Sociologist Larissa Fast Researches Safety of International Humanitarian Workers

Author: Joan Fallon

Larissa Fast for web

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world work for humanitarian organizations devoted to the sick and injured, refugees, and victims of wars and disasters. In recent years, this work has become even more dangerous, as growing numbers of humanitarian workers have been attacked, kidnapped, or killed, according to Larissa Fast, assistant professor of conflict resolution at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Department of Sociology.

Fast spent a portion of her sabbatical year (2010-11) as part of a team of scholars and practitioners conducting research, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to document more effective and innovative approaches to security management for relief and development workers. The project involved consultative workshops in Washington, D.C., and Geneva, Switzerland, as well as fieldwork and training of staff of nongovernmental organizations from Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda.

Based on this research, Fast co-authored, edited, or contributed to seven new reports on ways to increase the safety and security of people who work for organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Oxfam, Save the Children, and thousands of smaller relief and development organizations worldwide. All of the new reports and toolkits are all available as PDF documents on the Acceptance Research blog.

The “acceptance” approach to security is based on the premise that threats can be reduced if an agency’s staff develops good working relationships with local people, says Fast. Some of the research findings will be published as “In acceptance we trust” in Disasters, a leading journal in humanitarian studies.

Fast is a scholar-practitioner who has worked for several international organizations, primarily in North America and Africa. Her research focuses on violence against aid workers, humanitarian politics, development and conflict, evaluation, and peacebuilding. She has worked for several international organizations, primarily in North America and Africa, as a project manager, consultant, and trainer.

Fast recently completed a book manuscript, Aid in Danger, which focuses on the causes of and responses to violence against aid workers.

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