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Staff Stress and Security: A Management Challenge for UNHCR


Staff Stress and Security: A Management Challenge for UNHCR
EVAL/02/97 Rev.1

1 January 1997


This review examines UNHCR's experience and practice in the areas of staff security and stress management. It details security and stress factors that impinge on the working and living environment of UNHCR personnel in the field. Efforts made by the Division of Human Resources Management and the Medical Service to address these factors are assessed and recommendations are made to fill the gaps identified. The review also attempts to place UNHCR's staff security and stress management activities in the context of the broader UN system.

In conducting the review, the evaluation team travelled to twenty-eight duty stations in thirteen countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Extensive discussions on the subjects of security and stress were held with international and national staff members in these field offices as well as at Headquarters. The families of some staff members were also interviewed as were colleagues from other UN agencies and international organisations. Documents were reviewed and statistics collected and analysed. Concerned colleagues in DHRM have been closely associated with the review since its inception.

The evaluation team comprised two external consultants: Georges Koulischer, a former UNHCR Director of Administration with extensive field and senior management experience, and Steven Muncy, a mental health specialist who has worked closely with UNHCR on the issue of staff stress and security in a variety of field settings. The team worked throughout in close cooperation with Christine Mougne of the Inspection and Evaluation Service who was responsible for finalising the report.


(1) The killing of humanitarian workers in Burundi, Chechnya, and most recently, in Rwanda, has brought the issue of staff security to the forefront of UNHCR's preoccupations. These tragic events can no longer be considered as isolated incidents but as part of a deeply disturbing trend. Humanitarian agencies, by filling a political vacuum, as noted in the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Aid to Rwanda, are themselves becoming part of the battle. For staff working in high security risk locations, there is a growing recognition that as humanitarian workers they no longer face the same probability of injury or death as the rest of the refugee and local population, but may be deliberately targeted. This realisation has, understandably, added to the already considerable burden of stress under which they currently live and work.

(2) The last six years have seen a radical change in UNHCR's working environment. While staff have faced security problems for most of the history of the organisation, the events in former Yugoslavia, and more recently in the Great Lakes, have exposed UNHCR staff to extreme violence, danger, fear and stress on an unprecedented scale. As one staff member remarked, echoing many others: UNHCR has exposed its staff to unacceptable levels of violence.... I don't think we have a threshold any more. For many of the more senior staff members recruited in the 1970s and 1980s, these dramatic changes represent a disturbing evolution which carries its own burden of stress. Of the 118 countries in which UNHCR now operates, 45 include duty stations which are classified by the United Nations Security Coordinator as hazardous. At 31 August 1996, 71% of all UNHCR staff were working in these 45 duty stations. In other words, more than two out of three staff members are now working in areas where security presents a problem. The proportion of international posts in the most difficult category E duty stations have almost tripled between 1990 and 1996, from 10% to 30% (see Table). In addition to the hardship element indicated by this classification, it should be noted that at the time of writing, one third of all international staff were serving in particularly hazardous duty stations, characterised as follows: non-family, security phase III or more, and eligibility for malicious acts insurance (see Map). At the other end of the scale, not surprisingly, the proportion of posts open to international staff in category H and A duty stations fell from 57.5% in 1990 to 38% in 1996. The trend for local staff posts is broadly similar. During the same period, the proportion of local staff posts in category E duty stations grew from 14% to 37% while those in category H and A duty stations fell from 46% to 24%.

(3) The impact of these substantial changes has taken time to be felt. Many of those recruited for field posts in former Yugoslavia, and later in the Great Lakes and other high stress/security risk duty stations, were new to UNHCR, unaware of what had hitherto been organisational norms and generally unwilling to complain lest career prospects be damaged. The picture is now clearer, however, and the time has come for UNHCR to acknowledge that a significant change has taken place in field conditions and to take concrete action to respond to this reality rather than treating it symptomatically as has been the case until now. The concept of security thresholds - how far humanitarian workers can be expected to go in placing themselves at grave risk in order to assist and protect the victims of conflict in an increasingly violent scene of operations - needs urgently to be re-appraised by UN, international and non-governmental agencies alike. Extensive field visits conducted during the course of this review confirmed that what was untenable yesterday has become acceptable today and that in a number of places UNHCR and its partners are taking more risks than the military with nothing and nobody preventing them from doing so1.

(4) It is therefore proposed that UNHCR should take a lead to respond to this situation, by inviting its partners - including UNSECOORD, UN agencies, NGOs and the ICRC - to participate in an in-depth joint analysis of the question of security thresholds, to define minimal conditions for service in future humanitarian operations in situations of developing and ongoing violence.

The current review

(5) A recognition by management, that the working environment in many field locations was deteriorating more rapidly than the organisation's efforts to respond to problems of stress and security, provided an impetus for the current review. While consideration was given to conducting two separate reviews - one on staff security and the other on stress management - a decision was finally made to combine the two. Few staff members, even those with extensive field experience, remain emotionally untouched by working in the midst of violence and danger. As UNHCR's security officers are the first to attest, stress is thus irrevocably part of the picture of staff security. On the other hand, while security concerns undoubtedly represent one of the major stress factors for staff in the field today, this is by no means the only cause of stress.

(6) Extensive interviews with staff in a variety of difficult field settings bear testimony to the fact that they are subject to a wide range of stress factors2. Some of the many stresses identified are beyond the capacity of UNHCR to mitigate (violence, attitude of local authorities, climatic and environmental conditions, and, in certain situations, family separation) while others, regrettably, are directly attributable to the organisation (eg. repeated short-term contracts, movement of staff from one difficult assignment to another, weak management at field level, inadequate briefing, etc.). Thus, while this report focuses primarily on staff working in high security risk operations, the intention is by no means to underestimate the importance of non security-related stress nor the need for UNHCR to find ways to address it. Comprehensive recommendations are made to mitigate specific organisational stress factors identified during the course of this review.

The Voice from the Field

(7) In preparing this report, the Consultants interviewed some five hundred staff members in twenty eight duty stations in thirteen different countries as well as many others at Headquarters who had previously served in extremely difficult field postings. Family members of some of the staff concerned were also interviewed. The duty stations visited by the Consultants were selected on the basis of their exceptional hardship. On the whole, field staff were found to be experiencing considerable levels of distress, to a large extent a result of inadequate pre-departure preparation. Many staff, especially the newcomers to UNHCR, still outside any circle of friends or more knowledgeable colleagues who could have informed them better, reported never having expected to find such exceptionally difficult security conditions, even after extensive security briefings. Others, longer with the Organisation, who had served in the former Yugoslavia in the early days of the operation still vividly recall how they were taking increased risks every day without an established structure within UNHCR to provide appropriate training and guidance, logistical support and safety equipment, nor to monitor the risks taken as well as the resulting severe stress and organise the required response. Others are obsessed with current dangers. The fact that anything can happen to anyone at anytime was a recurrent concern expressed by staff interviewed in the Great Lakes, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the former Yugoslavia. Far too many staff have been exposed first-hand to the violence of war and genocide and yet the response from Headquarters was perceived by many field staff as muted. As one staff member remarked: A colleague got killed, but the next day it was business as usual.

(8) Surrounded on a daily basis by death, destruction and bad news, it is all too easy to simply normalise the situation and forget that one is living in a totally abnormal environment. In these circumstances staff tend to forget or ignore even the most routine or day-to-day precautions in high risk areas. The Consultants also witnessed a disturbing tendency to self-neglect; working incessantly with no clear distinction between home and work (which are sometimes, of necessity, under the same roof), skipping meals, smoking to excess and rarely, if ever, taking any exercise. Recreation more often than not was limited to evenings in front of a bottle and/or the television. In many ways this tendency was reinforced by the seemingly widespread assumption in UNHCR that staff serving in difficult field locations are obliged to tolerate sub-standard living and working conditions. This false and dangerous assumption serves to put staff members at further risk, to both their physical and mental health. The provision of adequate accommodation, decent standards of catering including varied meals, and facilities for recreation and sports do not constitute a luxury, but a basic necessity to maintain physical and mental well-being. While notable effort has been made at certain duty stations it is recommended that UNHCR take prompt action to address on a systematic basis the fundamental physical requirements of staff serving in particularly difficult duty stations whether living communally or in independent accommodation. A sign fixed above the entrance to a refugee-run cinema at the former camp at Mugunga in Eastern Zaire read La Vie Continue! UNHCR staff might well draw a lesson from this.

Stress can and must be managed

(9) The behavioural and social consequences of unmitigated and untreated cumulative and critical incident stress inevitably have an impact on organisational performance. Workers who are highly stressed, demoralised, and experiencing health problems are generally not fully productive, communicate poorly, have difficulty being objective and making sound decisions, do not work as a team, are more frequently absent, and make greater demands upon the limited resources of the organisation. This, in turn, severely limits the service capacity of the organisation as a whole and wastes precious resources. A failure to properly manage cumulative and critical incident stress can lead to debilitating, potentially disabling, and sometimes life-threatening conditions. Such conditions often require significant investment in medical care whilst at the same time rendering an individual unable to work. Long-term mental health problems, alcoholism, suicide, and broken families are other outcomes associated with cumulative and critical incident stress, all of which have an impact on the organisation as well as on the individual concerned.

(10) Stress can, however, be managed and its effects mitigated while in some cases stress can even be prevented. Various interventions have been undertaken by humanitarian assistance organisations in recent years with stress prevention and/or mitigation in mind. For example, flexible working hours and leave schedules; fitness and nutrition programmes; training in time-management; the creation of staff support and peer support groups; alcohol and tobacco control programmes; and stress awareness seminars help to address basic stress.

(11) Cumulative stress, resulting from frequent, excessive and unrelenting demands, can be managed by a combination of measures such as ensuring adequate rest and recreation on a regular basis, facilitating contacts with family members, providing pre-deployment briefings and post-deployment debriefings, sound security arrangements and enlightened supervision. These efforts serve to prevent stress, mitigate its effects, and/or facilitate timely recovery.

(12) Critical incident or traumatic stress, a response to particularly traumatic violent events is increasingly being recognised as a significant element of most of today's humanitarian emergencies. Defusing and critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) are interventions designed to normalise responses to very abnormal situations and help people move beyond distress to coping and, ultimately, recovery. Such efforts can be significantly enhanced by the use of pre-incident stress prevention measures, such as those mentioned above, which can serve to reduce the gap between coping demands and coping capacity when critical events occur.

(13) It is of particular interest to note that, while unfortunately not emulated in other sections of the Organisation, a number of stress prevention measures have been successfully utilised by staff working with UNHCR's Emergency Response Teams over the past four years. These include training of personnel before deployment in emergency situations, clear descriptions of duties, active support of these staff members whilst in the emergency situation, and short but specifically defined periods of emergency service. These measures assist emergency staff to work effectively under extremely tense and often dangerous conditions at the beginning of an emergency when many lives may be at stake. Feedback from various quarters suggested the staff preparation and support investments made contributed in a most positive way to a heightened organisational service capacity.

(14) An approach to stress management involving the promotion of health and well-being would allow the Organisation to address stress and other occupational health issues in an integrated way in the context of this new and rapidly changing environment. Such an approach recognises the inter-related nature of the living and working conditions, intra personal and interpersonal factors, organisational factors, and the external environment. It also places emphasis on preventing disease and disability due to stress and environmental conditions rather than simply responding to illness and dysfunction. This would involve the consolidation of a variety of initiatives already made by the Organisation including the management of emergency preparedness and response, pre-deployment induction, health assessment missions, critical incident stress management, and mental health-related travel provisions for international staff. A number of additional measures are recommended to contribute to a comprehensive programme of health promotion.

(15) Whilst some will argue that measures such as shorter SALs and the requirement for recovery periods between assignments will detract from operational objectives and cost the Organisation too much, it is a simple fact that exhausted, highly stressed individuals are less productive and perform at lower levels than those who are rested, refreshed, and properly managing the stress of their work. The long-term benefits of such "investments" are considered by many to far outweigh their short-term costs.

Strong Leadership is Key to Effective Security and Stress Management

(16) Staff interviewed by the Consultants were unanimous in citing strong leadership in the field as a key to successfully managing security and staff stress. Excellent management in human and technical terms, the highest quality of leadership and the ability to promote harmonious teamwork were considered crucial. Staff emphasised that teamwork, always important, becomes truly vital when conditions are dangerous. Team spirit and good communications were furthermore considered by many as the Abest anti-stress measure, placing the staff in the most constructive disposition to face danger. Other important factors in enhancing security and relieving stress identified by field staff include access to up-to-date, reliable and accurate information relevant to the evolving situation and personal awareness and response from staff members. These factors come into play particularly in highly volatile situations in which actual developments may invalidate existing plans and dictate different courses of action. Recommendations are made with regard to the selection of managers and team leaders in high risk duty stations.

Need for Policy Development on Staff Stress and Security

(17) A coordinated inter-agency approach to field staff security has been developed over recent years within the broader UN system, under the leadership of the United Nations Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) in New York. The Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) has overall responsibility for issuing directives on staff security. While this system offers many advantages, its value for UNHCR has sometimes been limited by the fact that in most countries the focus is on UN staff working in capital cities, remote from UNHCR's scene of activities. As a result, UNHCR has been obliged to take initiatives to address UNHCR-specific security problems, by creating its own Field Staff Safety Section. In a number of cases these initiatives have fed back into the UN common system response thereby benefiting staff in other agencies and in other parts of the world. While field staff security ranks high among the concerns of the UN as a whole, and any initiatives by UNHCR must be taken within the framework of the common system approach, it is appropriate at this stage to frame UNHCR's current thinking and practices on security into an organisational policy, reflecting institutional coherence. A policy which seeks to raise security for all staff to the maximum possible level while reducing security-related stress to the desirable minimum, at the most reasonable cost to the Organisation, will place field staff security clearly in the forefront of UNHCR's agenda and provide a much-needed boost to morale of staff living in difficult and dangerous conditions by making security a major policy concern. In order to help launch the process of policy elaboration, a suggested outline, emphasising training, briefing and teamwork, is presented at the end of this report. While the proposed policy will relate to all staff, international and national, it is recommended that the security of national/local staff and their families be urgently and thoroughly reviewed in the appropriate forum, including the question of evacuation, in order to identify appropriate measures which are both realistic and effective3.

(18) Staff stress is a much newer topic than security on the UN agenda. The issue was first discussed as recently as the ad hoc Inter-Agency Security Meeting held in New York in May 1994, the recommendations of which were endorsed by the ACC in October 1994 and subsequently reflected in the February 1995 Note by the Secretary-General to the 49th Session of the Fifth Committee4. More recently, staff stress has been raised on a number of occasions at ACC meetings as well as at inter-agency meetings on security. Continuing efforts are required, however, to ensure that this important management issue gains the prominence it deserves in the inter-agency context. The UN system therefore remains some way from developing an inter-agency approach to staff stress. UNHCR, on the other hand, has in many ways taken the lead in this field, with a number of innovative administrative measures to alleviate stress introduced in 1994 and the development since then of a strategy for stress management, spearheaded by the Senior Social Welfare Officer (SSWO) in close cooperation with the Medical Service.

