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The Human Security Survey



Enumerators upon completion of their training in Yirol, South Sudan (2018)
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The Human Security Survey (HSS) is a unique methodology developed by PAX. It aims to help people in places under conflict have more say in their own security and protection.

Too often, security measures and policies that deeply affect people’s day-to-day lives are designed and implemented without their consultation. But people are the real experts on their own security.

To bridge the gap between people and policymakers, PAX's Protection of Civilians (PoC) team developed the Human Security Survey. This combines population-based research, community engagement and advocacy to in the long run better protect civilians. By collecting people's experiences, perceptions and opinions about their own protection, PAX can advocate for security strategies that are more reflective of people's actual needs and expectations.
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  • Collects information about people's experiences, perceptions and priorities regarding security.
  • Shares the data with community members and local authorities, and facilitates constructive dialogue about how to improve civilian protection.
  • Conducts evidence-based advocacy with the UN, governments and security actors.

PAX and local partners implement the HSS methodology in two countries: Iraq and South Sudan.
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The HSS in Iraq

4 years active
4 survey cycles underway/completed
5,685 interviews to date
>90 community dialogue sessions
Surveys conducted in: Salahaddin, Kirkuk, Basra. First data collection round in Diyala planned for 2021.

The HSS in South Sudan

4 years active (2016)
3 survey cycles underway/completed
5,590 interviews to date
10 Community Dialogue Conferences
Community Security Committees (COMSECCOM)
Surveys conducted in: Jonglei, Payinjiar, Central Equatoria, Greater Yirol. First data collection round in Eastern Equatoria planned for 2021.

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HSS Process

The HSS team does not believe in just collecting data once and then leaving: people's needs change along with their security environments, and security and protection strategies need to change as well.

Moreover, we believe that - once data has been collected and analysed - the results should be brought back to the local communities where the survey findings can serve as a basis for constructive dialogue between civilians and the local authorities and security providers.

The HSS is therefore conducted every year in each location so that we can identify trends, analyse positive and negative developments, and pursue ongoing dialogue with communities and authorities to encourage greater bottom-up accountability.  

Iraqi enumerators training with the smartphone-based questionnaire in Baghdad, Iraq (2019)

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Enumerator training in Payinjiar, South Sudan (2018)
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All aspects of the HSS project are implemented in close cooperation with local partner organisations that are respected, well-networked and that work inclusively .

In Iraq, the HSS works with the Iraqi al-Amal Association and the Iraqi al-Firdaws Society.

In South Sudan, our partner organization is Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA).

Our partners are crucial to the successful implementation of the HSS project:
  • They provide feedback on the survey design.
  • They provide up-to-date information about local security dynamics, which enables us to send out teams into the field.
  • The supervisors and enumerators who conduct the interviews are drawn from our partners' networks of staff, volunteers and beneficiaries.
  • They take on many activities at the operational level, including data collection and local advocacy.

One of our local partners in conversation with the local authorities (Iraq)
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Before each round of data collection, the HSS team travels to Iraq or South Sudan to organise a four-day training course for the enumerators and supervisors.

During these training sessions, the team members receive practical training in random sampling procedures, mobile data collection tools, physical and digital security practices and interviewing and listening skills. They also get the chance to practice these skills with each other.

In addition, they learn about conflict and gender sensitivity and research ethics, including the critical importance of guaranteeing respondents' anonymity and informed consent.

Enumerators training with the smartphone-based questionnaire in Bor, South Sudan (2018)
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Enumerators from Kirkuk and Basra upon completion of their training in Baghdad, Iraq (2019)
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HSS Questionnaire and Findings

One of our partners using the HSS findings for local advocacy efforts (Iraq)
The Questionnaire

In the questionnaire, we ask people about a wide variety of topics related to security and protection, including their personal experiences with violence and the impact on their communities.

More specifically, respondents share information about if and how their security situation has changed over the previous year and the changes made in their daily lives as a result; what specific types of security threats they experience and whether there are effective means to resolve them; and which actors are responsible for security in their area and how they might improve. 

We also ask respondents about their perceptions regarding conflict dynamics, including the factors most likely to cause future conflict in their communities; how men and women  experience conflict and its effects differently, and what can be done to promote sustainable peace

(next page: example of 'placemat' with the answers to the questionnaire) 
One of our partners using the HSS findings for local advocacy efforts (Iraq)
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Follow-Up On the HSS

One of our partners using the HSS findings for local advocacy efforts (Iraq)
One of our partners using the HSS findings for local advocacy efforts (Iraq)


Once the data has been collected, analysed and translated into reports and 'placemats', the PoC team seeks to use its findings to effect change.

In cooperation with our local partners, we therefore organise community dialogue sessions in Iraq and South Sudan after each round of surveys to discuss with local stakeholders the survey's main findings and its implications.

At the same time, we conduct advocacy at the local and international levels, using our findings to advocate protection and intervention strategies that correspond better to people's needs on the ground. 

One of our partners using the HSS findings for local advocacy efforts (Iraq)
One of our partners using the HSS findings for local advocacy efforts (Iraq)
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The community dialogue sessions take place between participants who are carefully selected to represent the various groups in society, including youth, women, formal and informal security actors, local administrators, tribal and religious leaders, civil society organisations and, where possible, representatives from peacekeeping missions or UN agencies.

The community dialogue meetings are an opportunity to validate and discuss the findings in a constructive environment. Civilians and authorities get the chance to jointly establish key priorities and opportunities going forward.

Two participants in discussion at a community dialogue session in Yirol, South Sudan (2019)

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A police officer at a community dialogue event, South Sudan (photo by SSANSA)
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The responses to the HSS questionnaire and the community dialogue discussions inform the Protection of Civilians team's further activities

We use the HSS findings:
  • To carry out evidence-based advocacy at the international level among organisations like NATO, the EU and the UN
  • To design and conduct training sessions for military personnel that are informed by knowledge of local security dynamics and needs.
Through our findings, international stakeholders can better design and implement protection interventions that better match local needs and expectations.

Presenting the HSS methodology at the 'Data for Peace and Security' conference in New York, USA (2019)
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Further Information

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