22.09.2006 - Artículo
Recognising Risk and Avoiding Conflict
SECURITY IN SDC PARTNER COUNTRIES
The growing occurrence of asymmetrical wars and armed conflicts between non-state groups has led to greater demand for security measures in international cooperation. The case of Nepal illustrates how the SDC is dealing with security issues.
“If I have learned anything in Nepal,” says Jörg Frieden, the SDC country coordinator in Kathmandu, “it is that security for our staff cannot be a secondary issue at the margins of our activities. It must be taken into account, along with conflict, from the outset.” Frieden knows what he is talking about; during his three-year assignment in Nepal, he has been confronted with a range of security issues. For more than a decade the civilian population of Nepal has been caught between two fronts: the Nepalese army and Maoist rebels. Since spring of 2006 a cease-fire accepted by both sides has been in effect.
Administering programmes under these conditions calls for circumspection: “Otherwise there is a substantial risk that our own actions will create new problems,” says Christina Hoyos, director of COPRET, the SDC’s conflict prevention section. “It is necessary to make a careful analysis of the causes of conflict and have a thorough understanding of the aims of the combatants.”
COPRET has developed Conflict-Sensitive Programme Management, a working instrument that supports managers organising programmes in conflict-ridden areas. In Nepal CSPM was the basis for a significant agreement, the so-called Basic Operating Guidelines, signed by all parties involved in conflict. Such contractual agreements to provide protection require concrete measures for use during the average workday. SDC personnel receive regular training in conduct. “People are at the centre of what we’re doing,” says Peter Lehmann, the SDC’s security officer. Consequently, any measures and plans adopted will succeed only if this simple formula is observed. “Stress is a great source of risk,” says this specialist with experience in the field. In recent years he has undertaken many difficult missions; he thus draws on his own experience applying analyses of training and security to daily practice. Awareness and attention on the part of the individuals involved is the decisive factor, notes Lehmann, since “responsibility for personal securing cannot be delegated.”
Obtaining information and employing communication techniques appropriate to the cultural environment are important underpinnings of security. Hence security training has most recently focused on acquiring information, efficient reporting techniques, distinguishing between fact and assumption, prudent conduct, and attention to body language. This apparently appeals to those who participate in the training. “Couldn’t this training also be given to people in the government?” asked one participant.
Preparedness is of the utmost importance, as there are numerous additional causes for concern. In the present atmosphere of tension, criminality is on the rise, and people frequently vent their dissatisfaction with inefficient public officials in blockades and demonstrations. During the monsoon season landslides occur with regularity, sometimes closing off entire valleys for days at a time. Moreover, the same geological fault line that causes earthquakes in Pakistan runs through Nepal.
When such incidents occur, they can best be dealt with if scenarios have been developed in advance to deal with problems that arise. The SDC has developed necessary concepts, and provides training to enhance the practical capacities of its personnel, in accordance with local conditions.