(19) As in the case of security, however, these efforts have also been carried out in an organisational policy vacuum. Despite the continuing efforts of the specialist staff involved, there is still a need to raise awareness about stress within the Organisation, that stress is a normal reaction to exposure to abnormal violence, danger, isolation and extreme hardship, and that the Organisation has a responsibility to take steps to mitigate its effects and provide support when needed. It is also of critical importance for UNHCR to avoid the creation of secondary trauma by stigmatizing staff who have been through traumatic experiences. The way in which the Organisation responds to a staff member suffering the effects of cumulative or traumatic stress is the key to his/her recovery. The training - first and foremost of managers in the field, but also of managers at Headquarters and staff in the Division of Human Resources Management - to be more aware and sensitive to stress is therefore most important. Many of the key elements of a strategy required to implement a policy on stress management are reflected in documents prepared by the SSWO and the Medical Service5. It is recommended that these form a basis for the implementation of an organisational policy on stress management which will promote and protect the health and well-being of staff by using a proactive, preventive approach.

(20) Such a policy will require the Medical Service to move from the traditional role of providing medical clearance and inoculation services to providing, in addition, health promotion and education services designed to contribute to staff well-being even in exceptionally difficult working conditions (including, for example, proper nutrition, adequate exercise, cessation of smoking, protected sexual activity, and participation in health screening and monitoring processes). A policy which promotes the health and well-being of staff will also require the Senior Social Welfare Officer and others in DHRM to develop sustainable, proactive, primary prevention activities that are field-oriented, staff supportive and empowering, and aimed at preventing stress or mitigating its harmful effects. This will necessitate an emphasis on awareness-raising and training amongst field staff as well as on-site decision-making and control. Most of the effort should be in the field, rather than at Headquarters, and should be oriented to a specific situation. The first priority should be D and E duty stations entitled to hazard allowance which represented 16% of all 292 UNHCR duty stations at July 1996. All remaining D and E duty stations should be the second priority, thereby reaching approximately 50% of all staff.

Comprehensive Response to Staff Stress and Security has Resource Implications

(21) Comprehensive implementation of the proposed policies on security and on staff stress will inevitably require adequate resourcing - principally in the form of additional support staff (see Recommendation 2) - as well as extensive dissemination within UNHCR and to its partners. It should be recalled that the Administrative Committee on Coordination recently agreed that the costs of keeping staff secure should not be subject to budgetary restrictions or cuts resulting from the current financial crisis. To enhance UNHCR's response to staff security it is proposed that the Field Staff Safety Section at Headquarters be reinforced by the reinstatement of a third professional post and further training be provided to field-based security advisors to permit them to take over some of the training and assessment tasks currently managed from Headquarters. This will free FSSS/HQ staff to devote more time to policy development, promotion of security awareness, briefing and debriefing. In addition, the number of Field Staff Safety Advisors in the field should be increased to meet actual field security needs, and be provided with the communications equipment and logistical support they require.

(22) The promotion of physical and mental health and well-being will require a number of steps to reinforce the Medical Service and the Office of the SSWO. The Medical Service requires an additional doctor and nurse to ensure essential services in order to free existing staff for the necessary promotional work, training, and field assessment missions as well as briefing and debriefing staff assigned to difficult duty stations. Closer cooperation between the Medical Service staff and the SSWO on the development, implementation and monitoring of UNHCR's policy on staff stress would be facilitated by placing the former within the Division of Human Resources Management. This will also assist those concerned to enhance coordination of briefings and debriefings including critical incident stress debriefings6. To permit the SSWO to focus on stress management issues, an additional staff counsellor will be required to carry on basic services. At field level it is recommended as a long-term (inter-agency) objective that a staff counsellor be appointed to all regional or country offices served by a security officer. To address the immediate needs of UNHCR staff in the Great Lakes and the former Yugoslavia, the appointment of a regional social welfare officer in each location is strongly recommended.


1. Policy Development and Promotion

1.1 While staff stress and security are primarily the concerns of DHRM, a number of other services are involved (eg. Telecommunications in DFIS, programming, including budgeting of security measures within a given programme, logistics/ purchasing and EPRS in DOS). Arrangements should therefore be made for regular reviews of the policies on staff stress and security at the senior management level under the leadership of the DHC.

ACTION: Executive Office

1.2 While UNHCR has made notable progress in developing its response to the needs of staff in the areas of stress management and physical security, in both cases this has been in the absence of an organisational policy framework. Policy formulation, with adequate resourcing and widespread dissemination to staff, is therefore required as a priority.

In the case of stress management, promoting and protecting the health and well-being of all staff members through the effective management of cumulative and critical incident stress should be established as a fundamental policy of the Organisation. A proactive, preventive and field-oriented approach is required. Many of the key elements of a strategy to implement such a policy are to be found in documents prepared over the past two years by the Senior Social Welfare Officer and the Medical Service. A starting point should be widespread training and awareness raising among managers and staff on the causes and effects of cumulative stress and how to avoid it.

In the case of staff security, Organisational policy should seek to raise staff security to the maximum possible level, while reducing security-related stress to the desirable minimum, at the most reasonable cost to the Organisation. A suggested strategy for implementing this policy, emphasising training, briefing and team work, is presented at the end of this report. This should be placed within the broader context of the UN security system.

ACTION: Executive Office with support from DHRM (FSSS, SSWO) and the Medical Service

1.3 In view of the disturbing trend of targeting humanitarian workers which has resulted in increased number of fatalities in recent months, UNHCR should invite its partners (ICRC, UN agencies, NGOs and UNSECOORD) to participate in an in-depth joint analysis of security thresholds, to define minimal conditions for service in future humanitarian operations in situations of ongoing violence.

ACTION: Executive Office

1.4 The issue of the security of national/local staff and their families, including the question of evacuation, requires urgent and thorough review in the appropriate forum, in order to identify appropriate measures which are both realistic and effective in order to raise their security to the maximum possible level, while reducing security-related stress to the desirable minimum, at the most reasonable cost to the Organisation, and in accordance with the proposed policy on staff security.

ACTION: Executive Office with support from DHRM

1.5 Given the critical importance of good supportive management and effective team building to maximise staff security and to minimise stress, proven leadership and inter-personal skills should be considered a priority in the selection of managers and team leaders in difficult duty stations; furthermore, managers and team leaders should ensure that their staff are aware of the goals of their presence in a particular operation and are regularly informed of any constraints or obstacles in achieving those goals or of difficulties faced in defining their mission statement.

ACTION: DHRM in cooperation with Directors of Operations

1.6 Within the CMS system, a managerial competency of a Representative or any other head of field office should be security awareness, to be demonstrated by making a priority that those working within the operation can do so according to minimal standards of safety and security. This competency should be reflected both in recruitment and in appraisal of this category of staff member.

ACTION: DHRM in cooperation with Directors of Operations

1.7 To ensure that security provision is not subject to budgetary restrictions, UNHCR should establish a specific budget for security activities at the start of a new operation, or for all security activities.

ACTION: DOS in cooperation with FSSS and Directors of Operations


2. Staffing Needs: Stress Management (ACTION - DHRM)

2.1 To permit closer cooperation between the Medical Service and the Senior Staff Welfare Office in the formulation and implementation of a policy on staff stress, whilst maintaining its independence, the Medical Service should be transferred from DCMS to DHRM.

2.2 UNHCR should seek the agreement of WHO to officially second the existing Medical Service staff to UNHCR while maintaining the professional link with that organisation. Furthermore, an additional UNHCR-specific budget to cover mission costs and (until 2.3 has been implemented) replacements for medical staff during field missions should be formalised.

2.3 To permit those concerned to focus on the development of a policy on stress management and the global management of the organisational response (including health promotion, assessment missions, training, induction, briefing and debriefing), while regular medical and counselling tasks continue, the Medical Service and the Office of the Senior Social Welfare Officer should be reinforced by the addition of one doctor, one nurse and one staff counsellor respectively.

2.4 The Medical Service should identify (and provide training where required) suitably qualified professionals in each region or sub-region to assist with medical clearances and assessments (including mental health) of staff moving from one field post to another without passing through Headquarters. Selected professionals might also become part of UNHCR's Critical Incident Staff Debriefing (CISD) network.

2.5 UNHCR should respond to the immediate needs of staff in the Great Lakes region, the former Yugoslavia and other high stress and/or security risk Operations, by the recruitment, training and deployment to each Operation, of a Regional Social Welfare Officer (with the appropriate language abilities) to provide work/family counselling as well as stress management (including, as a priority, the promotion of health and well-being, as well as providing Critical Incident Stress Debriefing when required and further developing and monitoring of peer support network).

2.6 The need for further field-level service delivery to address the problems of staff stress should be the subject of a systematic review. In areas of low security risk and/or areas where comparatively few of staff are widely dispersed, it may be more cost effective to identify a local or regional agency which can provide support when needed (eg. for Central Asia).

2.7 Since security risks are a major source of staff stress, UNHCR should promote within the UN common system the idea of placing a social welfare officer/counsellor in each regional or country office served by security officer(s) to ensure appropriate management of staff stress in high-tension environments. In the meantime, UNHCR should consider doing this in countries or regions where their own security staff are based.

3. Staffing Needs: Security (ACTION - DHRM)

3.1 To permit the two professional staff in FSSS/HQ to cope with an increasingly demanding workload including frequent field visits, a third professional post in FSSS should be reinstated and filled.

3.2 All field-based staff safety advisors should be given training to allow them to take greater responsibility for training, assessment and other tasks currently performed by FSSS/HQ staff, leaving the latter more time to focus on policy development, promotion of security awareness, briefing and debriefing.

3.3 Security staff must be recruited with care as staff security depends upon identifying the person with the right profile. While police/military background is important, care should be taken to ensure that human qualities such as proven ability for team work, basic diplomacy, self control and common sense have been amply demonstrated in previous career(s).

3.4 Accountability for staff security lies with the Representative or head of office to whom the field staff safety advisor (FSSA) should report directly. All reports from the FSSA to the Representative must be copied to FSSS/HQ for monitoring purposes.

4. Recruitment and Deployment (ACTION: DHRM and Medical Service)

A range of administrative actions are proposed in the area of recruitment and deployment to reduce staff stress:

4.1 Recruitment and Career Development:

  • cease employing staff on three month service contracts for service in D and E duty stations; contracts of at least six months duration are more reasonable and provide adequate flexibility for down-sizing; staff must be advised two months in advance of contract expiry re. renewal;
  • ensure that staff deployed to D and E duty stations with limited access to adequate medical facilities have been examined, treated, and properly immunised before travel to the country of assignment; this may require additional medical examinations other than those regularly scheduled on the basis of age;
  • direct contact between DHRM and staff based in high stress/security risk duty stations should be encouraged in order to provide timely support and to keep the field staff Ain the loop as far as career development is concerned; regular visits by DHRM to these duty stations must become the operational norm;
  • endeavour to achieve a gender balance among staff assigned to all duty stations, especially those in high stress/security risk locations;

4.2 Standard Assignment Length:

  • pilot test a six and a twelve month assignment length for staff posted in high stress/security risk locations; the possibility of job-sharing with staff based in less difficult duty stations in the same country or region should also be considered;
  • it is imperative that staff posted in difficult/dangerous duty stations should not be permitted to exceed their SALs.

4.3 Re-assignment:

  • seek to achieve a fair and transparent procedure for implementing the policy on rotation whereby all staff share equally the burden of service in hardship and high stress/security risk duty stations;
  • ensure that staff completing assignments in high stress/security risk duty stations are allowed a recovery period of a minimum of one month before re-assignment; a similar measure should also be applied, when required, to staff who have experienced critical incidents; for staff members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a recovery period of three to six months is required;
  • staff completing assignments in high stress/security risk duty stations should be cleared by the Medical Service, in consultation with the SSWO, before reassignment to another difficult posting to ensure that s/he is physically and psychologically ready for such re-deployment; if medical clearance at Headquarters for all concerned would prove too costly, consideration might be given to the identification and approval by the Medical Service of sub-regional doctors who could undertake this task;
  • serious consideration should be given to developing a system of exit support such as exists in ICRC (including career guidance and re-training) for long-serving UNHCR staff who are leaving the organisation after a number of difficult assignments.

5. Training, reporting, briefing and debriefing (ACTION: DHRM with support of Directors of Operations)

A range of measures are proposed in the areas of training, briefing and debriefing to enhance staff security and mitigate staff stress.

5.1 Training about Stress

  • while current training efforts regarding Critical Incident Stress should continue, the SSWO and the Medical Service should place greater focus on training and raising awareness of managers and staff on the causes and effects of cumulative (chronic) stress, and on how to prevent it; first priority for such training should be managers and staff in exceptionally difficult D and E duty stations;

5.2 Pre-deployment Briefing:

  • ensure that well-prepared, consistent, relevant and effective induction and pre-deployment briefing processes are undertaken at Headquarters and/or field levels for all new staff (international and national); this should apply to all newly-appointed or rotating staff members, but as a minimum should be required for all persons entering exceptionally difficult D and E duty stations; adequate time must be provided for this important process, at the end of which the staff member should be in a position to fully understand his/her role and function in the new assignment;
  • adequate pre-deployment briefings should be included in the requirements for travel clearance by the Medical Service;
  • UNHCR should examine the various measures developed by ICRC to mitigate staff stress, notably in the area of pre-assignment induction and briefing, and post- assignment debriefing, in order to identify those which might usefully be adopted by the organisation.

5.3 Security Training:

  • with regard to security training, (i) emphasis should be placed on training of trainers within UNHCR to obtain a multiplier effect; (ii) UNHCR should consider participation in UNSECOORD courses for management and specialist training; (iii) security training should be placed within the scope of CMS for the purposes of planning, development and assessment of results, and (iv) a centrally-held register of participants in security training should be established as a basis for developing further training plans.

5.4 Information and Awareness:

  • one of the keys to effective security is access to a current flow of accurate and relevant information; representatives and team leaders should systematically brief their staff on an evolving security situation and on the security plan itself, create awareness and provide for staff training on hazards specific to the duty station concerned;
  • another key to effective security is personal awareness and response from staff members; representatives and team leaders are responsible for ensuring that their staff are familiar with and comply with security-related procedures and decisions;
  • better distribution of existing materials on stress management and security should be assured as a priority for staff serving in high stress/security risk duty stations.

5.5 Reporting of Critical Incidents:

  • some, but not all, security/safety related incidents are reported to FSSS. It is an operational imperative that all such incidents be reported to FSSS.
  • there is currently no requirement to report critical incidents which are not considered to constitute a notifiable security/safety problem; a system must be established without delay whereby all such incidents involving staff members are systematically reported to the Medical Service/SSWO at Headquarters.

5.6 Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

  • the decision to send a CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) team to the field is a professional socio-medical decision which should be made by the competent staff at Headquarters (and eventually by regional social welfare officers); criteria for deciding on such missions should be developed.

5.7 Exit Debriefing

  • a proper exit debriefing at field level and/or thorough a decompression programme at Headquarters should be provided to all staff members leaving a high stress/security risk operation; a focal point should be identified at each duty station to plan and organise such debriefings; the debriefing should include psychological as well as operational debriefings; exit debriefing should be provided to all rotating staff members, but as a minimum should be required for all persons leaving exceptionally difficult D and E duty stations.

6. Field conditions (ACTION: DHRM with support of Directors of Operations)

6.1 To assist staff based in high stress/security risk duty stations to maintain good mental and physical health and to carry out their work effectively, UNHCR should establish a basic standard of provision including adequate living accommodation, catering including a varied diet, and facilities for sports and recreation.7

6.2 To alleviate the stress of staff based in high stress/security risk duty stations staff members should be given access to reasonably priced or subsidised telecommunications service to facilitate regular contact with family and friends.

6.3 Ensure that the staff component in duty stations where MARS or VARI applies is large enough to permit all eligible staff members to benefit from the provision on a regular basis without negatively affecting operational effectiveness.

