There is an ongoing debate about the need for standards for improvised explosive device (IED) activities. The emergence of civilian IED response follows the development of humanitarian mine action (HMA) in many ways. In particular, the problems of defining contractual targets and norms were problematic in the early days of HMA, when, as for the IED response today, money has started to change hands for services rendered. It is the premise of this editorial that the need for humanitarian IED (HIED) response standards derives from the contractual nature of the relationship between the client and the service provider. Therefore, if they are to be of use, any new IED response standards for use in the humanitarian sector must not simply rehash existing technical military-oriented counter-IED (C-IED) procedures but must address the problems caused by the introduction of a civilian business model, and also take account of their relationship with the humanitarian sphere.

Such tasks, when conducted by security forces, are managed using what amounts to an honor system. Teams carry out work to the best of their ability, with supervision and quality management provided through the chain of command. There are no requirements for extra, contractual stipulations as work processes are defined by internal norms such as organizational standard operating procedures (SOP).

However, when financial pressures are applied to services provided under contract, standard economic theory suggests that there is an added, economic incentive to increase output at the expense of quality. This was widely observed in the early days of HMA and a series of process controls evolved to address this issue. Thus, the question remains: what problems are likely to be faced in the quality management of civilian IED response, and what processes can be used to address these problems?



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