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Dennis v. NRC: Duty of Care in plain English

International humanitarian deployments are an essential way to help those most in need. But humanitarians who embark on these missions do face certain risks. That’s because they deploy to places that experience conflict, natural disaster, or other issues. We have elaborated before about the Duty of Care and gave you some need-to-know tips. To understand Duty of Care well, it is helpful to understand where it comes from. Therefore, it is necessary to study some sources such as this article about duty of care in plain English. As this takes time, we thought we would discuss the case Dennis v. NRC here in plain English.

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For this reason, Duty of Care is one of the cornerstones of international humanitarian travel. However, there are two different aspects of Duty of Care—moral and legal. Here, we want to discuss the origins of the legal side of Duty of Care. It begins with the Dennis v. NRC legal case with was decided in 2012.

Summary of the Dennis v. NRC case

Steven Dennis was a Norwegian Red Cross (NRC) employee deployed on a VIP visit to the IFO II Refugee Camp in Dadaab Kenya on June 29, 2012. Rebel forces kidnapped and injured Dennis along with three other colleagues during the mission. Thanks to an armed rescue intervention, they were released four days later.

Upon his return, Dennis sued the NRC for economic and non-economic loss. He argued that the NRC acted with negligence, and did not take all steps necessary to mitigate the risk of his kidnapping. The court ruled in his favor finding that the NRC did not meet “due care standards” and exhibited gross negligence.

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Why is this a landmark ruling?

The Dennis v. NRC ruling was a landmark for the international humanitarian sector. The court proceedings and the ruling took place in Norway and not in international courts. However, it has broad implications for other organizations in all sectors around the world.

From the date of the ruling, Duty of Care is no longer just a moral obligation of an organization. Rather, it’s a legal responsibility. In this particular case, the court assessed three essential risk assessment areas. These include the foreseeability of the risk of injury, reasonable and necessary measures to control the risk of injury, and the causation of loss.

As such, during international deployments, it is the legal responsibility of organizations to mitigate foreseeable risks. They must also take all the necessary measures to prevent risks and provide security while in the field.

Explaining Duty of Care in plain English

Despite the ruling, the two types of Duty of Care persist—legal and moral. It is only natural that an organization that deploys someone to an area of conflict or natural disaster must take care of that person. Meanwhile, legal Duty of Care goes beyond this notion. It asks for due process in assessing risks and implementing prevention strategies.

That said, the two types of Duty of Care overlap and interact. The degree depends on the specific context in which we look at it. For example, in different cultures, the interpretation and gravity of impact can be different. This means that local organizations may have different approaches to Duty of Care.

However, for the international humanitarian sector, Duty of Care is mainly a legal issue beyond its moral spectrum. It is important to note that this must include independent contractors, consultants, and volunteers—not only staff.

What does this mean for humanitarians?

For humanitarian travelers, this means that they must not just expect, but also request, Duty of Care during deployments. Even if you are a volunteer, you should be aware of your organization’s risk-management approach. This is particularly important if you are deploying to a conflict area.

Duty of Care for humanitarians also means responsibility on the personal level. The responsibility for Duty of Care does not just flow in one direction but has multilateral ownership. This is what we call Duty of Loyalty. This means that if you are in a senior position, some Duty of Care rests upon you. And if you are deploying overseas, you must follow your organization’s risk and security protocols. This will ensure their proper implementation and your protection.

Raptim’s Duty of Care

For Raptim, Duty of Care is an integral aspect of our work. Our travelers’ security is a top priority. That’s why we provide a comprehensive set of Duty of Care solutions. This ranges from initial communication, to continuous updates, risk assessment, and reporting tools, and more.

For example, before you deploy, you will receive updates on your travel destination from Raptim. During the mission, we ensure that your organization can communicate with you at all times. We do so through push notifications and geo-location. At the end of your travels, we provide the option for automated reporting. This helps with future risk assessments and mission debriefing.

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We believe our world is a better place when compassion can travel where it is needed most. As a global humanitarian travel organization, we devote ourselves to serving those who serve the world. Our experienced staff can be reached at any given time. Please use our quick address locator to contact your nearest Raptim office should you have any questions. You can also follow our blog for more stories and travel information.