6.4 With regard to air travel, in situations where only a leased aircraft would relieve staff from serious risk and intolerable stress, UNHCR should carefully examine costs, including possible cost-sharing, versus precise operational needs. If the cost of leasing aircraft cannot be justified within existing parameters, exceptional solutions should be sought amongst limited options: (i) to proceed nevertheless (in the hope that the flight may generate renewed interest and momentum from agencies working on the spot); (ii) to reduce or cancel given operations; or (iii) to conduct cross-border operations from an adjacent country if politically feasible and if conditions permit.

7. Interim measures to enhance Security and Stress Management of national/ local staff and their familes (ACTION: Directors of Operation with support from DHRM)

  • Pending the outcome of the proposed review of the security of national/local staff and their families (recommendation 1.4), a number of practical measures are proposed to enhance their security (in consultation with the Designated Official where required) and to reduce the associated stress:
  • some field offices were found not to have complied with the Handbook requirement for the maintainance of an accurate and up-to-date record of local staff and their dependents; Representatives and Heads of Office should ensure that this vital rule is complied with immediately;
  • Representatives and Heads of Office should involve national/local staff in all discussions and decisions regarding their security; in a deteriorating security situation, their views, information and analysis of the situation should be elicited and taken into account;
  • Representatives and Heads of Office should include local staff in security training efforts as appropriate to their functions;
  • in a deteriorating security situation, Representatives and Heads of Office should brief national/ local staff thoroughly to assist them in running a field office in case of the evacuation of international staff and should debrief them on return;
  • Representatives and Heads of Office should ensure that all staff members are aware that their behaviour towards local officials, police or military can rebound negatively, particularly on national staff, and therefore all should endeavour to exercise restraint;
  • health-related travel provision (such as MARS, VARI) for national staff who have relocated from other parts of the country to serve in high stress/security risk duty stations should be developed.


(23) Discussions and interviews with over 500 UNHCR staff members in the field and at Headquarters by the Consultants during the course of this review yielded a wide range of views and concerns on the questions of stress and of security. Field offices visited by the Consultants had been specifically selected on the basis of the difficult living conditions, so the vast majority of staff members interviewed were, indeed, found to be living and working under extraordinarily stressful and often dangerous circumstances. Not surprisingly, the staff met by the consultants had a great deal to say about their continued exposure to danger. It was clear that for some, the past was not a closed chapter. Those who had been posted in the former Yugoslavia after mid-1992, vividly recall that they were taking increased risks every day without an established structure within UNHCR to provide the required training and guidance, logistical support and safety equipment, to monitor the risks taken as well as the severe resulting stress, nor to organise action-oriented feedback. Such staff members still find it hard to put this period behind them, including what they commonly referred to as the casual reception back at Headquarters.

(24) As to more immediate preoccupations, the fact that anything may happen to anyone at any time and anywhere, was a recurrent concern conveyed by staff met in the former Yugoslavia, the Great Lakes, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Not surprisingly, danger was mentioned by many in these locations as a major stress factor. Many felt unsafe in their houses at night and lived constantly in fear of random violence. To live surrounded by scenes of devastation and misery while frequently hearing bad news was also particularly difficult. The loss of family members of local staff was reported all too often while the death of a colleague was hard for everyone to bear. In such situations staff tended to share daily incidents such as harassment at check-points, sometimes at gunpoint, only with each other, preferring not to disclose such traumas to their families.

(25) The issue of thresholds of danger - the fact that the untenable yesterday is acceptable today - was in many minds, as was the fact that UNHCR has, in a number of places, taken more risks than the military with nothing or nobody preventing them from doing so. Many staff , especially the newcomers to UNHCR, still outside any circle of friends or more knowledgeable colleagues who could have informed them better, reported that they had never expected to find such exceptionally difficult security conditions. Despite the valiant efforts of the security staff at Headquarters, more staff than expected said that they had never received any meaningful security training. In general, during the course of their missions the consultants witnessed disturbing levels of distress and experienced a lack of pre-departure preparation.

(26) In virtually all places visited, staff referred to the Field-Headquarters Gap. This is by no means a new phenomenon in the life of UNHCR, nor indeed of any organisation. The feeling was, however, remarkably widespread. UNHCR Headquarters was more often than not referred to as a far away entity, demanding more than giving, and this in spite of the fact that a growing number of Headquarters staff have themselves been in difficult assignments in the field. Though recognising the considerable progress made by UNHCR in security preparedness and response since the beginning of the decade, field staff often expressed their irritation at what they considered to be the ignorance of many at Headquarters of what is really required from those working under dangerous conditions in the field. Furthermore, they added, when one goes into danger, one is easily branded a fool or a cow-boy by those working in the safety of Headquarters, which is annoying as well as hurtful. The message was clear from all concerned: UNHCR Headquarters must show better that it cares for its staff in the field.

(27) Nevertheless, the impression that the overall mood among staff working in difficult duty stations is consistently negative should be avoided. In spite of high risk, a number of colleagues appeared heartened by the role that UNHCR and they themselves could play in situations on which the Organisation has little or no leverage. Some staff stated that there is a limit to what UNHCR can do for their security, and if they stay in spite of difficulties, it is their choice. In some locations, teams have functioned very effectively, with close cooperation, understanding and confidence between international and local staff. Motivation was rarely found lacking. When disaster loomed in a country or area of assignment, staff expressed fear not only for themselves but for the refugees and others of concern to UNHCR. Given the recent events occuring in Eastern Zaire, it is both pathetic and rather ironic in retrospect to note that some refugees, resident in the settlements of Kibumba and Mugunga at the time of the evaluation mission, told the consultants of their sense of relief when, every morning, the UNHCR Field Officers reached the camps. Finally, it should be noted that some staff members expressed the view that UNHCR is an Organisation which takes staff security seriously.

(28) With regard to stress, the consultants found, at one extreme, staff who clearly had little understanding of the issue, as indicated by disparaging comments and the occasional query - What is stress? At the other extreme were staff members who had benefited from the various stress management interventions and those who stated strongly that Stress is the issue. While some were aware of the importance of making efforts to protect their personal physical and psychological well-being, many showed little understanding of the consequences of stress, including cumulative or critical incident stress, considering these to be Apart of the job. An analysis of responses by staff interviewed during field visits as well as observations made by the consultants, identified six broad categories of stress factors currently facing UNHCR staff in the field. These are: (i) living conditions, (ii) family separation, (iii) working conditions, (iv)critical incidents, (v) organisational aspects, and (vi) external relations. The picture that emerges from this analysis is of a highly stressed and very often dangerous working and living environment that, in the eyes of the staff concerned, has neither been adequately understood nor effectively addressed by UNHCR management. While security concerns are frequently raised in the context of both living and working conditions, as well as being a principal reason for family separation, it is important to note that many of the stress factors identified are unrelated to security risks.

(i) Living Conditions

(29) One's home is, theoretically, a refuge, a place to interact with loved ones and friends, to relax and recover from the stresses of the workplace. This was not the reality for many staff members interviewed by the consultants nor was it the reality for many of the respondents to the 1994 Survey of Hardship and Security Issues8. Security in the home was a common concern among staff interviewed, while in the 1994 Survey, 58% of the male respondents and 47% of the females reported concerns about personal security in their residences. Armed conflict, mines, gunfire, murder, banditry, car-jacking, robberies, the narcotics trade, substance abuse, and other criminal activities in the neighbourhood or surrounding areas were reported stress factors. These in turn required the taking of certain precautions which were often in themselves stressful, such as living under curfew, combining residential and office facilities, maintaining twenty-four hour radio contact, and remaining constantly vigilant about security issues.

(30) This situation often made it difficult if not impossible for staff members to ever really relax. For example, in one duty station in Kenya, harsh conditions, banditry, and the risk of sexual violence contributed to a UNHCR decision to build a staff housing compound that was more secure and comfortable than earlier facilities. While staff members were highly appreciative of the effort taken, they later referred to the compound as the UNHCR Prison because of the sense of isolation, confinement, and lack of privacy it evoked. Individual staff members tried to cope with this by arranging or decorating their accommodation in highly personal ways or regularly hosting social gatherings thereby creating a semblance of a normal home. In many duty stations, the absence of adequate and/or affordable residential units, limited basic services and environmental factors were at the root of discomfort experienced by staff members. In Tanzania, some staff members had been obliged to live in tents for long periods of time, while others, particularly national staff, were only able to secure housing in buildings that were in poor condition and lacked the most basic amenities. Poor sanitary conditions in Afghanistan resulted in a high number of staff members contracting hepatitis.

(31) Frequently the natural environment challenged the coping capacity of staff members. UNHCR personnel spoke of the hot sands and dusty winds of the deserts and the deep snow and limited oxygen of mountainous areas, while staff members in Central Asia expressed concern about the risk of contamination by radioactive waste. Climatic extremes also took their toll. In some duty stations, annual temperature went from +40C to -40C while in tropical climates, hot humid weather and incessant rain left many staff members uncomfortable and lethargic. Just surviving the winter was a concern for staff in some of the Central Asian duty stations. In such difficult environments, staff members struggled with sporadic electricity, limited or no access to telephones, and long, terribly cold winters without heat or hot water. Frequently, even the most rudimentary medical care was unavailable. Desired food supplies, beverages and personal items were simply not available in some locations, were prohibitively expensive in others, and illegal in some. In short, many staff members came home from long and difficult days in the office or refugee camp to begin the work of relaxing by fetching water, cooking or keeping warm over coal-fed fires, trying to keep cool through hand-held fans, and completing domestic chores by candle-light.

(32) In many duty stations, staff members were forced by circumstances to share housing. Some found this a positive experience since they derived social and psychological support from the presence of their colleagues and spent less money on accommodation at the same time. For others, sharing accommodation was stressful because of the lack of privacy, constant talk about work, and no clear delineation between work and home life9. In one particularly hazardous duty station in Rwanda, three staff members shared one small house that was protected by sandbags from the gunfire and mines outside, while in Afghanistan, approximately twenty staff members, all males, spent most of their days and nights in the UNHCR compound in a part of the country that was heavily mined and where music, television, cinema, and virtually every other form of entertainment was outlawed. Across duty stations, physical exercise routines, reading, and the creation of private areas within shared housing were cited as coping efforts of staff members. Nevertheless, the debilitating and demoralising effect of inadequate living conditions requires closer attention by UNHCR to ameliorate this significant source of staff stress10.

(33) While to a large extent this review focuses on security-related stress, efforts were made to report on other significant field duty-related stresses. Severe isolation due to geographical location, language barriers, cultural differences, extremely limited or no access to telecommunication services, few or no colleagues in the area with whom one could socialise, and the absence of recreational facilities, were identified as major factors leaving staff members stressed, lonely, and feeling generally unsupported by UNHCR. A common response was There is nothing to do here, so we work. We just work and work. This was a problem in many duty stations, particularly in parts of Afghanistan and the Central Asia Republics where staff members reported feeling forgotten by Headquarters and out of the loop as far as career development was concerned, as well as being out of touch with events in the rest of the world.

(ii) Family Separation

(34) Social science and health research have generally underscored the importance of the presence and support of family members as a major factor in physical and mental well-being and a mitigating factor against stress. Most of the duty stations visited by the consultants were classified as non-family duty stations. Some staff members interviewed found it very uncomfortable to be far from their families and expressed concern at the difficulties they faced in fulfilling family responsibilities. A few attributed family problems and even the breakdown of their marriages to the work situation while others greatly missed the revitalising joy and affection that is so much a part of family life11. On the other hand, some staff members felt more comfortable knowing that their families were in a secure environment and believed that having the family at the current duty station would be more a source than a mitigator of stress.

(iii) Working Conditions

(35) Not surprisingly, physical danger and exposure to violence were major stresses for many staff members in the course of their work in duty stations visited by the consultants. As noted in the chapter on Security, most of those interviewed had been or were working in situations of current or recent war, genocide, and other acts of collective violence, with little if any preparation for this by UNHCR. Tension between warring parties, ethnic hatred and conflict, the threat of violent retaliation for past wrongs and a wide range of other human rights abuses were daily fare for these staff members. These harsh realities and their consequences had to be confronted on a daily basis and were, often, the very reason for the presence of these staff members. As one staff member remarked, echoing many others: UNHCR has exposed its people to unacceptable levels of violence.... I don't think we have a threshold anymore.

(36) Furthermore, the political context in which UNHCR now works often makes staff the target of violence and abuse, a long way from the days when UNHCR was almost universally perceived as the defender and friend of refugees. Staff members reported feeling anxious and sometimes fearful when in the refugee camps, especially when they could not meet the demands of the refugees or were required to implement policies the refugees opposed. This was a major concern in ongoing conflicts and in those situations, as noted by one staff member working in the Great Lakes Region, in which the international community was pushing for repatriation when ... it was known the conditions were not conducive. You know you are somehow lying to people telling them repatriation is possible. Deteriorating or poor relationships between refugees and staff members left UNHCR personnel tense, frustrated and in some cases, afraid.

(37) Sometimes staff were also subjected to the hostility of the local population. While many local communities clearly benefited from the presence and activities of UNHCR, others suffered from the existence of large numbers of refugees who deforested the land, broke local laws, and appeared to threaten their welfare. UNHCR personnel, in particular the local staff, were commonly the target for blame in these situations. As one national staff member remarked: In the eyes of the local community, we are somewhat like traitors. In parts of Central Asia staff feared the uncertainty and potential for violence associated with the narcotics trade while the watchful eyes and listening ears of government security personnel added to the burden of stress in some duty stations. Staff members based in a variety of locations had been physically attacked. Among the respondents to the 1994 Survey, 41% of the males and 28% of the females reported having been attacked, injured, harassed, or threatened. Nevertheless, despite the many risks and discomforts associated with field service in difficult duty stations, many staff members emphasised that their work in the refugee camps or with the local community remained the most positive part of their working lives.

(38) In some duty stations, travel provided an additional source of stress. Travel between home and the office as well as between office and the site of field activity was a frequently cited source of stress for UNHCR personnel, particularly in the Great Lakes Region and Bosnia. UNHCR vehicles are easily identifiable for good reasons. However, high visibility also makes UNHCR vehicles vulnerable to attack. As one national staff member put it: Our vehicles are targeted. The situation is very dangerous, especially for UNHCR drivers. Our families worry if we will come home alive. The views of an international staff member in Burundi were also telling: I worry, especially when we come to military check points. The soldiers are usually drunk or high on drugs and heavily armed. You never know what they are going to do, especially if you are a woman. This concern was also evident in the 1994 Survey results: more than 40% of the female and almost 37% of the male respondents reported problems with regard to security between their residence and place of work. Poor vehicle or radio maintenance added to the stress of travelling along roads perceived to be less than safe.

(39) Air travel by scheduled flights can also be fraught with hazards. This was a concern raised by staff working notably, but not exclusively, in parts of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) where essential work-related travel by unreliable airlines subjects them to high levels of risk and stress. Keeping stress levels under control in such circumstances was difficult enough, but overcrowded and poorly maintained planes flown by pilots with questionable skills only served to increase tensions in a region where winter weather further complicated matters. As a means to avoid such flights, staff have attempted alternatives such as road travel, which have often proved to be equally unsafe. Where possible, UNHCR has entered into leasing arrangements with other agencies, as had been the practice for many years in areas not served by scheduled flights. In some cases, however, the costs involved have been hard to justify so UNHCR is now looking into alternative formulae to permit staff to take safer and more reliable means of transport. It should be noted that staff working in the Caucasus are no longer obliged to take local airlines, but this step has not been taken elsewhere in the CIS.

