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Protection in WFP’s operations

Protection in WFP’s operations

Protection in WFP’s operations

Published by the World Food Programme Via C. G. Viola, 68 - Parco dei Medici - 00148, Rome, Italy Text inspired by “WFP Humanitarian Protection Policy”, WFP/EB.1/2012/5-B/Rev.1

“The concept of protection encompasses all activities aimed at ensuring full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the relevant bodies of law, i.e. human rights law, international humanitarian law and refugee law.” Inter-Agency Standing Committee

c 2012 World Food Programme | Illustrations by Antonella Ficarra


FP contributes to humanitarian protection by designing and carrying out food assistance activities that do not increase the protection risks faced by the crisis-affected populations receiving assistance, but rather, contribute to the safety, dignity and integrity of vulnerable people. In line with the IASC definition of protection,1 WFP recognises that protection is rights-based and founded on the relevant bodies of law, including human rights,

humanitarian and refugee law. WFP’s commitment to protection rests on the core humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, and neutrality and other seven standards for action as endorsed by WFP’s Executive Board in 2004. These principles constitute the normative and moral obligations for WFP to prevent assistance and WFP’s presence from causing further harm and ensure positive humanitarian outcomes

Protection in WFP’s operations

What is protection for WFP?


1 The Inter-Agency Standing Committee defines protection as all activities aimed at ensuring the full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the relevant bodies of law.

Why is protection relevant to food security?


rotection is intrinsically linked to food security. In crisis settings, food is among the most valuable and essential commodities. The degree of access to and control over food can affect all aspects of people’s lives.


On the one hand, hunger causes and exacerbates existing protection risks; on the other hand people’s access to food is affected by the protection risks they are confronted with. Vulnerability to food insecurity is therefore also often linked with vulnerability to protection risks. The most food insecure people are frequently the most vulnerable to family separation, gender-based violence, forced displacement, physical attack and many other protection risks. Thus, food assistance – if implemented in a manner that takes into account the protection concerns of the food insecure individuals and communities – can be a powerful tool to keep people safe and maintain their dignity


he WFP Policy on Humanitarian Protection, adopted by the Executive Board in February 2012, underlines the agency’s commitment to support the protection of beneficiaries of food assistance. It is based on the following key principles:

WFP recognises the State’s primary responsibility to protect all the people within its jurisdiction, and will work with them to seek solutions for safe and dignified food assistance programming. The agency’s chief accountability is to crisis-affected, food-insecure people, who are the primary actors in their own survival and protection. WFP will therefore seek ways of empowering these people and increasing the space for them to ensure their own protection.

Food assistance activities will be based on context and risk analysis, including an understanding of how protection gaps contribute to food insecurity and hunger, and vice versa, and how WFP’s interventions can help close these gaps. Food assistance processes – including negotiations for humanitarian access, advocacy, partnerships, and delivery mechanisms – will be pursued in accordance with humanitarian principles and international law. Food assistance will be provided in ways that aim to support the protection of conflict- and disasteraffected populations and, at the very least, will not expose people to further harm. The policy envisages to have an agency that

Protection in WFP’s operations

WFP’s commitments to protection



consciously and positively contributes to the protection and promotion of the rights of the people WFP serves; a body of humanitarians that is better informed and equipped to deal with the protection concerns and needs of beneficiaries of food assistance; and an assistance and presence that provide a safer, more dignified, and more accountable solutions to food insecurity and hunger. To do so, WFP seeks to: Invest in institutional capacity for context and risk analysis, incorporating protection concerns into programme tools. Integrate protection objectives into the design and implementation of food assistance programmes.

