INSSA Security Risk Management Competency Framework Launched

Published: December 13, 2017 | By Lisa Reilly

Today, the International NGO Safety and Security Association (INSSA) launched the first in a series of competency based qualifications for security risk management professionals working in the humanitarian and development sector. The independent, online exam for staff at a country level with security responsibilities, enables individuals to demonstrate their competencies and organisations to recruit and develop staff with the right skillset.

INSSA was formed after a multi-disciplinary group of individuals working on humanitarian security risk management discussed the problem of finding security professionals who understand both security risk management as well as the humanitarian and development sectors. INSSA understands that effective security risk management enables programmes to run safely rather than eliminating every conceivable risk to keep staff safe at all costs. This approach to security risk management seeks to empower field workers not inhibit their ability to actually undertake their work.

So, the idea of the competency based framework for humanitarian security professionals was born. Since then many professionals from around the globe contributed to the development of the INSSA competency framework. Humanitarian, development and security experts from NGOs, governments, academia and the private sector have all worked together to make sure the competencies identified are reflective of the realities humanitarian staff face in the ever-changing environments they work in.

While as a sector we recognise that there will always be risk, we must do our utmost to ensure these risks are effectively managed and mitigated without becoming risk-averse and unable to reach the most vulnerable people. Ex-military security professionals and seasoned aid workers do not make easy bedfellows, so security management and humanitarian principles are often perceived as incompatible. This is where the professionalization of humanitarian security risk management can really make a difference. The INSSA competency framework is designed for anybody who is interested in a career in humanitarian security risk management; individuals with a traditional security background who wish to move to the humanitarian sector; humanitarian professionals who want to become effective security risk managers and anyone else looking for a new and exciting challenge.

The ‘Country level’ is the first in four stages of professional development reflected in the INSSA Security Risk Management Competency Framework. This initial stage will be followed by ‘Regional’, ‘Global’ and ‘Executive’ levels. Each level will require candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through a mix of online exams, continuous learning and interviews. At this time, the ‘Regional level’ competency exam is expected to be launched in the spring of 2018 and will be subsequently be followed by the release of the ‘Global’ and ‘Strategic’ levels.

The competencies cover, for example:

  • Risk assessment: communication, consultation and establishing the context
  • Principles, policies and protocols: accountability, responsibility, compliance, performance and effectiveness
  • Information management: information collection, monitoring and sharing, ensuring information feeds into analysis and decision making
  • Leadership, management and implementation: resource management, diversity and inclusion and change management
  • Critical incident response: preparation, response and review

The full competency outline can be found on the INSSA website.

These competency areas form the basis for all professional development levels, each level requiring a greater depth of understanding, starting from a knowledge of what exists and how it should be used to support access and programme implementation, through the development of strategic systems to form the foundation of good practice reflecting an organisation’s mission and mandate.

Each competency area covers a broad spectrum of the issues that humanitarian security risk management professionals need to know to be effective and appropriate for the NGO sector – the competencies are so much more than those often perceived as the primary requirements for a security officer, i.e. compound security and asset tracking.

The INSSA competency framework is also designed with a national staff perspective in mind. The sector is relying increasingly on national staff and local partners to be able to access and implement life-saving responses and development projects for their communities. The common assumption that national staff are less vulnerable to risks is belied by the statistics that show most serious injuries, deaths and abductions affect national staff. The INSSA online platform is accessible anywhere where internet is available and encourages national staff to develop their competencies in humanitarian security risk management to support their colleagues as well as for their own professional development.

This competency based framework is a key step on the journey of our sector towards more effective professionalisation and will hopefully serve to develop the NGO security risk managers of the future.

Aid organisations seeking further information about the INSSA competency framework should visit the INSSA website or contact