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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Harmonizing Security and Development: A Fresh Perspective



As I drive back from the Rafah Border, where our team is still hard at work, we are nearing the conclusion of 2023. It's time to reassess the relationship between security and development, paving the way for a more nuanced and collaborative future. One enduring challenge for development practitioners and their security counterparts is dispelling the misconception that these two domains have conflicting objectives.


The conventional notion of security, often associated with 'gates, guards, and guns,' can inadvertently create a perception that project resources are diverted from development to meet security goals. This has led to the unfortunate characterization of security managers as mere obstacles, notorious for saying 'No!' and demanding more armored vehicles.


It is crucial to move beyond these stereotypes to foster a more productive collaboration. Rather than viewing security as an impediment, this Article seeks to expand the understanding of security and demonstrate how security measures can enhance, rather than hinder, development goals based on actually doing the work.


The categorization and intersection of security risks play a pivotal role in this paradigm shift. While physical harm is an immediate concern, development projects face various risks, encompassing psychological safety, financial integrity, reputational threats, and operational challenges. Recognizing the multifaceted nature of these risks is essential for crafting a cohesive security and development strategy.


In the realm of risk management, security, and cultural intelligence efforts emerge as foundational to the success of any development program. By acknowledging the overlap and intersections of various risk categories, organizations can better prepare for adversities, ensuring project continuity and success.


For instance, Al Thuraya Consultancy and ICE24 exemplify an integrated approach where security and project personnel collaborate seamlessly. Recognizing that security and project deliverables are not mutually exclusive, they prioritize security measures that enable, rather than impede, development work.


Effective security management goes beyond a reactive stance; it involves proactive measures tailored to the specific context of international development projects. Embracing change and preparing for its opportunities and risks are integral to this approach. Security teams play a crucial role in providing transparent threat assessments, thereby informing project implementation based on existing threats, acceptable risks, and necessary actions to achieve project objectives.


Putting people first is a cornerstone of security risk management. It involves assessing not only external threats but also recognizing the vulnerabilities of project staff based on diverse factors such as race, sexual orientation, and location. Communicating these risks effectively to staff is part of the duty of care undertaken by security management teams.


Localizing and tailoring security approaches further exemplify the symbiotic relationship between security and development. Recognizing each country's unique cultural and political contexts allows for more effective risk-reduction strategies. In our work in Haiti, for instance, security protocols accommodate local challenges, such as protests, by enabling early office closures and flexible work arrangements.


Building positive relationships internally and externally is critical in volatile contexts. Collaborating with local actors helps predict and analyze risks and fosters acceptance within the operating community. The emphasis on collaboration with in-country expertise is particularly evident in places like Haiti, where a volatile security context necessitates a proactive approach.


In conclusion, a comprehensive, human-centered, and localized security approach is the bedrock of effective development work. By dispelling outdated perceptions and embracing security as an enabler, organizations can navigate complex risks and contribute to the safety of projects and communities.


My personal perspective and experiences prompt consideration of challenges hindering collaboration between security and technical functions. I want to encourage a broader, more collaborative approach to security, fostering innovation, inclusivity, and a heightened sense of safety in the dynamic landscape of development projects and their communities.

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