In an environment of increased exposure, deterioration in the rules of war and loss of perceived neutrality, the community of NGOs operating in complex emergencies is facing significantly increased risks to staff safety and security.
NGOs have become increasingly involved in political emergencies and war—the dominant feature of which is violent conflict. International NGOs and their donors have consistently prioritized work in conflict areas. Previously, most NGOs operated on the fringes of conflict leaving the ICRC to lead humanitarian operations in the heat of conflict. More recently however, as most conflicts have become de-linked from super-power rivalries, war zones have opened up to all manner of international humanitarian intervention. International and local NGOs have been a major part of such interventions—often as the organization of choice for western donors.
An NGO's exposure to security threats is directly related to its mandate and mission, mandate being the overall purpose of the organisation and mission its reason for operating in a particular situation. For example, an organisation whose mandate involves evangelism will obviously be at higher risk in some environments than a secular organisation. Similarly, human rights and 'solidarity' organisations may be at higher risk than service-providing organisations. An organisation whose mission in a given country is life-saving medical services must be prepared to withstand higher levels of risk than an organisation involved in economic development. It is important for NGO leadership to weigh their mandate and local mission as it relates to the local environment.
The UN Safety Convention contains a fairly broad definition of crimes covered by the Convention. Crimes addressed include intentional commission of murder, kidnapping or other attack against covered personnel, as well as violent attacks on premise, accommodations and means of transportation, threats to commit such acts, attempts, and participation. States are committed to criminalize such acts under their national laws. A state party must take measures to establish its jurisdiction over the crimes when the crime is committed in its territory, ships or aircraft, when the offender is a national, or when the crime is committed against a national of the state. Most important, a state must establish its jurisdiction when the alleged offender is present in its territory if it does not extradite him to another state party having jurisdiction.