(40) While many of the factors contributing to staff stress in difficult duty stations were beyond the control of individual staff members, others were, in a sense, self-imposed. The stressful demands of the work, the absence of food service facilities, and/or personal choice resulted in staff members in a wide variety of duty stations working all day without lunch and snacks. Excessive smoking was reported and directly observed in many sites. One staff member reported We live on cigarettes and coffee and another I'm smoking ten times more than before. There were also indications that for some, alcohol consumption - in part due to the absence of facilities for rest and recreation - was also an issue of concern. In the 1994 Survey, more than 25% of all respondents reported experiencing problems with weight loss or gain in the field. The importance of proper nutrition, adequate food and exercise for good health and the prevention or mitigation of stress are well known. Yet, like many professionals in humanitarian service, a significant number of UNHCR staff members were not able or were choosing not to meet these basic human needs while at the same time engaging excessively in habits which were potentially physically harmful. The impact of such behaviour on the physical and mental well-being of staff, particularly those living in difficult and dangerous environments, is a matter of considerable concern and requires an organisational response.

(iv) Critical Incidents

(41) As discussed in greater detail below in the chapter on Security, a significant number of staff members interviewed by the consultants reported having been exposed to traumatic situations and critical incidents. This was especially so in the Great Lakes Region, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. Some international and many national staff members had first-hand experience of the violence of war and genocide. They had been obliged to sit through shelling, gunfire, and the rounding up of prisoners - some of them colleagues or friends - whom they knew would later be executed. Some had witnessed public executions. One staff member spoke of having to help move some of the thousands of dead bodies that fell by the roadside after a major epidemic in Eastern Zaire while a staff member formerly assigned to Bosnia recalled: We had children bringing body parts to the office to prove their parents were killed the night before. Many staff members had experienced car-jacking, usually by armed individuals, occasionally drunk or drug-crazed. Respondents to the 1994 Survey reported similar experiences. Significant numbers of staff members had been threatened at gunpoint. Some colleagues had been killed while others had attempted or succeeded in committing suicide, sometimes after leaving the organisation12. It is worthy of note that ICRC provides exit support13 to help separating staff adjust to normal life after working in a highly stressful environment.

(42) There was some awareness among UNHCR staff of the impact of critical incidents on their own well-being. As one staff member in northern Kenya stated: Every time there is a rape or bandit attack, you lose something, you lose a part of yourself. It takes a lot out of you and over a period of time, you stop thinking which I believe is dangerous. In some cases staff members had suffered from secondary stress as a result of the way some of the critical incidents had or had not been responded to by UNHCR. One said: A colleague got killed, but the next day it was business as usual. Nobody talked about it. When the second one got killed, we pushed and finally got someone out to help us talk about it. A positive sign that the organisation is becoming more responsive to the needs of staff was reported to the consultants by staff in Nairobi following the murder of a UNHCR driver in the course of his duty. As one staff member remarked: It was a very proud moment for me to say UNHCR cares when the drivers asked why the Senior Social Welfare Officer was being sent all the way from Geneva to find out how they felt. The importance for staff in the field of such manifestations of solidarity and support by Headquarters cannot be underestimated.

(v) Organisational Aspects

(43) In addition to the many external factors which have an impact on staff stress, the consultants identified a number of organisational factors which were seen as major causes of stress by many of those interviewed in the field. Lack of briefing and preparation for field duty14, assignment of responsibility for multiple roles and tasks which went far beyond the primary functions of a post, as well as relentlessly heavy workloads, were all cited as fundamental sources of stress. Staff were working under heavy pressure in difficult and unsafe circumstances, sometimes with unclear mission objectives, and almost always with numerous deadlines and unrelenting demands on their time and energy. As one staff member put it: You are bombarded on a daily basis, while another described feeling like ... part of a machine that is always running. Days were long and the work full of interruptions. In many cases, the working week was seven days rather than five, and holidays were simply good days for catching up on the paperwork.

(44) Support from Headquarters and in some cases from branch offices was criticised as too little or too late by many of those interviewed. Staff members spoke of having to beg for basic equipment, furniture, and supplies necessary for their work. One referred to the branch office as a black hole where requests for various items just seemed to disappear. Another remarked: When Geneva needs us, they know how to reach us. When we need something, we have to push and push. Delayed action on contracts by Headquarters, slow responses to requests for leave by branch offices, a failure to inform, and too many poorly-organised missions were cited as examples of stress caused by the Organisation itself. The consultants nevertheless found signs of an improvement in terms of Headquarters' efforts to provide support to staff in the field. The High Commissioner's field visits and her twice a year letters to staff were cited as sources of encouragement and morale boosters, as were visits by officers from the Division of Human Resources Management, the Senior Social Welfare Officer, and the Medical Service. Missions that included substantive discussions with national staff were especially appreciated.

(45) Effective leadership that ensures clarity as to the on-site mission of the Organisation and appropriate supervision are key elements in the prevention and mitigation of stress in difficult work environments. In several locations, staff members expressed appreciation for solid team leadership indicating that this was a critical factor in their ability to perform well under even the most stressful of circumstances. Others were less fortunate and expressed disappointment in the quality of leadership at their duty station. Many decried the lack of supervision and feedback: If you're doing something good, you need to hear it. If you're doing something wrong, you also need to hear it. Here, you hear nothing and therefore have no idea which way you are going. This lack of management responsibility for staff working in difficult and dangerous locations is particularly serious and should be addressed as a matter of priority.

(46) The quality of leadership inevitably affects the relationships between staff. Most staff members recognised the link between interpersonal relationships and stress levels as well as to the achievement of organisational objectives. Some worked hard to build a team spirit, prevent or resolve conflicts, and generally ensure that each colleague felt supported. Others found this difficult: During the emergency, there was a fantastic team spirit so nothing else mattered, it was okay. It is a nasty environment now. It has a racial touch. That is very, very sad. The need to bridge the gap between international and national staff was a recurrent theme. The consultants concluded that prompt attention needs to be paid by UNHCR to the development or improvement of leadership, team building and supervision skills of its managers, particularly those working in high-risk environments.

(47) Contractual status was one of the most commonly-cited causes of stress among staff. Successive three month contracts were a major focus of frustration. As one staff member remarked bitterly: Forget about planning for your personal life. You can't even plan for your programme! You sign a three month contract and then worry about the next three months.... The situation of national staff engaged by UNHCR on non-UNHCR contracts was also particularly troubling. There was considerable concern about a number of seemingly insensitive or discriminatory practices regarding benefits for national staff as compared to international staff. Particular problems cited included salary levels, hazard allowances, limited protective measures and evacuation issues as well as the lack of life insurance benefits for national staff in duty stations with widely fluctuating currencies and serious security threats.

(48) Rotation was a major issue amongst international staff members. It was commonly perceived that those who performed well in the worst of circumstances were often "rewarded" with assignments that were even more difficult15. This was assumed to be based on UNHCR's reasonable desire to send staff members, particularly managers, with demonstrated capacity, to handle high-risk situations. However, for the individuals concerned, this meant repeated exposure to traumatic situations without adequate breaks for recovery in between.

(49) The High Commissioner had already identified this problem in 199216: In a constant struggle to respond to emergencies and other priority programmes, staff are being pulled out of one operation to fill another or hurriedly recruited, in a manner which is to the satisfaction neither of the staff's career aspirations nor of the goals of sound management. Despite early recognition of the problem and clear evidence of the damaging effects of such exposure both on the individuals concerned and on operations, the efforts of the Medical Service to safeguard staff members' physical and mental health by requiring recovery periods between difficult assignments have yet to be translated into a systematic organisational response.

(vi) External Relations

(50) The final variable identified by the Consultants as a potential stress factor to staff in the field is here referred to globally as external relations, meaning the contacts UNHCR staff have with their various interlocutors, including the refugees, the local community, national authorities, staff in other humanitarian organisations, and finally, the media. In all cases, collaborative effort, open communication, and mutual respect was found to alleviate otherwise difficult situations whilst an unwillingness to cooperate, hostility and distrust added to the burden of stress. Difficulties encountered in staff relations with the refugee and local communities were considered earlier in the discussion of the work and home environments.

(51) In some instances, relations with national authorities presented UNHCR staff with their greatest challenge - and a major source of stress. In a number of duty stations, staff have been prevented from fulfilling the organisation's mandate, standing by helplessly as refugees were forcibly returned to their homeland, murdered, beaten, and otherwise victimised by government forces. UNHCR staff members have been denied access to refugee populations and forced into difficult positions on fundamental issues. These circumstances were reported to be very demoralising. As a result, many staff members openly questioned why UNHCR remains engaged in such untenable situations. Doubts or serious misgivings about the mission of the Organisation were a tremendous source of stress for UNHCR staff members. In some duty stations, the question was: Under these circumstances, how long should we stay here? In others, it was even more fundamental: Why are we here? Why am I here?

(52) Whether as lead agency or simply as one of several United Nations agencies in an area or country, UNHCR personnel were expected to relate effectively to a large number of international and national organisations. Overall, staff members reported a reasonable degree of collaboration and generally supportive inter-agency relationships. In many cases, UNHCR's leadership was widely recognised even though its decisions or actions were sometimes questioned. Pioneering efforts by UNHCR in terms of new leave policies were a source of pride for many staff members. Despite differences in mandate, the close cooperation between UNHCR and ICRC in a variety of duty stations, particularly in the areas of transportation and emergency health care, was also viewed as a mitigator of some of the stress associated with working in very difficult circumstances. One important area where inter-agency relations reportedly contributed to considerable staff stress, however, was in situations where UNHCR was not the lead agency and where decisions about security were taken by other United Nations personnel far from the field site. This issue is dealt with in depth in the chapter on Security.

Field staff should be better heard

(53) The chapter on Staff Security raises the point that the reverse side of the coin of an increasingly effective mobilisation of Field Staff Safety Advisors and technical support, is that security in UNHCR has tended to become a matter for specialists, and is hence perceived as not of concern for the Organisation as a whole. One consequence of this which was voiced by field staff is that, on security matters, they are more often talked to by specialists, than actually heard by them and by their Representatives. The same lack of listening applies when they visit or are assigned to Headquarters. The requirement to report promptly and systematically all security incidents to Headquarters gives comparatively little opening for dialogue. Field staff expressed regret that the opportunity does not exist for managers and team leaders at Headquarters to gain from their experience and thereby further enhance security and reduce stress. The consultants concluded that what is lacking in UNHCR is a systematic process of debriefing of staff leaving difficult duty stations, not only to benefit the staff members concerned - in itself a critically important process - but also to draw constructively on their experience.

(54) There is clearly a need to improve genuine communication between staff at Headquarters and in the field on issues of stress and security. While some of those interviewed by the consultants had assumed (until informed of the contrary) that they would at least have the opportunity to present their views and recommendations to be absorbed at institutional level, others felt that a complete decompression programme was required. This would involve thorough debriefings with the Office of the Director of Operations/Desk, the Field Staff Safety Section, the Medical Service and the Senior Social Welfare Officer. Staff expressed scepticism, however, about the likelihood of any such process being established. Indeed, with apparently little time or will to provide adequate briefing to staff prior to field assignments, there is likely to be even less for debriefing, which some would consider to be a redundant exercise. Of the 900 or more international staff in the field, few, even at the high and middle management level, have the opportunity for a debriefing at Headquarters on completion of a field assignment. However, spread over some 250 working days in a year, and coming from a number of geographical areas, i.e. not descending on the same staff at the same time, the situation is not unmanageable, particularly if reserved initially for those coming from particularly difficult duty stations. It is strongly recommended that the concept of a decompression programme be examined, and an appropriate debriefing process gradually introduced.


(55) The normality of stress as part of the human condition, particularly in the context of humanitarian assistance efforts, and organisational responsibility for stress management are increasingly being recognised. Whilst the specific manifestations of and susceptibility to stress vary from individual to individual, the universal marker is physical and psychological arousal. Three categories of stress are generally recognised in terms of their causes as well as their effects on the individuals concerned: (i) basic, or day-to-day stress, (ii) traumatic or critical incident stress, and (iii) cumulative stress. Basic stress is energising and generally protective, prepares individuals to address the challenges of daily life and alerts them to situations or activities that deviate from the routine and which require additional physical, cognitive, or emotional energy. Tension, frustration, and anger are all normal indicators of basic stress. The damage associated with basic stress is minimal as people generally cope with the arousal, relax, and then recover.

(56) Critical incident stress, which occurs in response to particularly traumatic, violent, or difficult events, while potentially very serious, is somewhat easier to identify than cumulative stress because of its association with direct causative factors, and can therefore usually be addressed more promptly. War, mass killing, hostage taking, the violent death of a close colleague are examples of critical incidents to which UNHCR staff are now increasingly exposed. While no longer infrequent, these events remain outside the range of normal human experience. Severe stress in response to such abnormal events over a short period is generally followed by recovery. Defusings and debriefings are widely perceived, although not yet supported by empirical evidence, to facilitate recovery. Critical Incident Stress, if not appropriately dealt with, can seriously interfere with the functioning capacity of an individual and may ultimately lead to the condition known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which involves great psychological distress.

(57) Cumulative stress, on the other hand, develops over time, rather than in response to a specific incident. It is insidious and may therefore go undetected, creating a serious threat to the well-being of the individual concerned. It occurs as a result of frequent, excessive, and unrelenting demands on an individual, creating a state of chronic arousal and depleted energy, and wearing down the immune capacities of the affected individual. Sleep disturbances, changes in eating habits, chronic exhaustion, increasing physical complaints, anxiety, depression, cynicism, irritability, reduced ability to concentrate and make decisions, communication difficulties, increased alcohol and cigarette consumption, and doubts about one's personal values and belief system are all commonly recognised symptoms of cumulative stress. Cumulative stress may also lead to burn-out at which stage the individual feels exhausted, depressed and pessimistic and tends to lose touch with the normal parameters of the working environment, becoming minimally productive, if not counter-productive.

Stress Management at UNHCR

(58) UNHCR first attempted to address the issue of stress - in the context of staff security - in a systematic way in early 1991. The initiative arose as a result of a growing number of critical incidents, including demonstrations, riots, public suicide attempts and death threats against staff in the first asylum camps for Vietnamese boat people in South East Asia. A regional crisis intervention design workshop was held in the Philippines in April 1991 bringing together selected field staff with resource people from an implementing partner as well as a representative of the Hong Kong police. Key issues identified by the workshop were the need for on-site guidance and support mechanisms for staff members working in stressful and sometimes dangerous environments, including critical incident stress defusing and debriefing, and the importance of systematic reporting of security incidents and provision for flexible leave policies.

(59) Later in 1991, recognising the potential value of materials and procedures developed in South East Asia for UNHCR staff facing comparable crisis situations in other regions of the world, UNHCR commissioned the preparation of a manual for field staff on coping with stress and security problems. Although the draft manual was never finalised, the Training Section used the material contained in the draft to produce a series of training modules which were released in mid-199217. While considerable efforts have been made over the years to ensure distribution of the modules, it was noted by the consultants that most of the UNHCR staff members interviewed during the course of this review had never seen them.

(60) With the outbreak of hostilities in the former Yugoslavia, UNHCR staff began to witness physical violence and brutality on an unprecedented scale. While this was by no means the first time staff members had been directly exposed to war and generalised violence, it was certainly the first time that this had occurred to large numbers of staff over prolonged periods of time. Not surprisingly, in 1992 the Medical Service began to see the impact of this abnormal exposure to violence and fear on the staff concerned, many of whom presented with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At a time when admitting to psychological distress was still generally considered an unacceptable sign of weakness in the organisation, many of those coming to the Medical Service initially reported physical symptoms and were reluctant to admit to the real cause of their condition. By 1993, alarmed at the scale of the problem and convinced that urgent action was necessary to address it at an organisational level, the Medical Service actively lobbied for senior management action on the issue of stress. Furthermore, the Medical Service took a significant step by requesting - and requiring - rest and recovery periods between duty assignments for particularly stressed staff members prior to clearance for further field service. This practice continues to date but remains at the discretion of the Medical Service. Staff members moving from one post to another without passing through Geneva are unable to benefit from this practice.

