A new online toolkit from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) will help operational organizations identify counterterrorism risks so that they can manage and mitigate them. The Toolkit for Principled Humanitarian Action also “aims to make risk management approaches accessible to a broad range of staff who can use these in their day to day work.” It updates the information contained in NRC’s 2015 Risk Management Toolkit in Relation to Counterterrorism Measures to reflect recent developments.

The toolkit, with links to information in English, Arabic and French, is designed to be used by staff responsible for partnerships with donors, involved in program planning and implementation, and those with risk management responsibilities, including staff focused on security, humanitarian access and legal issues. This may include policy and support staff, as well as other decisionmakers. According to NRC, the toolkit is designed to help staff better understand counterterrorism measures and their impact on principled humanitarian action, identify problematic counterterrorism wording in grant agreements and engage with donors on these clauses. It will also help increase understanding of risk management, guide organizations in strengthening its policies and practices, enable organizations to integrate these considerations throughout the project management cycle.

Increasingly, organizations are concerned that broad counterterrorism measures can impact their ability to maintain a principled approach. Some donor governments are now taking a zero tolerance approach to risk, which compounds the situation for humanitarian organizations. According to the toolkit, “Humanitarian actors have well developed policies and procedures covering security, human resources, finance and administration” to ensure that aid reaches its intended beneficiaries. “Sector wide standards to help humanitarian actors to strengthen adherence to the humanitarian principles and enhance risk management include the Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response and the CHS.”

At the same time, it is impossible to completely eliminate risk from humanitarian operations. Even after implementing mitigation measures, “residual risks will remain,” the toolkit explains. Organizations can then decide if the expected humanitarian outcomes outweigh this residual risk.

The toolkit breaks down risks into criminal, security, contractual and humanitarian principles and outlines the operational impacts for each. Three main sections of the toolkit focus on humanitarian action, partnerships and risk management. Diagrams and infographics make the content easily accessible. Textual information breaks down the background on counterterrorism measures and defines key terms. Case studies help illuminate the content.

The Partnerships section takes a deep dive into counterterrorism clauses, the downstream effect of broad national laws and policies. They can be found not only in donor agreements, but also in pooled fund agreements, agreements between humanitarian organizations and commercial service contracts. A linked table provides real-life examples of these clauses, including USAID’s counterterrorism certification.  The toolkit discusses some of the ways these clauses have played out, including USAID’s Partner Vetting System and lawsuits under the False Claims Act.

A discussion of risk management includes sections on identification, assessment, monitoring and reporting. Linked handouts include criteria for calculating risk impact as well as a risk matrix. There is a lengthy section on developing a counterterrorism policy and an engagement policy. Additional sections include due diligence, human resources policies, anti-diversion policies and monitoring & evaluation.

View the toolkit.