Saturday, September 10, 2011

Security Focal Point Rant

If you're not familiar with the term Security Focal Point (or Safety and Security Focal Point), it refers to a staff member in a field office who has some degree of responsibility for safety and security. Often these responsibilities are grafted onto existing jobs such as logistics, administration, or program management (sometimes with added pay, sometimes not). The title has crept into the humanitarian community's lexicon over the years and is widely used. Attend a class or presentation on NGO security and I guarantee you that SFPs or SSFPs will be mentioned. These days you can even get a Security Focal Point certificate from some training organizations.

For some reason I've been thinking about this term lately and I've come to the personal conclusion that it really smacks of bureaucracy and class distinction (especially when applied to local and national staff). Just what exactly is a focal point? Why not use a more descriptive and easy to understand title such as safety and security coordinator or safety and security manager?

I'm not certain who first coined the term (although it does have a UN-ish ring to it). Maybe it came about because coordinator and manager titles are typically associated with higher pay levels. Or perhaps it was an attempt to differentiate professional security staff from the part-timers (that's a rant for another day). Or maybe it was a control thing in helping to keep safety and security centralized at the headquarters level. I don't know.

I do know that if you're entrusting someone with safety and security responsibilities, the very least you should do is give him or her a descriptive title that conveys meaning and respect. For me, a vague, ill-defined buzzword just doesn't cut it anymore.

Does your organization have a good reason for using Security Focal Point as a title or is it just going along with the crowd? Post a comment.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who is currently tasked with reviewing the role of a 'security focal point' at one of our field offices I empathise with your rant.

In our field office some poor soul has been given this title and a bucket load of responsibility but absolutely no support. The position hasn't been factored into their job description properly, the Field Office Manager is grumpy as they feel some of their power is being taken away, and the designated security focal point is frustrated as they are blamed the moment something happens but given no tools or support to properly perform their role.

Beyond the terminology I can see the value of giving someone the 'security hat' to wear at the field office level, especially in medium to lower risk environments where an NGO can't (or won't) cough up the cash for a dedicated security manager. But I can't help but feel the Security Focal Point role has become one of those tick box measures that is 'good practice' on paper but rarely executed well in reality.

7:09 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home