(61) The Division of Human Resources Management (DHRM), having the major responsibility for the management of staff stress, also took a number of initiatives during 1993 in an effort to support staff working in the former Yugoslavia. These included stress awareness seminars, an experimental rest and recreation "package" designed to remove staff from extraordinarily difficult environments for at least a short period of time, and the fielding of two staff counsellors to provide on-site counselling for staff members and stress awareness training. The staff response to these support efforts was mixed. Amongst those interviewed for the purposes of this review, some staff members reported that access to a staff counsellor in the field was not only helpful, but essential. Others were not impressed by the service, indicating that they would prefer access to a visiting external mental health professional who would be better able to ensure absolute confidentiality and no potential career damage. The stigma associated with stress in UNHCR is an issue which still needs to be vigorously addressed.

(62) A number of significant, and related developments also took place during 1993 in the sphere of staff security, following the establishment early in the year of the Field Staff Safety Section (FSSS) in DHRM. Induction programmes for new international staff members were to include greater attention to physical security thereby better preparing staff members for the field. In addition, a security training programme would be developed to ensure better support for staff already in the field. FSSS took the lead in this regard, in cooperation with the Training Section, ensuring that the link between security and stress was underscored. FSSS also began to develop an aide-mémoire entitled Security Awareness. Published in 1995 and widely distributed, this handy reference tool includes a section dealing specifically with stress management.

(63) By early 1993, the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section (EPRS) had significantly enhanced UNHCR's capacity to deal with emergency situations in virtually any part of the world. It is interesting to note that this enhanced capacity featured a number of important stress-related elements specifically designed to minimise the stress and maximise the effectiveness of emergency response team members working in a highly-charged and often dangerous environment, with large numbers of lives at stake. Such elements include pre-deployment training, clear description of duties, active support of team members whilst in the emergency situation, and short but specifically defined periods of emergency service. Furthermore, it has been generally acknowledged that two years service is an acceptable limit for EPR Officers. While there was recognition within the Section of the importance of debriefing, and a system established for returning EPROs to be debriefed by their fellow officers, this was not made a mandatory function and has consequently often been overtaken by other priorities to the regret of some of the staff concerned. In general, however, stress management principles and practices have been well-integrated into the training programmes established by EPRS. Feedback from a variety of sources would indicate that this investment in staff preparation and support has contributed in a most positive way to a heightened organisational service capacity.

(64) The various initiatives undertaken in 1993 were in direct response to the prevailing difficult service environment. They underscored UNHCR's growing recognition of stress as a major concern of staff and donor governments and were a response to demands for immediate action on this critical occupational health issue. By late 1993, the High Commissioner was able to report to the 44th Session of the Executive Committee: We have ... made a modest beginning on stress-management, a small but nevertheless important recognition of a serious problem affecting those who are working under the most demanding conditions.

(65) In 1994, DHRM began field testing a series of pioneering measures intended to support staff posted in difficult duty stations. The first, MARS (Mandatory Absence of Relief of Stress) was intended ... to remove staff members from the severe stress and/or physical danger present in some UNHCR locations ... and ... to allow staff to recover, both physically and mentally.... 18 The second, VARI (Voluntary Absence for the Relief of Isolation) was ... envisaged for staff serving in very remote or isolated duty stations ... and in situations which allow staff members little or no privacy or normal professional and social interaction ... to permit such staff members to travel periodically to a larger population ... for temporary relief of extreme isolation and/or unusually arduous conditions present in the duty station. STAR (Supply Travel on Rotation), similar to the earlier procurement mission system, was envisaged for application in locations where basic office supplies and essential commodities were in short supply or non-existent, and where neither MARS or VARI was applicable.

(66) In general, international staff have welcomed these new measures, and expressed pride in the fact that UNHCR has taken a significant lead over other UN agencies in this regard. They also recognised that for some, these travel provisions permit more frequent family visits, although this is notably not the case for staff in certain locations. While MARS was almost unanimously applauded, a serious obstacle to its full implementation existed in small offices where there were simply not enough international staff members to permit each of them to take a regular break without negatively affecting the operations. To permit the system to function as intended, it will be necessary to review staffing levels in such offices. In general though, Representatives or heads of office were found to respect the mandatory nature of this provision and had in many cases established rosters so that all could benefit on a regular basis. This was not always the case for staff eligible for VARI or STAR, however, and there was quite often a less clear concept of how these systems were intended to work.

(67) A serious gap identified by the consultants concerned provision for national staff, many of whom expressed the belief that UNHCR Headquarters has overlooked their need for family life. To an extent, this may have been due to a failure to acknowledge the fact that a significant number of UNHCR's operations in remote and hazardous locations were now staffed not so much by locals but by relocated nationals who were obliged, like international staff, to live far from their families. While these staff members were subject to many of the same stresses as their international colleagues, in some cases they may have been particularly targeted for their association with the UN. The human resources management policies of UNHCR, in particular those concerning MARS, VARI, and STAR should be reviewed to determine how best to address the needs of national staff who are separated from their families.

(68) The large-scale evacuation of the UN from Rwanda in April 1994, during which international staff and their families travelled in convoy across the country amidst scenes of horror as genocide engulfed the nation, was the first occasion in which what might be termed a comprehensive UN response was launched to assist those concerned to deal with the aftermath of this traumatic experience, once they had reached the safety of Nairobi. The evacuees were provided with a variety of support services and opportunities for psychological debriefing by a team of mental health professionals sent by UN Headquarters in New York and representing the various UN agencies. In recognition of the seriousness of the situation, the former Director of DHRM also flew to Nairobi to lend his personal support to UNHCR staff and their families. Despite this positive response, and with the exception of one general debriefing in Geneva in mid-1994 for selected staff members who were involved in some of the more tragic elements of the Great Lakes crisis, little support was provided later in 1994 for staff dealing with massive outflows of refugees following the genocide nor for those attempting to re-establish activities in Rwanda amidst the carnage.

Towards an Organisational Policy on Staff Stress

(69) In December 1994, a Senior Social Welfare Officer (SSWO) was appointed to replace the former Staff Counsellor, at a higher grade and with broader terms of reference than her predecessor. Based at Headquarters, the SSWO was given specific responsibility, in close collaboration with the Medical Service, for ensuring an appropriate organisational response to cumulative and critical incident stress, including the provision of stress management training. This vital development work was to be carried out in addition to the tasks performed by her predecessor, notably staff counselling and family support services. Over time, the SSWO has been assigned a number of additional tasks including the preparation and regular presentation of a stress awareness session for induction of new staff members, providing prompt support, including Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) for staff in the field when required, as well as playing a central role in the Special Constraints Panel. Despite the many competing demands on her time, the SSWO has received a positive response from the staff and her efforts to establish a structure for stress management welcomed. The main concern expressed by staff, and by the SSWO herself, is that it is clearly impossible for her to deal adequately with all aspects of her job. The consultants noted that a ratio of one SSWO to more than 5,500 employees (of whom some 50% are working in difficult or hazardous duty stations) is totally inadequate from the perspective of service access and provision19.

(70) Although stress management is now clearly accepted as part of responsible human resources management in UNHCR, no specific policy on the matter has yet been articulated, nor on the broader issue of staff health and well-being. Policy guidance for the SSWO has thus essentially been limited to a February 1995 Note by the UN Secretary-General20 on Stress Management. While identifying both cumulative and critical incident stress as concerns of the UN, the document clearly emphasises critical incident stress and outlines a strategy to address it, including the training of peer counsellors at high-risk duty stations, the training of key management personnel at high-risk missions to identify critical incident stress, to work with local counsellors and to determine when outside expertise is required, the development of a core of in-house critical incident stress counsellors, and the development of long-term support, counselling and treatment for staff suffering from critical-incident stress. Whilst the emphasis on critical incident stress for the UN as a whole is understandable, the specific needs and working environment of UNHCR call for the formulation of an Organisation-specific policy on stress management, with a particular focus on cumulative stress. To date, while UNHCR has made significant progress towards implementing a strategy to address critical incident stress, a lot more remains to be done to support large numbers of staff around the world who are experiencing - or are at risk of - cumulative stress.

(71) In July 1996, the SSWO presented to the Senior Management Committee a proposal for A Stress Management Strategy at UNHCR. In fact, this document was based on a similar paper prepared in April 1995, which, together with a report entitled Approche pour la Gestion du Stress dans une Organisation Internationale submitted to DHRM a few months later by the Medical Service, already provided the main elements required for the development of an organisational policy on stress management. Despite SMC endorsement of the SSWO's strategy paper, however, a year and a half later a clear policy on staff stress has yet to be established.

(72) Considerable progress has, nevertheless, been made in the two years since the SSWO's assignment. In close collaboration with the Medical Service, she had provided counselling, support services, referrals for a significant number of UNHCR personnel and made several trips to difficult duty stations for situational assessment, training and/or critical incident debriefing purposes. A core group of in-house critical incident stress debriefers, comprising the SSWO and two members of the Medical Service, has been developed, trained21 and successfully fielded on a number of occasions. In addition, three stress awareness seminars have been held for staff members at Headquarters (one of them in French) and in the field, a stress management pilot project consisting of a training workshop for Peer Support Personnel and a Stress Workshop for Management Staff were held in the Great Lakes Region in mid-1996. The latter Workshop, involving Representatives, Heads of Sub-Office, Field and Administrative Officers from the region, produced a comprehensive list of recommendations and called for the development of an overall policy for staff living in war-like zones. Unfortunately, follow-up on the recommendations has been interrupted by the dramatic events occuring in the region since mid-October 199622. Most recently, in January 1997, a Workshop on Stress Management was conducted for members of the Senior Management Committee.

(73) Finally, DHRM has recently introduced a number of what might be considered as preventive measures related to stress management, designed to enhance the recruitment and selection process. These include a letter of response to applicants outlining the frequently difficult conditions of work for UNHCR staff members, as well as an exploration of stress and coping experience during the interview and selection processes. These initiatives serve to inform the decision-making of both applicants and DHRM. Staff members interviewed in 1996 as part of this review strongly supported more careful staff recruitment, screening, and selection.

(74) In general, staff in the field have responded positively to these efforts to alleviate stress. Whilst there is clearly room for improvement, many staff reported being pleased with the efforts and grateful to UNHCR for providing the resources for such purposes. There were, however, many staff members interviewed by the consultants during their visits to the field who did not know the roles and functions of the SSWO, believed they had no access to this resource, were concerned that consulting this person would result in serious career repercussions, and/or believed that such services were or should be for others but not them. Considerable efforts will be required to ensure that appropriate services reach all staff who need them and that the long-standing stigma associated with stress is removed from UNHCR's organisational culture.

Stress Management in Other Organisations

(75) Over recent years a number of initiatives have been taken by other UN organisations facing similar problems of staff stress in the field. These have included the provision of stress management training for managers, critical incident stress debriefing for staff when required and the preparation of manuals. WHO has recently indicated its availability for technical assistance and advice in addressing situations of traumatic stress. Whilst the different stress management efforts undertaken by the members of the UN family have represented an important step forward, actual impact has been far less than it could or should have been because of a failure to share resources and genuinely work together on this important issue.

(76) Two agencies which have made considerable progress in stress management and which have shown willingness to cooperate with UNHCR both at field and at Headquarters level, are UNICEF and the ICRC. UNICEF has taken an interesting initiative in the Great Lakes region by engaging, since early 1994, an English-speaking mental health professional as full-time Staff Counsellor, based at the Regional Office in Nairobi23. This post is funded on a cost-share basis, with UNICEF offices in the Region as well as Sudan, Somalia and Angola, providing funds towards the total cost of the post. The Staff Counsellor travels from country to country, primarily providing stress management training, facilitating group problem-solving processes, and providing Management with advice on staff welfare concerns. In addition, the Staff Counsellor provides individual counselling and, when appropriate, conducts critical incident stress debriefings. In order to ensure a timely and effective response to the critical incident stress that is endemic in the UNICEF work environment in this region, the Staff Counsellor has trained selected regionally-based personnel to conduct defusings, and others to serve as critical incident stress debriefers under her supervision. She has also made a number of recommendations for improving staff support efforts including the development of a pre-deployment and post-deployment briefing capacity at the Regional and Country Office levels.

(77) As earlier indicated, UNHCR has cooperated with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the area of stress management. ICRC, working primarily in situations of conflict, already began addressing the issue of field staff stress in 1992. The stress management principles of ICRC are three-fold: information and training to enhance the staff member's capacity to care for him/herself; support in the field and at Headquarters; and administrative measures that help mitigate the harmful effects of stress and/or promote recovery. While, like UNHCR, priority was initially given to critical incident stress, by 1994 the priority had become cumulative stress and a dedicated three person unit had been created at ICRC Headquarters composed of a psychiatrist and two nurses with mental health expertise. This team conducts briefings for all personnel before they are deployed to the field as well as debriefings after their return. In addition, members of the team undertake missions to the field to respond to critical incidents and other highly stressful events. All Heads of Delegation are given a minimum of two full days of stress management training in order to provide them with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills required to ensure stress management concerns are addressed in an effective and timely manner in the field. Management of field assignments by ICRC reflect a range of measures designed to alleviate staff stress. These include (i) deployment of teams comprising equal numbers of male and female staff24, (ii) strict separation of working and living quarters, and (iii) assignments limited to a maximum of one year25 in particularly difficult duty stations. While the needs of staff in the two organisations differ in some respects, in line with their different mandates, the possibilities for further and enhanced cooperation between ICRC and UNHCR on the issue of stress management should be explored.

Implications for UNHCR

(78) While few, if any, UNHCR staff seriously questioned the realities of stress in difficult duty stations, there were diverging views with regard to organisational responsibility for addressing the problem. Some staff members considered that they were responsible for managing their own stress. A few stated that stress was a highly personal, private issue and that it would be inappropriate for UNHCR to try to intervene in this aspect of their lives. These were, however, by far minority opinions. Most staff members interviewed by the consultants expressed strongly their view that UNHCR had a responsibility for preventing or mitigating stress by better preparing staff for work in difficult and often dangerous environments, and for facilitating the recovery of those who nevertheless suffered the effects of cumulative and critical incident stress. While this view accurately reflects the official UN position on the matter26, many staff remained sceptical about UNHCR's ability to seriously respond to their problems. Some expressed the fear that they would be unable to make a successful adjustment from the "abnormal life" at UNHCR to "normal life" after UNHCR.

(79) The consultants concluded that there is every indication of a serious problem of staff stress at UNHCR. Widespread cumulative stress was draining the Organisation of the energy it needed to get difficult jobs done and critical incident stress was leaving staff members too badly scarred to consider taking the bold initiatives required of some field situations. Many staff members, especially those in situations of unclear, seemingly impossible, or unfulfilled missions, were experiencing the direct effects of cumulative stress and exhibiting low energy levels. Teamwork, productivity, and performance in the field were not what they could be because too much energy was required in coping with the demands of basic, cumulative, and critical incident stress. The health and well-being of staff members was being seriously challenged, both by the circumstances under which they worked as well as by their own maladaptive coping behaviours (e.g., excessive smoking, drinking, and working hours as well as other health threatening behaviours). Communication, cooperation, and decision-making capacities were not at their maximum levels thus presenting serious challenges to effective intervention.

