Safety and Security for Organizations Working with Key Populations and HIV in LAC in Global Fund Grants 

By: Keren Dunaway

In 2023, the LAC Platform launched the “Toolkit: Safety and Security for Organizations Working with Key and Vulnerable Populations”. This resource provides information, proven methodologies, and recommendations to address the safety and security of leaders, community advocates and civil society organizations (CSOs) active on human rights and HIV issues in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). 

The implementation of this toolkit was supported by a virtual workshop to discuss security risks in the defense of human rights, prevention and attention to key populations, as well as general guidelines for managing risks associated with security. These topics were reinforced with institutional diagnostics to facilitate their adoption. 

Mateo Casalato, Global Fund advisor, highlighted in the session the importance of prioritizing security in the implementation of programs for key populations, noting that persistent discrimination and criminalization in many countries complicates an adequate response to HIV and increases risks to the safety and well-being of affected people. The Global Fund has responded with strategies that include protecting people from the risk of sexual exploitation, ensuring human rights in programs, including safety measures in grants, and providing technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of organizations. 

Key recommendations for implementing the toolkit in creating a safety and security plan include conducting an effective risk assessment. Identifying specific risks at the personal and organizational level is critical, participants from Bolivia noted the absence of detailed studies on the security of the LGBT community, particularly the vulnerability of trans women in places such as hostels where existing security measures are insufficient. It also highlighted the importance of establishing clear and concise protocols for handling security incidents effectively, developing procedures that all staff can understand and execute. Training in these protocols is crucial to ensure quick and coordinated responses, minimizing risks, and protecting individuals and resources. 

Platform partners explained how the use of specific safety and security tools is an important layer in the risk mitigation strategy. For example, in Belize, civil society shared the importance of working in pairs and forming mixed gender teams to increase security in the field and manage potentially dangerous situations was highlighted. 

Finally, the importance of continuous staff training was emphasized. Keeping staff up-to-date on emerging threats and mitigation strategies is vital. The organization of regular workshops and training sessions is essential to prepare the team to face any security challenges that may arise, adapting strategies to local realities and evolving with the local environment.