adherence to humanitarian principles, acceptance and negotiations with relevant actors. Five years later, it was important to take stock of progress achieved, persisting difficulties and emerging challenges. 

With that aim, OCHA partnered with NRC and the Jindal School of International Affairs to commission a follow-up report. Drawing on four cases studies (Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Syria and Yemen) and a survey of more than 2,000 international and national humanitarian workers, authors Ashley Jackson and Steve Zyck concluded that humanitarian organizations demonstrate a strong desire to stay and deliver assistance and protection to populations in need in dangerous environments. However, not enough progress has been achieved since 2011, and many of the recommendations contained in the initial report remain particularly relevant today.

“It is our duty as aid workers to work where needs are greatest,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of NRC. “But our international humanitarian community is failing too many people in too many places, from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan and Nigeria. Extreme risks and threats are paralysing too many organizations and their ability to deliver aid and save lives.”

Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said: “Courageous aid workers continue to respond every day to people’s most urgent needs on the front lines in many of the world’s most violent crises. But conflict parties’ lack of respect for the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law and the brutality and volatility of today’s armed conflicts make it extremely difficult and dangerous for these brave aid workers to deliver humanitarian assistance and protection in complex emergencies.”

The study looks at a host of issues, including the importance of acceptance strategies, the impact of remote-management strategies, shortcomings in programme criticality exercises, and the link between security and humanitarian programming. It is targeted at humanitarian organizations, the United Nations Department of Safety and Security, Governments and donor institutions.              

Photos: NRC