Humanitarian work has developed from small-scale assistance by individuals, missionaries, charities, communities and foundations to a wide variety of programs organized by large and small international and national NGOs (non-governmental organizations), national governments, and transnational organizations such as the United Nations.
Humanitarian organizations today are more professionally managed and better equipped and prepared than years ago. However direct exposure to misery, the ever-growing numbers of people affected by humanitarian crises, deteriorating safety and security conditions, and limited available resources mean that humanitarian workers remain exposed to a wide variety of sources of stress.Good staff care and psychosocial care have proven to be an important asset in stress management and the preven- tion and treatment of traumatic and post-traumatic stress. However, although there is awareness of these issues in most organizations, adequate care systems for national and international staff are often underdeveloped and lack attention and resources.Having wide experience of both national and international humanitarian agencies worldwide, the Antares Foundation has seen the importance of addressing stress on all levels in many organizations. Requests for information, ideas and strategies for developing a stress program for humanitarian workers led to the development and implementation of these Guidelines for Good Practice.
Objectives of the Guidelines
The Guidelines for Good Practice are intended to help organizations define their own needs in relation to stress management and develop their own staff care system. The process will be different for each organization. National and international agencies, big and small organizations, will have to find the process and policies that work for them. The eight principles suggested in the Guidelines can be universally applied, but they will be implemented using indicators based on the specific context and culture of the organization. Protocols and policies for stress management may vary from just one page to a fully worked, comprehensive document. In all cases, however, the managers of the organizations will need to feel responsible for the implementation. We hope these principles will assist them in this task.
The origins of the Guidelines
For the past nine years, the Antares Foundation has been collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA (CDC). Through this unique partnership, practical experience and theoretical knowledge have been combined and researchers, NGO managers, and mental health specialists have been brought together to develop an integrated approach for mitigating stress in humanitarian workers.
The Guidelines for Good Practice: Managing Stress in Humanitarian Workers (2004; revised 2006, 2012) is one of the major products of the Antares - CDC collaboration. Without the financial contribution of CDC, these publications could not have been produced.
The Guidelines were conceptualised as a comprehensive, systematic presentation of the ‘state of the art’ in managing stress in humanitarian workers. The earlier editions were the result of several years work by an international working group of experts, assembled by the Antares Foundation.
The working group included national and international NGO officials (including Human Resources Directors, Safety and Security Directors and Country Directors), academic and clinical experts in stress and in managing ‘normal’ and post-traumatic stress, and NGO psychosocial staff with responsibility for staff support.Once the Guidelines had been developed, French, Spanish, Swahili, Albanian and Arabic translations were prepared.
The organization of the Guidelines
The Guidelines are organized around eight key Principles corresponding to the course of a staff member’s contract. The accompanying diagram represents the principles visually. Each principle has supporting Indicators and Comments and Case Studies designed to assist the reader to more fully understand the concepts that the principles are based on and how they can be translated into practice. The principles and indicators are intended to apply to both international and national staff and to both office and field staff, recognizing that adjustments may be necessary to take account of the unique needs and characteristics of each group and of the organization. They constitute a tool for learning, reflection and planning rather than a set of rigid rules or solutions that are applicable under all conditions.
This third edition of the Guidelines, like the older ones, is a ‘work in progress’. We hope these Guidelines will assist you in developing programs to reduce the risks from stress for staff in your organization. We continue to seek your comments, your experiences using the Guidelines, and your ideas. To download our Guidelines , click the links below:
Guidelines in English
Guidelines in Arabic
Guidelines in French
Guidelines in Spanish
Guidelines in Albanian
You can explore each of the Guidelines' principles by clicking on the relevant image