(80) While most of these elements were documented by the SSWO in her April 1995 Strategy Paper, little action had been taken to follow up on her specific recommendations. The consultants recognised that UNHCR had taken important initiatives since the early 1990s in response to staff stress. Some of these interventions were innovative, well targeted, and effective. The clear and consistent concern of the Medical Service and the SSWO at Headquarters and the services provided by them were seen as an important contribution to the health and well-being of staff members. However, it is clear that much more can and must be done. This situation represents a direct challenge to human resources management in UNHCR. Whilst the Organisation has acknowledged a problem exists, it has yet to develop a policy as to what course of action must be taken. For the most part, the traditional reactive, medical model approach remains in effect: "treatment" is provided only when a staff member is ill or dysfunctional. A well-considered, properly resourced and preventive organisational response to staff stress is therefore required as a matter of urgency.

(81) Such a policy will require the Medical Service to move from the traditional role of providing medical clearance and inoculation services to providing, in addition, health promotion and education services designed to contribute to staff well-being even in exceptionally difficult working conditions (including, for example, proper nutrition, adequate exercise, cessation of smoking, protected sexual activity, and participation in health screening and monitoring processes). A policy which promotes the health and well-being of staff will also require the Senior Social Welfare Officer and others in DHRM to develop sustainable, proactive, primary prevention activities that are field-oriented, staff supportive and empowering, and aimed at preventing stress or mitigating its harmful effects. This will necessitate an emphasis on awareness-raising and training amongst field staff as well as on-site decision-making and control. Most of the effort should be in the field, rather than at Headquarters, and should be situationally-oriented. The first priority should be D and E duty stations entitled to hazard allowance which represented 16% of all 292 UNHCR duty stations as of July 1996. All remaining D and E duty stations should be the second priority, thereby reaching approximately 50% of all staff.


(82) In the early 1990s, in the face of growing violence on three continents and the ensuing wave of human suffering and massive displacement, UNHCR was trying to come to terms with its evolving role in such situations. In the process, UNHCR staff in the affected areas found themselves generally unprepared in highly tense situations or in the midst of full-scale conflict. Acceptable thresholds of risk to staff members were constantly pushed higher and higher. In some places, even evacuation became impossible. Though hazard and casualties are not a new experience for UNHCR27, working in high risk areas has now become an all too common feature of field service. Of the 118 countries in which UNHCR currently operates, 45 include duty stations which are classified by the United Nations Security Coordinator as hazardous28. At 31 August 1996, 71% of all UNHCR staff - international and national - were working in these 45 duty stations. In other words, in UNHCR, more than two out of three staff members are working in areas where security presents a problem. Almost half of the international staff (47%) are currently working in such duty stations. This does not mean, however, that international staff equally share the burden of working in the face of danger. Many posts at Headquarters and in no- or low-risk duty stations are at a level to which many staff in the field, mostly junior, cannot aspire at present. There is therefore little prospect for such individuals of a smooth rotation from an insecure or hazardous environment to a better (or safer) horizon in the Organization.

(83) With the emergence of two massive operations since the beginning of the decade (in the former Yugoslavia and the Great Lakes) UNHCR has been obliged to more than double in size29. Many of UNHCR's current staff have therefore been working in security-risk duty stations for the past three to four years, employed successively as UNVs, on a succession of short-term UNHCR contracts, followed, if they are lucky, by a one-year intermediate-term contract. This career insecurity, experienced whilst facing physical insecurity on a daily basis has serious consequences for staff welfare and effectiveness. As one field officer quipped: Yes, security is a major problem for me - security of tenure! This situation affects not only the physical and mental health of the individual staff members and of their families, but also their professional performance and judgement which in turn, can negatively affect the quality of protection and services provided to refugees. Furthermore, this means that UNHCR cannot fully rely upon immediate staff redeployment in the case of new crises requiring substantive human resources, even if staff have become available or redundant elsewhere. The needs of staff completing assignments in high-risk duty stations are discussed in detail in the chapter on Staff Stress.

(84) As mentioned earlier, many UNHCR staff in the field face a wide range of risks to their physical security in the course of their daily work. In some situations these can mean immediate danger caused by war, including ground and air attacks, as well as generalized violence, or serious breakdown of law and order involving banditry, substance abuse and the narcotics trade, and armed robbery or ambush, which, in some cases may specifically target UNHCR or the UN as a whole. Staff also face more subtle but insidious risks, such as anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, booby traps, grenades, or more individualised incidents such as car-jacking, hostage-taking, arrest or detention. In many places, difficult or openly hostile police or military checkpoints, often involving extortion of some form, are regularly endured by staff who view this as a particularly stressful form of harassment. Extensive field visits during the course of this review confirmed that in a number of places, UNHCR and its partners are taking more risks than the military with nothing and nobody preventing them from doing so30..

(85) Even staff based in certain branch offices are not exempt from security risks, facing serious urban violence on a daily basis, or violence threatened or perpetrated by urban refugees whose protests commonly target UNHCR and operational partner staff, as well as their premises or vehicles. Particular hazards such as travel in unsafe aircrafts in some areas, or responsibility for transporting large amounts of cash in others with little or no physical protection, are all part of the daily challenge - and dangers - facing UNHCR staff in the field31.

(86) The primary responsibility for the security of humanitarian workers and their dependents rests with the host government, with whom international organisations cooperate, trying to reinforce the relationship and sensitising authorities in charge of security. For effective security, however, reliance on the forces of law and order is fundamental. In a growing number of locations, protection by the authorities is becoming increasingly theoretical, with the breakdown of law and order, failure of state authority, or rule by unstable de facto authorities. As noted by a number of staff interviewed during the course of this review, UNHCR often has to negotiate its security with resistance movements in its zone of operations. Hence there is, more than ever, the need for an effective UN security system on which staff and their families can rely. This is vital for humanitarian agencies (especially UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP), often engaged in large-scale operations in high risk environments. A vigorous effort is currently underway at inter-agency level to strengthen the UN security system and make it more responsive to current needs. Peace-keeping forces are meanwhile becoming important actors in field staff security and a number of agencies, including UNHCR, have brought in and are building upon a wealth of experience in security matters, for the benefit not only of individual agencies but the UN system as a whole.

(87) The basic UN system is placed under the authority of the UN Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) in New York, acting on behalf of the Secretary General, and funded on an inter-agency basis. The arrangements, described in a UN Field Security Handbook , are endorsed by the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) and are mandatory for all agencies, including UNHCR. Guidance is given in the Handbook for the preparation, at each duty station, of an effective security plan, which is seen as the primary management tool for security preparedness. The key person at country level is the Designated Official (DO), generally the UNDP Resident Representative, but in some situations may be the UNHCR Representative. An advisory Security Management Team (SMT) is constituted by the Designated Official, including Heads of agencies or their designates; normally UNHCR is represented. In a number of locations, UNHCR is vested with system-wide responsibility in a particular part of a country, as was the case recently in Eastern Zaire. In addition to the country security plan, another universal feature of the UN Security System is the declaration of security phases according to an increasing scale of risk.32 Crucial decisions, notably the declaration of the three higher security phases, and on staff evacuation are normally made by the Secretary-General and cannot be taken without clearance from New York, as was recently the case in Eastern Zaire.

(88) At the country level, UN Field Security Officers are appointed to advise the Designated Official when conditions warrant a full-time focus on security issues. Currently some thirty full-time FSOs are assigned to UN operations around the world with responsibility for all physical measures related to crisis readiness and prevention including the development of security and evacuation plans. Acknowledging that individual UN agencies might have their specific security concerns, the recent UNSECOORD recommendations for improved inter-agency coordination envisage the FSO reporting concurrently to the DO and to agency representatives as well as spending time more equitably in the different agency offices.

(89) The various arrangements outlined above are not, nor were intended to be, the umbrella under which all agencies can shelter. The system-wide response has been of unequal value according to time, place, and circumstances. Not infrequently, UNHCR has found itself operating alone far outside the capital-based UNDP network in a country, and consequently encountering difficulties in communicating its specific concerns across the system. Many staff members interviewed by the consultants considered the UN Security System more formal than effective although achievements made in terms of preparedness, staff coverage (Malicious Acts Insurance for countries defined as high risk), and response to immediate demands (over 50 evacuations organised since 1990) were well recognized. UNSECOORD recently announced new measures on Inter-Agency Coordination, following a consultative process between agencies and approval by the ACC33 . While maintaining the authority of the Designated Official, the new measures envisage enhanced consultation and consensus building between agencies at country level.

(90) Under the guidance of its Field Staff Safety Coordinator, (formerly Chief of the Security and Safety Service at the UN in New York), UNHCR has followed a line of constructive cooperation with the UN security system. While recognising the overall responsibility of UNSECOORD for leadership in security matters, UNHCR contributes positively to interagency discussions on security and has made a number of practical contributions, notably in the field of security training (see below). While the possibility of setting up a security sub-system between the three main agencies involved in humanitarian operations (UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR) has been considered, the general conclusion was that this might have rendered the whole structure heavier without much gain. It is therefore important for UNHCR to use the leeway existing within the present system to the maximum effect, contributing to the system wherever possible, while continuing to develop its own capacity to cope with agency-specific needs.

(91) A serious concern brought to the attention of the consultants during their field visits was the general lack of awareness among UNHCR staff of the security plan prevailing in their country (or area) of assignment. Some staff members questioned cynically whether certain safety instructions were established for their protection or for their inconvenience. All too often the security plan was seen as a DO/UNSECOORD matter rather than as a collective tool of immediate relevance to agencies in which all should be actively involved on a continuing basis. While plans for closer consultation between agencies on security matters at field level may well improve matters, there is a clear need for UNHCR Representatives to raise the awareness of their staff with regard to the details of the security plan, brief them regularly on the evolving situation, and arrange for staff training on hazards specific to the duty station and the countries where they serve.

(92) Since the earlier part of the decade, UNSECOORD and its country structures are no longer alone in the UN system's response to security. In UN multi-faceted responses where political, military and humanitarian objectives are intertwined34, UN peace-keeping forces, or specialized actors such as UN Civilian Police or Military observers, have increasingly been called upon to provide security and logistical assistance to international humanitarian aid operations. This newly-emerging form of cooperation has carried its own problems. UNHCR civilian staff with a tradition of taking initiatives to address immediate needs in the field, often without consultation, have experienced a clash of mentalities in their dealings with disciplined military forces trained to follow orders and stick to the rules. Perhaps more seriously, on the overall coordination level, the roles of and terms of collaboration between peace-keeping operations and UNSECOORD remain imprecise. Nevertheless, in view of the immediate relevance of fundamental peace-keeping tasks to UNHCR operations, efforts have been made to enhance cooperation at field level. Two training documents35, both of which address the issue of staff security, were developed by UNHCR in close contact with military and civilian sources. Provided good liaison is established and maintained at all levels, and with the support of PKO management, it can be hoped that UNHCR staff will draw more from future peace-keeping operations in terms of their safety than has been the case in the past.

The UNHCR Response

(93) By 1992-93, as Regional Bureaux and Desks became aware of the emerging importance of field staff security in planning and implementing activities, a pivotal role was vested in the Field Security Unit created in 1993, and known since April 1994 as the Field Staff Safety Section (FSSS), within DHRM. The primary objective of FSSS is raising of the security and safety awareness of all UNHCR staff, and in particular those assigned to duty stations located in high risk areas. Staffed by two professionals with military background36, the FSSS started its work pragmatically, plunging directly into demanding situations, whilst pioneering and following a course of hands-on security in the field. The Field Staff Safety Coordinator and Senior Field Staff Safety Adviser have, from the outset, been security promoters and trainers, as well as firemen. While Headquarters-based, the two staff members have spent much of their time on mission to high risk areas, either for security and threat assessments, or at very short notice in response to emergency field requests. Between 1993 and 1995, some 70 missions were undertaken by FSSS staff. The first-hand knowledge gained through such missions is essential to their work in providing the High Commissioner and senior management with reliable and up-to-date information and advice on security matters and in creating security awareness throughout the Organisation. While significant progress has been made over the past four years to enhance UNHCR's capacity to protect its staff in the field thanks to the professionalism of the FSSS staff, the demands of a remorseless stream of increasingly complex security problems have limited their capacity to move ahead on a range of important developmental activities.

(i) Fielding of specialist security staff

(94) In an effort to relieve some of this pressure and to respond more effectively to security needs of the field, in recent years UNHCR has begun to deploy its own security staff (Field Staff Safety Advisers) to sensitive areas, usually on a short-term basis in the initial stages of an operation until the need is confirmed. At the time of writing, UNHCR has FSSAs based in Sarajevo, Cairo, Abidjan, Nairobi, and the Great Lakes, some with country- specific responsibilities, others covering a region or sub-region. With functions largely similar to those of the UN Field Security Officers (on-the-spot security assessments and recommendations, briefing of newly-arrived staff, training, providing advice on office and home security, and assisting in the drawing-up and review of evacuation plans) a question could be raised as to whether there is duplication of competence, effort and funds. In fact, in many instances the problem does not arise either because UNHCR is responsible for security at the UN system level (as was the case, until recently, in Eastern Zaire) or because the UN Field Security Officer is in the capital city, fully occupied managing the security plan, and unable to adequately cover inland locations where the UNHCR security officer is based. Thus, normally, the roles should be complementary, provided close liaison is maintained. It is, nevertheless, in the interests of all concerned to periodically review situations where a risk of duplication does exist so that action can be taken as required. This is particularly important in view of the recent decision requiring UN Field Security Officers to provide more direct services to individual agencies.

(95) The role of a UNHCR FSSA is not an easy one since their effectiveness is largely dependent on their ability to win the respect and trust of their colleagues. The relationship between the FSSA and the Representative is a particularly important and delicate one. Avoiding a clash between the disciplined military approach and the flexible diplomatic style, requires considerable effort on both sides, as noted earlier with regard to relations with peace-keeping forces. Good communication between the FSSA and other UNHCR staff is crucial, since physical safety is at stake. This was found to be a problematic area in a number of locations visited by the consultants and it is therefore strongly recommended that great care be taken in the selection of FSSAs, weighing technical expertise against qualities such as proven ability for teamwork, tact, common sense and self-control. Although a roster of security staff exists, it is not always easy to find the right person free at the right time, with the necessary expertise, background, and human qualities.

(96) The immediate supervision of the FSSA is another issue requiring attention. At present, supervision is in most cases delegated by the Representative to the Senior Administrative Officer, with technical supervision by the Field Staff Security Coordinator at Headquarters. In the case of technical supervision, this is exercised through briefings, communications and guidance, rather than through formal acts of authority. While this dual line of supervision works well in practice, there is a general consensus that field level reporting by the FSSA should be direct to the Representative (or Head of Sub-Office when the FSSA is based in the field). Staff security is too sensitive an issue to be subject to the risks of second-hand reporting. At the same time, to permit the Field Staff Safety Coordinator at Headquarters to provide appropriate technical support and guidance to the field, it is essential that he receive copies of all reports prepared by the FSSA to the Representative. Finally, the question of accountability of Heads of Office and FSSAs for their security-related activities must be examined within the framework of the accountability approach advocated by Project Delphi.

(97) The deployment of FSSAs has, to some extent, enhanced UNHCR's capacity to protect its staff in high-risk field areas, yet problems remain in terms of getting the right person into the right post and ensuring that communications function as they should. While continuing monitoring by FSSS would be required to ensure the maintenance of standards, with more careful selection, comprehensive training, improved reporting lines and accountability, as well as more effective collaboration with the UN Field Security Officers, field security staff would be able to take over a number of additional tasks, currently performed by FSSS staff at Headquarters. In addition to their current duties, FSSAs would be in a position to undertake security assessment missions, provide emergency response, and, most importantly, training, including train the trainers.

