Monday, February 06, 2006

Kidnappings in Haiti

A good Christian Science Monitor article on rampant abductions in Haiti. Kidnappings can be one of the most challenging and difficult security incidents for an NGO to deal with. Just like the U.S. government, many NGOs have a "no ransom" policy if a staff member is kidnapped. This makes sense from an operational standpoint, because once you pay a ransom, that can encourage more abductions. Aid worker = cash in the bank or leverage point for political demands.

It's worth noting that although some NGOs clearly state they won't pay ransoms, at times they'll cut backroom deals with the abductors that are never publicly disclosed. This can cause problems if done unilaterally. For example last year a national staff member of a large NGO was kidnapped in Haiti and money was exchanged as part of the release deal (although creatively done; when is a ransom not a ransom). When word got out, other NGOs working in Haiti weren't very happy because they didn't know about the pay-off and felt the one organization's actions had put their staff at greater risk.

When you make security decisions always keep in mind the old Chinese story of the kindly monk picking up a caterpillar from the middle of the road and moving it to the side so it wouldn't get squashed. Only to have a bird promptly swoop down and eat it.


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