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The importance of Duty of Care in the NGO sector

28 MaY 2019

While on a mission in Kenya in 2012, Norwegian Refugee Council staff member and project manager Steven Dennis was traveling in a convoy when it came under fire. Steven was injured and kidnapped. In 2015, following his gradual recovery, Steven submitted a claim at the Oslo District Court against his former employer, the NRC, for compensation for economic and non-economic loss following the kidnapping. The Court concluded that the NRC acted with negligence in relation to this incident and found the NRC to be liable for compensation towards Dennis.

This ruling established that NGOs have a legal responsibility to maintain robust risk management procedures that ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff members. In addition, duty of care is viewed as a moral responsibility and a core organisational value. Because people are an organisation’s most valuable resource, those that are well cared for are more likely to be engaged, committed and productive. The benefits of happy, secure and motivated people far outweigh the cost of taking the reasonable and necessary steps to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing.

Helping the helpers

NGOs play an important role in helping the most vulnerable across the globe, bringing assistance and hope to those who desperately need both. While NGOs focus on the care and wellbeing of the people they serve, there’s also a growing need for NGOs to protect their own staff and their families; many of whom are working in remote areas or dangerous conflict zones.

Cigna's services and solutions help NGOs meet their duty of care to protect their staff members’ health and wellbeing with an effective set of tools, policies and procedures. For example, we provide access to international doctors through our Global Telehealth solution, counselling through the Employee Assistance Programme, expert medical evacuation services and clear guidelines on processes, procedures and privacy.

Beginning the conversation

Together with the Cigna Foundation, we’re helping the NGO sector to support their staff members by bringing people together to discuss duty of care and to find solutions for current issues. By hosting a series of duty of care workshops across the globe, we offer the opportunity for knowledge sharing. Our first workshop, in 2017, took place in Antwerp, Belgium. It was followed by others in London, England and Nairobi, Kenya. The next workshop will take place this June in Washington, DC and focus on building the organisational capacity to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and abuse.

These issues have a profound impact on the wellbeing of humanitarian and development staff, and the people NGOs serve. In Washington, DC, we’ll cover the progress made to prevent and address harassment, exploitation and abuse, as well as what lessons have been learned. Attendees will also be given the opportunity to discuss solutions to help support the sector.

To learn more, read Cigna’s Duty of Care whitepaper