(98) This, in turn, would permit the FSSS staff to place a greater focus on the crucial developmental aspects of their work: the selection, training and supervision of field security staff; the reinforcement of general staff security training and related initiatives, and ongoing security promotion and good practice efforts including introduction of regular security debriefings. These tasks would be in addition to a wide range of other demanding activities: providing a referral point for the field on security matters on a 24 hour basis; lending full support (including missions where necessary) to the Field in case of crisis; liaison at Headquarters with Senior Management and the Operations and Support Services; and dealing with UNSECOORD and the UN agencies at their respective Headquarters' levels. To permit FSSS to successfully accomplish these tasks it is strongly recommended that a third professional post be reinstated in FSSS for an initial period of two years (1997-1998).

(99) A number of additional issues which currently limit the impact of FSSS should also be addressed. Procedures for follow-up on the recommendations made by FSSS following their field missions, whether on crisis or non-crisis situations, needs to be clarified. In view of FSSS's direct reporting line to the Director of DHRM, greater efforts are needed to ensure direct contact and consultation between FSSS and the Director of Operations/Desk both before and after missions. Clear responsibility for follow-up on security recommendations should logically be assigned to the Desk in close cooperation with the Representative in the field. Raising the security awareness of Directors of Operations and Desks is a crucial and urgent task to ensure that these key decision-makers recognise security as an immediate component of emergency, medium and longer-term programmes. As noted in discussions regarding the UN common system, security must be built in from the outset and appropriate resources committed as a cost of doing business.

(ii) Induction

(100) As part of its major effort to prepare UNHCR staff to deal appropriately with security risks which might be faced during field service, FSSS has developed a range of interventions. A three hour Security Induction Briefing, organised in collaboration with the Staff Development Section (SDS), now forms part of the broader five-day induction briefing for new staff passing through Headquarters before assignment to the field37. The briefing contains a review of security situations and incidents to which staff may be exposed, a specific review of personal and residential security, land mines, the UN security system, and allows time for discussion. The presentations are supported by short video films, produced by UNHCR and by ICRC, as well as written materials developed jointly by FSSS and SDS. The objective, thus, is to sensitise new staff members to the hazards they may encounter and to the importance of personal alertness and attitude.

(101) While staff interviewed by the consultants during their field visits indicated general satisfaction with the contents of the security briefing, the majority felt that its benefits were undermined by presentation within a series of compartmentalised topics (assistance, protection, etc.) during the course of the induction week, with apparently little effort being made to explain how the various elements fit together. As a result, many newly-recruited staff leave Headquarters with fragmentary information on the situation awaiting them, unaware of the security risks specifically attached to their new functions. As a solution, and to avoid unnecessary stress on arrival in the field, many staff recommended that UNHCR should approach induction more in terms of pre-departure preparation38, to be linked to further briefings to be conducted following arrival. While security induction for new staff can and should be improved, it should be noted that regular UNHCR staff members being re-assigned to difficult and high-risk duty stations do not currently benefit from systematic security (or stress) briefing pre-departure although efforts are being made wherever possible to address this serious gap.

(iii) Security Training

(102) Perhaps one of the most important contributions made so far by UNHCR to UN system-wide efforts to address the issue of staff security has been in the field of training. A Personal Security Awareness training programme, consisting of nine modules39 has been developed by UNHCR, in an effort to convince participants of the very real risks they may run, and that they can, and should act to reduce these risks.... In addition to teaching about specific techniques and skills, the underlying objective of the training course is to encourage staff to develop the right frame of mind for dealing with security risks. The training prepares field staff to identify potentially dangerous situations, evaluate risk levels, and understand how to protect themselves and others from danger. Since 1994, FSSS, in collaboration with FSSAs, has organised a number of five-day staff safety awareness courses in the field, generally two or three times a year. Trainers adapt the materials to their experience and skills, and the environment in which the course is held, selecting from the nine as required. The course, which is also sponsored by UNSECOORD, attracts a diversified audience: UNHCR, government officials, UN agencies and NGOs, generally coming from a region or sub-region.

(103) Unfortunately the number of UNHCR beneficiaries of the nine-module training programme is very small, with less than forty staff members undergoing the training in 1995. In view of the fact that more than half of UNHCR's 5,500 staff are working in security risk areas, it is vital that steps be taken to achieve greater coverage of this potentially life-saving training by focusing on the training of trainers, in particular the FSSAs. Building this capacity will require an additional training effort from FSSS staff as well as their involvement in monitoring the results so that appropriate corrective action can be taken as required. There are very clear advantages in conducting security training at field level and involving key members of the UNHCR team as well as their governmental and non-governmental partners. It is recommended that security training efforts at Headquarters should be reserved for newly-recruited FSSAs and for representatives or team leaders being assigned for the first time to a security-risk area. This would permit senior staff to reach the field better prepared for security, thereby relieving them from some of the stress they might face upon arrival at the duty station. In the long term, however, consideration should be given to setting up a two- tiered approach to security training, as is current ICRC practice, with basic security training organised at Headquarters before departure and the necessary complement, adapted to the specific local situation, to be provided at a later stage in the field.

(104) The UN system has been moving towards a unified inter-agency approach to security training, to ensure universal understanding of security instructions, to avoid duplication of effort, and to use limited financial resources more effectively. Three levels of training exist: personal security awareness for all field staff, which has been developed and is run by UNHCR as detailed above; security management for those having functional management responsibilities, and finally specific training for security specialists. The two latter forms of training have been developed by UNSECOORD and are generally run in conjunction with the United Nations Training Service.

(iv) Security Equipment

(105) In addition to comprehensive training, staff security can be greatly enhanced by ensuring that staff receive the appropriate protective and communications equipment in a timely manner. Staff who worked in the former Yugoslavia in the early stages of the war have not forgotten the serious delays which occurred in 1992 in the delivery of vital equipment ranging from flak jackets to armoured vehicles. Now that the need for security equipment has unfortunately become commonplace in UNHCR operations, procurement procedures are reasonably well established. However, efforts to improve the overall management of the supplies and logistics function within UNHCR will need to incorporate a number of measures to ensure readiness to respond to security emergencies. These include the quick redeployment of equipment surpluses, regular maintenance of specialized equipment and implementation of emergency Contracts Committee procedures when required. Considerable advances have been made over recent years to improve UNHCR's telecommunications capacity, an essential component to staff security in the field. A telecommunications equipment stockpile is maintained at Headquarters, while a network of Regional Telecommunications Officers and Regional Technicians provide the basis for establishing systems at short notice. Thus, in case of crisis, subject to the unforeseen and the necessary staff and technical reinforcement in a given situation, Telecommunications Unit has the capacity to contribute to field staff security at short notice40.

Security of UNHCR's National Staff

(106) Local, or national staff are the backbone of UNHCR's field operations. They often work on the front line, close to danger, and keep the office running in case of evacuation of international staff. As nationals of their own countries, they have, in recent years, increasingly faced specific dangers in case of communal tension or open conflict, sometimes as a direct result of their association with the UN in general or with UNHCR in particular. Despite the growing risks facing their local staff, however, the UN agencies have yet to reach a consensus on how best to protect them. While substantial progress has, as noted earlier, been made on the broader issues of staff security, protection of local staff has never been addressed systematically. In the absence of a more immediate solution to the problem, UNSECOORD has recently agreed to develop a list of Abest practices within the system, and to keep the matter under review. It would therefore seem unlikely that the problem will be resolved in the immediate future.

(107) The main source of contention revolves around the issue of evacuation. During security phases I and II the same procedures apply to internationally and locally-recruited staff whereas in the top three security phases (III, IV, V) differences in treatment are established. Under normal circumstances locally-recruited staff and their families are not eligible for evacuation other than ... in the most exceptional cases in which their security is endangered, or their property is lost or damaged, as a direct consequence of their employment (by the UN).... Such a decision can only be made by the Secretary-General, upon the recommendation of the Designated Official and UNSECOORD. Evacuation may also take place if a staff member, or eligible family member, is threatened because of his/her nationality, ethnic origin or religion, regardless of whether the staff member is internationally or locally-recruited. What makes the issue particularly difficult to deal with is the fact that so much discretionary responsibility is placed on the Head of Office to determine what measures should be proposed to the Designated Official. Nevertheless, in the course of a crisis, other options may be considered for local staff, such as special leave with pay, or relocation to a safer area within the country.

(108) Apart from expressing concern over seemingly discriminatory practices, the major complaint of local staff interviewed by the consultants in a number of duty stations was that they were not systematically included in other organisational efforts to enhance security, notably training, contingency planning and regular briefing on an evolving situation. In addition, many national staff regretted that their views were not sought in efforts to analyse political developments in their own countries.

(109) While a major breakthrough by UNSECOORD on the security of local staff seems unlikely in the immediate future, the existing parameters do, in fact, offer Representatives considerable flexibility in addressing the problem in a humane manner if used imaginatively. The notion of most exceptional cases for evacuation, for example, can be (and has been) applied with considerable flexibility while some UNHCR locally recruited staff members, under permanent security threat, have been relocated by UNHCR with their families from one city to another, with a job opportunity in the Organization at their new place of residence. In some threatening situations, sending locally-recruited staff members on mission outside the country pending further measures, may prove appropriate. A number of more routine preventive steps can be taken in consultation with the Designated Official to enhance the security of local staff. Accurate records of national staff and their dependants should be systematically maintained, while locally-recruited staff should be involved in all discussions and planning affecting their security and given access to security training. As a final note, international staff members should be aware that any inappropriate behaviour by them in their dealings with the local police and military authorities can negatively affect local staff and should therefore be avoided.

Staff Security in Other Organisations

(110) Despite the distinct operational mandate of ICRC, in reviewing the issue of staff security in UNHCR it is interesting to assess how this important issue has been dealt with in an international organisation whose staff are often even more exposed to security risks than those in UNHCR. The ICRC security system is decentralised with security decisions resting with the Heads of Delegations in the field, with the exception of evacuation and the use of armed escorts. Though 80% of ICRC's duty stations are located in conflict areas, they rarely make use of specialised security staff in the field, although an advisory Security Delegate is attached to the Director of Operations at ICRC Headquarters. Consequently the Heads of Delegations have the primary responsibility for the establishment of security rules based on the specific demands of their area. There are no security phases as in the UN system: situations are viewed more or less as normal, tense, and impossible. Evacuation plans are exceptional, only brief and precise directives are prepared.

(111) Staff joining the ICRC are fully aware from the outset that they will be facing danger but they are invariably strongly motivated. As the Security Delegate put it, motivation is the central engine of ICRC. Staff are carefully selected according to certain personal qualities such as adaptability, tact, a sense of discipline, self-control, capacity for teamwork and good human relations. Moral qualities are also looked for in new delegates, including humanitarian motivation, dedication, good judgement, common sense, stability, honesty, discretion, tolerance, perseverance. Once having passed through this rigorous selection process, new recruits are given a 2-3 week basic training course which included two days devoted to security issues and including role play, videos and simulation exercises. Complementary training and refresher courses and seminars are provided as required. Assignments to the field are basically for two years although for newcomers, and staff assigned to Atense situations, this is reduced to one year or even six months. On average, staff spend 3 to 5 years with the Organization. The ICRC takes a generally conservative position with regard to evacuation of its locally-recruited staff, a position which is clearly spelt out to the staff concerned from the moment of recruitment. Nevertheless, exceptions can, and have been made and while the ICRC does not organise evacuation for local staff it does help in practice where possible.

Security of UNHCR's implementing partner staff

(112) The issue of the security of implementing partner staff has been a matter of debate on a number of levels. The UN Field Security Handbook contains a provision for assistance to persons other than personnel of the Organization, their spouses and dependents, including non-nationals of the host country working in cooperation with the organizations under such arrangements as service with non-governmental or other voluntary organizations.... UNHCR currently provides assistance to its implementing partners in the form of training, daily security within the framework of the Security Plan, and emergency security including the evacuation of international staff, as was recently the case in Eastern Zaire. A recent UNSECOORD Security Directive, however, leaves with UNSECOORD the decision as to whether implementing partners, who must so request, should be included. The directive also regulates the conditions of such inclusion, among which is the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Designated Official and the partner, with the necessary waivers of responsibility from the UN Organizations, and cost-sharing arrangements.

(113) According to the UNSECOORD Directive, the MOU would also oblige implementing partners to follow precisely the instructions of the Designated Official, report on staff movements at all times as well as reporting all security incidents. While such measures are clearly an essential part of security provision, tensions often exist between an NGO's desire to retain its independence, and the genuine need for UN(HCR) protection when a situation deteriorates. This problem needs further attention by UNHCR Representatives whose efforts to establishing good relations of trust with implementing partners will go a long way towards ensuring the security of all humanitarian staff in the field.

The Response: action is called for at many levels

(114) Within the wide range of actual or potential dangers, no two situations are alike, and there are no universally applicable formulae for safety. Establishing procedures, training staff and offering technical expertise are the key features of the UN common-system response to such uncertainty. The system thereby endeavours to put in place a basic capacity of preparedness and response, which is constantly updated and refined, to face familiar as well as newly emerging scenarios as effectively as possible. In any specific situation a number of different actors may enter into play - UNHCR, the UN system (including peace-keeping forces), Governments, local authorities, parties in conflict, and others such as the NATO Implementation Force in Bosnia. Action must be well coordinated at all levels, from the overall policy and political level in the appropriate fora, to the individual staff protection and security awareness-building on the spot.

(115) For UNHCR, the organisational objective can be seen as raising the security of its staff to the maximum possible level, while reducing security-related stress to the desirable minimum, at the most reasonable cost to the Organisation. To achieve this, as in so many fields, people play a crucial role. Procedures are of limited use or of no use at all without the right people with good judgement to make them work. This places a considerable burden on managers in the field, in the midst of multiple demanding and urgent tasks. While senior managers in the field are ultimately responsible for staff safety (in consultation with the various other players involved both inside and outside UNHCR), it is vital that the managers themselves, as well as specialised security staff and the staff at large, all feel accountable for the measures they take to protect themselves and others.

(116) In highly tense or open conflict situations, a fundamental decision will determine whether or not staff will be placed in jeopardy. Does UNHCR enter a new situation despite known security risks? Does UNHCR pull out from a deteriorating situation? In case of pull-out, is it partial, total, temporary or durable? The multiplicity of considerations elude a fixed set of criteria, and UNHCR is normally not alone in its decision, but moving with other UN system's actors, within parameters established by the UN. Nevertheless, while at the outset of the UNHCR operation in the former Yugoslavia a primary criterion for withdrawal was the targeting of staff, this was ignored at a later stage. To the staff involved at the time, this change appeared to have taken place by default as the situation developed, rather than as the result of a specific determination having been made at any stage. Whether or not this was the case, as repeated frequently to the consultants by the front-line staff concerned, as actors on the spot they believe they are entitled to know more.

(117) Once staff are working in high risk areas, preoccupation for their security must be promoted with Governments, and in higher UN circles. Creation of awareness and calls for support are made by the High Commissioner to Governments, the UN Secretary-General, the Executive Committee. Although the immediate impact of such efforts cannot always be felt, the awareness thus created may pave the way for concrete beneficial measures. For example, in October 1995, a UNHCR initiative led to the unanimous adoption of a statement by the ACC (Administrative Committee on Coordination)41 on The Security and Safety of United Nations staff and Associated Personnel. One of the final paragraphs of the ACC declaration reads as follows:

The ACC, while deeply concerned by the financial crisis affecting the United Nations, insists that projects relating to the safety and security of staff be excluded from any budgetary restrictions resulting from the crisis.

