Trainer Rob Rulkens: 'My training helps to keep aid workers safe'

March 07, 2017
Trainer Rob Rulkens: 'My training helps to keep aid workers safe'
Our trainer Rob Rulkens went to Nigeria in early March, where he organised a Security and Crisis Management Training. He held this for the security advisors of five major international NGOs (INGOs) and eight security focal points from civil-society organisations (CSOs). CSOs are local organisations that for example distribute food in refugee camps.

What was it like to give this training?
'It was special. These types of training are not routine events and the participants were pleased to have this opportunity. It is very rewarding to work with local people. They work in high-risk areas, not infrequently in appalling conditions. They are often involved in food distribution and the dangers are real. My training helps to make them security aware. When I got back to the Netherlands, I received an e-mail from one of the participants thanking me. Responses like that are wonderful.'
Why did you give the training to both groups?
'It's quite unusual to adopt this approach. This is a specific arrangement in which the INGOs monitor the CSOs. I really wanted to involve both groups in order to establish a shared framework. After the training is over, they have to work out the draft plans and implement them in collaboration. So joint training is a logical step.'
What motivates you in this work?
'After working in the Armed Forces for 19 years, I know what security at work means. I have to instil that reflex into the participants at my training sessions. I believe you should keep protocols to a minimum. People have to think for themselves. That's my main aim: to devise a concrete security plan that is effective, can be implemented quickly and to make them security aware.'
What does a training like this involve?
'During the training we devise a plan on the basis of questions like "Imagine something goes wrong. What do you do then?". That's how you teach people to think and work safely. It's a question of thinking ahead: "contingency planning" in other words. We discuss a range of issues. From putting on a safety belt to distributing food in refugee camps. If I'm handing out food, where should I set up a distribution point? Are there escape routes? And other matters.
Not everybody has been trained to think about safety and security. One of my students told me that he had been working – without any training at all – in areas where Boko Haram is active. Thorough preparation really is vital in terms of keeping you safe. I like to think that my training makes a contribution.'