Develop staff’s capacity to understand protection concerns and formulate appropriate and principles-based responses. Establish informed and accountable partnerships. Establish clear guidance and systems for managing protection-related information. The policy complements WFP’s Gender Policy (2009), which prioritizes, inter alia, the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence. The linkages between protection and gender issues, in particular in relation to sexual and gender-based violence, underscore the need for mutually reinforcing approaches to the implementation of the two policies


n accordance with WFP’s humanitarian principles and standards for humanitarian action, WFP at all levels have a responsibility to integrate protection at different stages of food assis-

tance programming. This responsibility extends to all staff of partner organisations engaged in implementing WFP food assistance programmes

Protection in WFP’s operations

Responsibilities for integrating protection


Fundamental considerations for integrating protection in food assistance In Programmes – WFP Should Ensure: Safety – WFP’s programmes must be designed and implemented with due consideration for the safety of the affected population. This includes safety at and en route to and from WFP activities and services – be it distribution or work sites, training centres or others. Moreover, facilities such as toilets, waiting areas, and so on should be in place and adequate for the number and type of


people accessing services. Assistance must be provided in a timely manner and in accordance with impartially assessed needs to ensure that it does not become a source of tension between communities or households. Food assistance must also seek ways to prevent vulnerable populations from being pushed into undignified and dangerous coping mechanisms, such as

Protection in WFP’s operations survival sex, early marriage, and other forms of exploitation. WFP must ensure that its own and partner staff abide by the highest ethical standards when engaging with beneficiaries, including putting in place measures to protect beneficiaries from sexual exploitation and abuse by WFP or partner staff. Dignity, equality and non-discrimination – WFP programmes must be solely based on assessed needs and on full and equal respect for the rights of beneficiaries without discrimination of any kind. All measures must be taken to prevent beneficiaries from being stigmatized or discriminated against as a consequence of being associated with WFP programmes that target groups with

special needs, such as persons living with HIV. Programmes must respect beneficiaries’ right to privacy and confidentiality at all times. Participation and accountability – Programmes must be based on genuine dialogue with beneficiaries. Special efforts must be undertaken to consult all groups concerned in all stages of food assistance delivery. Mechanisms to ensure that beneficiaries can provide feedback to WFP and partners on projects must be put in place. Attention to difference – Programmes must take the vulnerabilities of different groups of populations and their capacities into account, and ad-



just programmes to ensure that all beneficiaries have equal access to services and assistance. In understanding protection risks that affect the food security of beneficiaries, WFP must note that age, gender and other diversity characteristics – including religion, ethnicity, health, family situation etc. – have an impact on people’s safety and dignity and access to food.

This can, for example, entail linking livelihoods interventions to reintegration efforts for demobilised child soldiers, or supporting hospitals or safe houses with food for survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Maximizing Food Assistance Outcomes:

Advocacy – When possible, WFP cooperates with protection and other humanitarian actors to use its significant leverage and weight as a large operational organisation to advocate for the rights of crisis-affected populations.

Addressing protection risks caused by food insecurity – When the primary cause of protection risks is directly associated with access to food, food assistance programmes can have a protective impact by helping address the underlying causes of protection risks. This can, for example, include providing fuel-efficient stoves to reduce the exposure of women to risks of assault and harassment while collecting firewood. Livelihoods interventions or targeted food/cash/voucher programmes may also help prevent vulnerable individuals (especially women and girls) from engaging in sex in exchange for basic goods or services. Strengthening interventions by protection actors – When happening within a food-insecurity context, WFP can contribute to reducing protection risks. By partnering with protection actors, food assistance can support and strengthen the impact of protection interventions by others.

Supporting Protection through Advocacy, Coordination and Referral:

Coordination – By working with other food assistance and protection actors, including the local and national authorities where feasible, WFP ensures that it has a better understanding of the protection risks affecting its programmes, as a basis for a more targeted and effective response. Referrals – WFP should ensure that proper referral mechanisms are in place for staff to be able to safely and ethically hand over information on protection cases they may witness to protection actors for follow up

Organisational support for enhanced field capacity for protection


FP staff are supported by the protection team based in WFP’s headquarters in Rome and by a number of regional and country level protection advisors and focal points to build and strengthen their capacity to make WFP

programmes protection-sensitive. Training and capacity-building tools and activities, and guidance materials are available for use by regional, country and field offices


For more information contact: Humanitarian Crises and Transitions Service Policy and Programme Innovation Division


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