New Research on Security for Aid Workers

Author: Joan Fallon

Professor Fast with members of her research team in Kapoeta, South Sudan

Contact: Larissa Fast, 574-631-7096,

Kroc Institute professor Larissa Fast has co-authored, edited, or contributed to 7 new reports on ways to increase the safety and security of humanitarian workers worldwide. The reports include research findings and recommendations for the humanitarian community during a time in which targeted killings, kidnappings, and attacks on aid workers are on the rise.

Fast spent a portion of her sabbatical year (2010-11) conducting research as part of a team of scholars and practitioners working on the project “Collaborative Learning Approach to NGO Security Management,” funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. 

The project involved consultative workshops in Washington, D.C., and Geneva, Switzerland, as well as fieldwork and training of staff of NGOs from Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. The team sought to document and promote more effective and innovative approaches to security management for relief and development workers around the world. The "acceptance" approach to security is based on the premise that threats can be reduced if an agency's staff develops good working relationships with local people.

The new reports are:

  • Acceptance white paper. (28 page pdf). A revised version of this document will be published as “In acceptance we trust” in Disasters, a leading journal in humanitarian studies, in 2012.
  • The promise of acceptance. (32 page pdf) Insights into acceptance as a security management approach from field research in Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.
  • South Sudan country report. (24 page pdf) Key findings from field research on acceptance in South Sudan. 
  • Kenya country report. (24 page pdf) Key findings from field research on acceptance in Kenya.
  • Uganda country report. (28 page pdf) Key findings from field research on acceptance in Uganda.
  • The acceptance toolkit. (42 page pdf) A practical guide to understanding, assessing, and strengthening your organization’s acceptance approach to NGO security management.
  • The collaborative learning approach to acceptance research: A user’s guide. (121 page pdf)

Fast is assistant professor of conflict resolution at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and department of sociology. Her research focuses on violence against aid workers, humanitarian politics, development and conflict, evaluation, and peacebuilding. She has worked for several international organizations, primarily in North America and Africa, as a project manager, consultant, and trainer.

She recently completed a book manuscript, Aid in Danger, which focuses on the causes of and responses to violence against aid workers.