If your NPO does work overseas, might be worth pondering the risks again

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

If your ministry recruits staff and sends them overseas to carry out your programs, you might want to spend a bit more time thinking about the risks your staff face.

A court ruling in Norway found a charity liable for the physical injuries, psychological harm, and aftercare of a staffer who was kidnapped in Kenya and held four days before being rescued. The staffer was shot in the leg. The incident understandably left this staffer with post-traumatic stress disorder. Another staffer was killed.

The court noted the organization treated this and other staff persons as troublemakers because they complained internally about the lack of aftercare.

The court found the Norwegian Refugee Counsel guilty of gross negligence and liable for damages equal to US$500,000. The court also criticized the follow-on security investigation and found that NRC improperly accessed the risks that staff faced. The court noted other staff persons were upset with their aftercare.

More information on the case can be found at IRIN News, NRC kidnap ruling is a “wake-up” call for aid industry.

Implications elsewhere?

This case came out of Norway so the ruling obviously has no direct impact on any charities in other countries. However the article points out this has large implications and could have a ripple effect. According to the article, charities in England are already reassessing their protocols for risk assessment, training, and aftercare.

Anonymous blogger “J” discusses this at AidSpeak. He thinks this is a Game-Changer.

He suggests this will increase the duty of care to staff. He points out the starting point

…is simply an outside legal opinion that aid and development employers—from the UN system, all the way on own to the college sophomores who started their shoe-collecting charity—have duty of care obligation toward their employees. And further, that humanitarian staff have a right to expect proper training and preparation for work in high-risk places, as well as employer-provided care, and perhaps even compensation after the fact.

The financial point is this increased duty of care will very quickly drive a significant increase in costs. The moral point is an organization has a lot of responsibility for staff it sends into dangerous locations. There is some upper limit of the emotional and financial risk an organization can push off to staff.

Just imagine the costs of performing a more in-depth security and risk assessment of all the locations your staff will be during the time they are in the field. If you’ve never done such assessments, consider the cost of having to set up that infrastructure. Estimate the cost of having to provide a week or two of training before going overseas. Imagine the cost of having to provide proper care for someone (or an entire team) traumatized by an incident.

It does not take much imagination to see such a ruling coming out of the American legal system. Might be worth thinking about that if you lead a US-based mission sending organization. Would even be worth thinking about if you are a church leader and one of your programs is sending volunteer teams overseas for a short-term mission trip.

If you send staff overseas, might be worth checking out both of the above articles. Might be a really good idea to spend some time thinking about your risk assessment and how you care for your staff.

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