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Violence against Healthcare Workers in Complex Security Environments

Publisher: SIPRI
November, 2014
This Background Paper discusses violence against health workers and facilities in complex security environments, including armed conflict. It examines the scope and drivers of the issue as well as organizational responses to it.

The causality of violence against health workers (and humanitarian aid workers more broadly) operating in complex security environments is poorly understood and difficult to untangle. It is often directly attributed to three dynamics: the shrinking humanitarian space, the changing nature of warfare and the politicization of aid. However, such nebulous macro-concepts can mask the context-specific aspects of individual incidents. In doing so, they limit the understanding of the issue and how to effectively address it.

Several ongoing projects by aid organizations aim to combat violence against health workers through advocacy and research and by producing concrete recommendations to promote the safe delivery of health care. One specific tool to address violence against health workers is international law, whose full potential to address the issue remains unrealized.


I. Introduction

II. The scope and drivers of the problem

III. Organizational responses

IV. Conclusions


Dr Rachel Irwin was a Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Security and Development Programme.