No matter how remote the area you’re traveling to, you know there are certain risks around which you’ll have to navigate. That is where Duty of Care comes in. Whether it is a remote village you visit in South Sudan or a crisis-hit community in Latin America, it’s important to be prepared for any emergency. Lack of electricity, poor road conditions and extreme weather are just some of the challenges that you might face far from home. It is sad to note there are also cases of aid workers being attacked or kidnapped. It is important to make sure you are well-prepared to perform the duty of taking care of your organization at all times. What is Duty of Care? “Duty of care” is a term originating in tort law, an area of civil law that includes seeking compensation for injuries. Duty of care is a legal obligation an organization has to keep their employees safe and healthy, not only at home but when they work in another country. In other words, aid and development organizations may be held responsible when something goes wrong. That’s why your NGO should always be aware of your itinerary, where you are going, and approximately when you will be back. The Case of Steve Dennis For some years, duty of care has been a hot topic in development circles. In 2012, Canadian aid worker Steve Dennis, employed by the Norwegian Refugee Council, was kidnapped in Kenya while helping people. After being freed, Dennis returned home. Wounded and suffering from PTSD, he was disappointed with what little support his employer gave him. Two years ago, Dennis went to court. The judge ruled in his favor; the Norwegian Refugee Council had been negligent and had to pay Steve Dennis a hefty sum as compensation. 7 Things You Need-to-Know The necessity of Duty of Care is more important today than ever before. Traveling humanitarian workers travel to places where vulnerable people need help. They exposed to a variety of threats and diseases and are subject to potentially traumatic experiences. It is important that it is incorporated in the programs and policies of NGOs. Here are seven need-to-know things you need to know about: Duty of care must be bipartisan. This means that fulfilling the Duty of Care programs should come from the organization as well from the employees and aid workers that travel abroad. Humanitarian organizations and NGOs have a responsibility to their employees, and that is why it’s a necessity. Prevention and a quick response to mitigate incidents and conflicts reduce costly interruptions, improve morale, and strengthen productivity. In other words, the cost of care is Duty of Care establishes a presumption of liability on organizations such as NGOs, so they will need to prove that they took “reasonable precautions” to prevent an incident. Duty of Care is “non-delegable.” This means that it cannot be assigned to another party. It includes both the national staff of international organizations and the personnel of local or national aid organizations. Incident statistics show that international staffers have a higher rate of attacks relative to their numbers in the field. Organizations and NGOs need to create, agree, and ensure that competencies for protecting health, security, safety, and legal status are covered for travelers that are working in difficult areas. Ownership and implementation of these competencies are the responsibility of the organizations. These are needed so the aid workers can carry out their work without worrying about those issues. That is why Duty of Care is a necessity. Cost of Care “Cost of care” means that humanitarian travel agencies should provide insurance for aid workers. If they don’t, their premium goes up. If they do include this, they get a discount on the insurance plan. Insurance companies should provide this and are the solution to this often difficult problem regarding insurance for aid workers operating in high-risk areas. Therefore, insurance premiums should be included in the budget. Duty of care costs money, but it should be seen as an investment. It is a cost-effective way of providing proper medical and emergency care and can also reduce the risk of being found negligent which can result in a lot of financial distress and hurt the reputation of a humanitarian organization. Culture of Care Not every organization has a full Duty of Care program even though it is important to monitor travelers. The problem in some cases is that there is a culture problem. Sometimes the management does not see the benefits of a Duty of Care program, or they see it as a financial issue. The culture of caring for aid workers should be incorporated in every humanitarian organization. All organizations must understand that there is an obligation for Duty of Care. Most organizations are aware of the Duty of Care and take their caring role seriously. However, awareness and understanding are not enough. Change of Culture is an Attitude In some organizations, this means a change of mindset through all levels of the organization. To achieve that, people working in and for an organization have to be open-minded and proactive. Commitment to change benefits everyone in the organization. Therefore, it is advisble to train staff and make sure that they are capable of handling the risks and have the tools required to deal with them. Also, you need to ensure that your own staff is aware of their limitations. Any change of the culture requires action, and therefore there needs to be a proactive attitude to change that culture. Caring should be a competence displayed by all people in the organization, not just management. Loyalty of Care Loyalty of Care is a complex topic. It also can be a controversial topic. Both an organization and the people of the organization that work in the field have a responsibility of Loyalty of Care. It means the employees of the organization need to be loyal to the organization. Otherwise, the organization might not be able to fulfill its Duty of Care. This might mean that you have to give up some of your privacy. Giving up some of your privacy is the consequence of doing humanitarian work in high-risk areas, but it is also needed by the organization so they can carry out their Duty of Care responsibilities. An organization cannot separate its Duty of Loyalty from its Duty of Care. It should be seen as a partnership between the employee and the organization. On the one hand, you have the organization that makes the policy and sets the limits of what employees can and cannot do in the field. On the other hand, the humanitarian workers have to respect those boundaries and limits. This can result in conflicts when working in high-risk areas. Is there free time so you can rest or blow off steam? To be able to fulfill the Duty of Care policy to its full potential there has to be a full commitment, which means loyalty, to the organization and the work you carry out. If not, actions lacking in these areas can result in damage to both the humanitarian’s and the organization’s reputation. In short, an organization has the right to know where you are when you carry out your work. It means giving up a little bit of your privacy, but that is needed not only for your safety and security but also for the sake of the organization. It means being loyal to the organization so they are able to make sure you receive the care you need. You give them your loyalty; they have the duty to take care of you. Where do you start? Not every NGO has set up a full Duty of Care program yet, even though it’s of the utmost importance to monitor travelers. Many smaller organizations feel they don’t have the means financially, or the knowledge to manage risk and implement a Duty of Care program. The thought can be quite overwhelming, so what should you do in a situation like that? We wrote an article about this topic. Read more about where to start. Contact Us We believe our world is a better place when compassion can travel where it is needed most. We help you manage your duty of care responsibilities. Please watch the video for more information about Duty of Care.