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Legal Liability of International Humanitarian Aid Organisations Towards their Staff


From a legal perspective, the current essentially self-regulatory nature of the IAO sector’s safety and security management and practices can be rephrased in legal, mandatory terms. Rather than self-regulatory, the legal framework provides an overarching regulatory level that supersedes the IAO sector and its individual organisational actors, and lays down principles and guidelines that are commonly shared by all social, economic and public actors in civil society of which IAOs are a part. This legal framework can be seen as a codification of existing moral, ethical norms shared in society, including IAOs – formalizing and benchmarking the ‘right thing to do’. The legal perspective thus informs and clarifies current IAO practice, notably as to the articulation of and links between the various and many good practices that already exist; it thus does not necessarily contradict current practice. Furthermore, the principles and guidelines in this paper also simplify framing and ordering of current risk security management practices and concerns by placing obligations within a limited number of key areas. It also presents the logical reasoning that lies behind the implementation of answering obligations within these key domains, albeit that contextual and national variations will present numerous possible practices and interpretations.

As this paper demonstrates, IAOs are subject to legal standards, legislation and provisions in relation to their duty of care and legal liability regarding employer employee relations. National and international standards and legal dispositions related to due financial accountability – answering objective and mandatory financial requirements – have long received attention and are subject to outside scrutiny (audits). Similarly, compliance with compulsory national employment law and regulations (such as social security and health insurance obligations) are generally standard practice. However, legal standards and dispositions as to the duty of care/ legal responsibility to provide staff with a safe and secure workplace underline that due safety and security are mandatory, an obligation – i.e. not optional – and are first and foremost a corporate issue.