This policy statement may turn out to be highly valuable in practical terms. From the budgetary angle, security should not have to compete with programme activities. The idea that each UN agency should establish a dedicated account code for security expenditures is now gaining ground. This would greatly facilitate the approach to governing bodies and donors to ensure that adequate means are available to provide for staff security42. As some UNHCR field staff interviewed by the consultants rightly emphasised, security costs money, but people are the Organisation's most valuable asset. It is encouraging to note that ACC now has field staff security as a standing point on its agenda.

(118) In the same vein, worthy of note are UNHCR's and other agencies efforts - unfortunately so far unsuccessful - to widen the application and scope of the Convention on the Safety and Security of United Nations and Associated Personnel (New York 1995) which is currently limited primarily to Security Council mandated peace-keeping operations alone. UNHCR has also provided input, with more successful results as regards humanitarian missions, in the Review Conference of the States parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the use of certain Conventional Weapons.(Geneva 1996). Of much relevance also are more tangible efforts to enhance staff security, achieved through complex and high level negotiations and requiring a great deal of effort and innovative thinking. The Zairian Army Contingent, established to protect refugees in Kivu - a creative and complex formula not without its own problems - also had the task of protecting humanitarian workers, and was found to have done so concretely on a number of specific occasions, particularly during the events leading up to the evacuation of international staff from Eastern Zaire in late 1996. As in so many domains, imagination and ice-breaking are vital elements for improving field staff security.

(119) Unfortunately, the consultants found that field staff are not sufficiently informed of the above concerns and endeavours. The distance seems unduly great between institutional level approaches by UNHCR, and the staff on the ground. More communication on these matters and their practical implications and results would greatly enhance field staff confidence in UNHCR's determination to ensure their security, as well as raising morale.

Towards a policy on field staff security

(120) As UNHCR moves ahead in its implementation of the Delphi Plan of Action, increased emphasis will be placed on the formulation of organisational policy43. With field staff security ranking high among the preoccupations of the UN system as a whole, and with staff in the field voicing unanimously their desire for a more comprehensive and coherent organisational approach to this critical area, it appears time for UNHCR to frame its present thinking and practice into an overall strategic policy on security, reflecting institutional coherence and ensuring accountability. The objective should be to move field staff security more to the forefront of UNHCR's agenda, to make security a major policy concern, in the full understanding that there are limits to emphasise, lest security should become a UNHCR-induced psychosis for the staff. Here, as in other domains, judgement must provide the right point of balance. In order to help UNHCR to launch the process of elaboration of a policy on staff security, in the context of broader initiatives discussed in the Overview, a preliminary outline of possible policy objectives and activities prepared by one of the consultants, is presented below.



Security cannot be addressed in isolation of other UNHCR concerns. Thus, the proposals made below have been developed in the light of the recommendations of the Delphi exercise.


To raise staff security to the maximum possible level, while reducing security-related stress to the desirable minimum, at the most reasonable cost to the organisation.


(a) Organisational Awareness

(i) To promote security as one of the Organisation's highest priority concerns

  • promote the concept that adequate staff security, in addition to the benefits it brings to the Organisation and those populations under its concern, is an indispensable component of services to refugees
  • recognise staff security risk as a serious constraint for UNHCR in meeting its operational objectives
  • recognise staff security as an important aspect of the management of all human and financial resources allocated to an operation
  • maintain the question of acceptable thresholds of danger constantly under review in the context of all relevant parameters for entry into or withdrawal from an operation.

(ii) To enhance field staff confidence in UNHCR's determination to ensure their security

  • inform the staff systematically of the High Commissioner's approaches on staff security matters to the Secretary-General, the ACC, the Executive Committee, Governments and other bodies
  • provide a comprehensive hearing at Headquarters to staff at the end of assignment to a high risk area
  • -encourage field input into security policy.

(iii) To establish ethical principles towards colleagues in security hazard duty stations

  • ensure that staff going to high risk assignments are fully briefed and provided with the security training required prior to departure to permit them to cope with the challenges they are likely to encounter
  • ensure ongoing dialogue and consultation with staff in the field on questions of staff security
  • provide a prompt and humane institutional response in the case of casualties in the Organisation

(b) Management

(i) To apply principles of rationalisation and decentralisation to field staff security

  • keep the need for UNHCR Field Staff Safety Advisors under review at the various duty stations in the light of evolving security situations
  • where the security situation requires, deploy experienced Senior Field Staff Safety Advisors close to the point of delivery of an operation, reporting to the Directors of Operations, and taking responsibility for some of the activities currently performed by FSSS (including training and emergency response)
  • with increased decentralisation of basic security activities, FSSS to place increased focus on promotional work and debriefing of staff leaving high-risk duty stations.

(ii) To promote full awareness of the critical linkages between security, management, leadership and team work

  • make responsibility for staff security an integral part of management functions
  • introduce systematically a security component into staff development courses for managers and team leaders, emphasising the effects on awareness, monitoring and stress management
  • recognise that investment in team leadership and team work is fundamental and one of the most cost-effective measures to enhance staff security (as well as reducing staff stress)
  • in view of the above, attach particular emphasis to proven leadership and team-building qualities in selecting heads of operations as well as team leaders for staff based in high-risk duty stations
  • ensure, to the extent possible, compatibility between staff working together in teams in high security risk locations

(iii) To optimise links between the basic units involved (FSSS, Directors of Operations and Desks, DIP, DOS, Telecommunications Unit)

  • as concrete programmes are prepared and implemented, structurally link security to operations.

(c) The Staff

(i) To prepare all staff concerned to operate safely in a risk-prone environment

  • send staff prepared physically and mentally to security risk duty stations and shorten length of assignment where required in particularly tense or dangerous locations
  • give enhanced priority to briefing, training and general preparedness at all levels of the organisation to assist staff in developing appropriate coping skills
  • in the particular case of security training, ensure provision of required time and resources and place increased emphasis on training trainers (for UNHCR and its partners).

(ii) To ensure the highest level of competence in those responsible for security at field level and their recognition by country-based staff

  • exercise great care in the selection, training and monitoring of performance of Field Staff Safety Advisors and in estimating the value of UN system officials responsible for security.

(iii) To raise the profile of security for local/national staff and keep specific security measures for them under constant review

  • promote recognition that local/national staff often face particular security risks and concerns and ensure that these are given the attention required to permit the development of appropriate procedures and measures to enhance the protection of these staff and their dependents
  • establish and follow best possible practices including Ain country relocation; in exceptional cases where local/national staff face serious risk as a result of their employment by UNHCR, make recommendation to UNSECOORD for evacuation
  • involve local/national staff in discussions on security measures affecting them
  • inform local/national staff, preferably at time of recruitment, of the extent of and limitations to assistance to be provided in case of major security problems.

(iv) To keep specific security measures for women staff under review

  • in consultation with female staff based in high risk operations, identify specific areas of concern with regard to security and develop appropriate measures to address them wherever possible
  • keep the document Security Guidelines for Women under review.

(v) To establish clear accountability of managers and field staff safety advisors for staff security

  • establish clear reporting lines on and accountability for security, with representatives and directors of operations having ultimate decision-making responsibility at field level on the basis of advice provided by their field staff safety advisors
  • monitor closely efficiency and effectiveness of performance on the basis of judgement of supervisors, and of any indicators which may be developed.

(vi) To promote awareness of each staff member's responsibility for his/her personal security44

  • develop staff awareness of (a) their responsibility for complying with security guidance, (b) the dangers of not being in full control of one's security, 8 the extent to which their security awareness will help them in their task, and (d) the fact that personal security measures are sometimes the only protection available.

(d) The Partners

(i) To maximise the benefits of cooperation with the UN system (UNSECOORD, Peace-keeping forces, UN agencies and Programmes)

(ii) To continue to review and refine the system of protection afforded by UNHCR to its operational partners

(iii) To ensure that UNHCR's role and mandate are clearly explained to its government partners and other authorities, civilian or military.

1 Furthermore, in situations like Rwanda where humanitarian workers remain after the military have withdrawn, they are left without the basic support structures considered imperative by armed and peace-keeping forces alike. Two tragic cases illustrate the gravity of the current situation in Rwanda since the withdrawal of an entire medical infrastructure set up by various foreign military forces and to which humanitarian workers formerly had access (including field hospitals equipped to deal with traumatic injury, field ambulances, evacuation facilities, etc.). A survivor of the recent massacre of three Spanish NGO workers was obliged to undergo amputation of his injured leg due to inadequate medical facilities while a UN staff member, seriously injured in a road accident, died after waiting six hours for an ambulance to reach him.

2 See chapter The Voice from the Field.

3 This is recommended in light of recent events in Eastern Zaire. It should be noted that field work for this evaluation took place prior to the deterioration of the situation in Kivu in late 1996 and therefore the acute problems of national staff in that area are not reflected in the body of this report.

4 A/C.5/49/56

5 Approche pour La Gestion du Stress dans une Organisation Internationale, Dr M. Baduraux, Medical Service, 1995; Proposals for a Stress Management Strategy at UNHCR and Proposals for a Stress Management Strategy - Progress Report, Ms D. Skretvedt, Senior Social Welfare Officer, April 1995 and April 1996.

6 This important response, designed to alleviate the immediate effects of exposure to extremely stressful and traumatic experiences and to reduce the risk of longer-term mental health problems, requires two-person teams to be effective.

7 See Recommendations Générales in Rapport de Mission vers Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan du 10-29 octobre 1996 by Dr M Baduraux and Ms S. O'Donovan Rogerson of the Medical Service (pp.30-34).

8 This unpublished survey, conducted in late 1994 by the Working Group on Hardship and Security established by the former Staff Council, was responded to by almost 300 staff members working in difficult duty stations in 40 different countries. The Consultants wish to express their thanks to members of the former Working Group for agreeing to the use of figures drawn from this survey in the current report.

9 Referring to the combined office and residence at one duty station an international staff member remarked: We work in the bedroom and sleep in the office. Inevitably such arrangements can lead to serious interpersonal tensions.

10 Attention to planning, team building and support can make a major difference as noted by some staff members: ... the management of the physical arrangements by the Emergency Response Team really helped.

11 It is worthy of note that in October 1996 the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) approved a recommendation giving spouses of UN staff members the option to remain on a voluntary basis at a duty station which is in Security Phase Three.

12 While the number of suicides is small, medical opinion indicated that post-traumatic and other work-related stress was a factor in some cases.

13 ie. transitional measures to support a staff member who is leaving the organisation including counselling as well as training and preparation for further employment.

14 This includes inadequate medical examinations reported by staff members assigned to posts without passing through Headquarters.

15 The apparent unfairness of the rotation system, which permits some staff members to pass their entire careers between Headquarters and A duty stations reportedly adds greatly to the frustration of staff in difficult duty stations.

16 High Commissioner's Statement to the 43rd Session of the Executive Committee.

17 Coping with Stress in Crisis Situations (OMS 3, Geneva July 1992), Guidelines on Security (PER 2, 2nd edition Geneva December 1992) and Guidelines on Security Incidents - Sample Indicators and Scenarios (OMS 2, 2nd edition Geneva December 1992).

18 IOM/101/94 - FOM/105/94 issued on 1 November 1994 (in French and English).

19 A valid basis for comparison is provided by the UNICEF Counsellor based in Nairobi who is responsible for providing counselling services alone for 500 UNICEF staff based in the Great Lakes Region.

20 Stress Management, Note by the Secretary-General to the Forty-ninth session of the Fifth Committee, A/C.5/49/56 dated 16 February 1995.

21 The CISD training, conducted in February 1995, was organised jointly with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Since 1994, staff at the Medical Service and the SSWO have had extensive training on a wide number of issues related to staff stress, including participation in a number of seminars and international conferences on post-traumatic stress.

22 The SSWO conducted extensive stress debriefings in Nairobi in October 1996 following evacuation of international staff from Eastern Zaire.

23 On an exceptional basis, counselling or CISD services have been provided to UNHCR staff by the UNICEF Regional Staff Counsellor in Nairobi. Potential for further cooperation is limited, however, not only by the heavy workload of the counsellor but also by the lack of French language skills of the incumbent.

24 A strict gender balance has been maintained by ICRC even in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan - on threat of withdrawal - as noted in the recent report of the Medical Service Mission vers Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, du 10 au 29 Octobre 1996, by Dr M. Baduraux and Ms S. O'Donovan Rogerson.

25 As noted in the above-mentioned Medical Service mission report., ICRC assignments to Afghanistan are strictly limited to one year.

26 Stress management. Note by the Secretary-General to the Forty-ninth session of the Fifth Committee, A/C.5/49/56 dated 16 February 1995.

27 The first UNHCR victim of a war-like situation was François Preziosi, who was killed in Bukavu, Zaire, in August 1964.

28 See Map of UNHCR's Theatre of Operations 1996 and Table indicating Distribution of Posts by Classification of Duty Station.

29 Total posts have increased from 2,358 in July 1990 to 5,506 in July 1996.

30 Furthermore, humanitarian staff are taking such risks without benefiting from many of the stress reduction measures adopted by modern armies. For example, the Belgian army limits field assignments to four months with at least eight months delay before further assignment. Prior to departure, units are trained together for several months and go through highly-charged simulation exercises. A medical cell including psychologists maintains liaison with families remaining in-country. Telephone facilities are provided to soldiers during assignments. In the field, prime responsibility for stress management lies with highly trained military officers.

31 The impact on mental health of recurrent exposure to danger is discussed in the chapter on Staff Stress.

32 Phase One - Precautionary; Phase Two - Restricted Movement; Phase Three - Relocation (inside the country, or outside the country for dependents of international staff and/or of non-essential international staff); Phase Four - Programme Suspension; Phase Five - Evacuation (of all remaining international staff members).

33 Memorandum dated 8 November 1996 on Inter-Agency Coordination from the UN Security Coordinator to All Designated Officials.

34 e.g. Cambodia, Northern Iraq, Somalia, former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

35 A UNHCR Handbook for the Military on Humanitarian Operations and Working with the Military, a training module for UNHCR staff. Both issued in January 1995.

36 A third professional post in FSSS was transferred to the field in 1995.

37 In the past three years, this has included primarily staff on short-term (300 series) contracts and JPOs, the large majority of whom have undergone the induction course. Staff recruited on 100 or 200 series contracts, on the other hand, while few in number, have not systematically benefited from it.

38 It is worthy of note that ICRC devotes 2-3 weeks to providing briefings and training for new recruits prior to their deployment to the field.

39 (1) Risk awareness, (2) UN security arrangements, (3) first aid, (4) travelling, (5) security and the workplace, (6) crowds and security, (7) explosives and firearms, (8) communications and reporting and (9) security planning exercise.

40 To ensure that all staff can use the equipment, the Telecommunications Unit has prepared, and distributed widely, a practical pocket-book, UNHCR Procedure for Radio Communication.

41 The ACC is the primary coordinating body of the UN system, made up of the Heads of United Nations programmes and agencies, and chaired by the Secretary-General.

42 At present it is extremely difficult to calculate total UNHCR expenditure on security since the various costs involved are widely scattered under a variety of items and through a large number of different programmes. Only three figures could be isolated with respect to security expenditure in 1996: approximately US$1.75 million were spent on full-time security staff at Headquarters and in the field; US$ 136,000 on training and US$ 60,000 as UNHCR's contribution to UNSECOORD.

43 See Chapter 3, Project Delphi Plan of Action.

44 This issue is discussed in the Stress Management induction course for new staff prepared by the Senior Staff Welfare Office