Friday, March 31, 2006

Incident: Evacuation, East Timor

A report out of Jakarta that 18 foreign workers (mostly humanitarian) and diplomats left East Timor for the neighboring East Nusa Tenggara province in Indonesia on Friday because of growing unrest in the Timorese capital. Scant details, with no organizations listed.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thinking Outside the Box

As security practitioners, we frequently apply tried and true solutions to decrease the amount of risk to staff members and beneficiaries. Of course there's nothing wrong with this, but sometimes it's worthwhile to think outside the box. As an example, if you were in charge of camp security and there was a growing number of women being abducted and raped while gathering firewood, your first thoughts might be to use male escorts, restrict movement to certain areas during set times, or provide some type of personal safety training. All very good conventional solutions, but what else might you do?

Relief International took a thoughtful approach to this problem in Darfur. They're providing fuel-efficient stoves and training to at-risk women, thus reducing the amount of time spent gathering firewood outside the security of the camps. This is an excellent example of fully understanding a security problem and then applying a very creative solution.

Security Challenges in Somalia

Short article on some of the security challenges WFP faces operating in Somalia. A very unenviable situation with not too many options. It would be interesting to learn what percent of food aid is actually reaching the intended beneficiaries.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Incident: Attack fatality, Sudan

Nabil Bahjat Abdulla, a UNHCR staff member who was severely wounded two weeks ago during an attack on organization's compound in Yei, south Sudan, has died in a Nairobi hospital. Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Incident: Hostage rescue, Iraq

Three Western aid workers from Christian Peacemaker Teams that were held hostage in Iraq for four months were freed in an operation by coalition military forces. Two weeks prior, one of their American colleagues was slain by their captors.

Aid Workers Remain under Threat in Iraq

Statistics and information on the number of aid workers killed in Iraq including a discussion on an increasing number of threats.

Increased Darfur Violence May Cause Withdrawals

A brief statement by the CEO of GOAL expressing concern that the increasing amount of violence in Darfur may cause NGOs to withdraw from the area. If you read between the lines, there are three messages in this press release. (1) A call to action for greater efforts to be made in the stabilizing the region by the international community, (2) An implicit warning that if the situation doesn't improve, aid to the area will be forced to cease, and (3) A hint that preparations are already in place for a withdrawal and GOAL and other NGOs are simply waiting for a trigger point.

Incident: Expulsion, Eritrea

The Eritrean government has ordered Mercy Corps, Concern, and ACORD to stop operations and leave the country. Your evacuation plan should have provisions for dealing with an unexpected expulsion (the conditions of which may present unique security concerns such as increased government harassment and possible greater risks of criminal activity due to assets and money being disbursed).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

New HPG Papers

ODI Humanitarian Policy Group has two new PDF publications out that are relevant to the security practitioner:

HPG Briefing Paper 21
Resetting the rules of engagement: trends and issues in military–humanitarian relations
Victoria Wheeler and Adele Harmer

HPG Briefing Paper 22
The military and civilian protection: developing roles and capacities
Victoria K. Holt

International Federation for Human Rights 2005 Deaths Report

The International Federation for Human Rights released an annual report stating 117 human rights workers were murdered around the world in 2005. In addition there were 1,172 cases of abuse, including 92 cases of torture and 56 physical attacks.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Incident: Convoy Ambush, Somalia

A food aid convoy was ambushed in the Hiiraan region of central Somalia. One driver was killed and two workers wounded. Two of the 16 trucks were reported hijacked. (3/23/06) More details here.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Not too bright Somali pirates...

Continued pirate attacks on ships off the coast of Somalia have had a big impact on food distribution, with WFP shifting over to more secure inland routes using trucks. The UN has urged naval vessels in the area to start taking a more active role in preventing incidents of piracy.

Today the U.S. Navy announced it had engaged in a short battle at sea with pirates. A guided missile cruiser and a guided missile destroyer were investigating a thirty-foot fishing vessel towing two skiffs, when they took small arms fire from the suspicious boats. (3/19/06) Somali militia involved now assert that the U.S. fired first.

Obviously these pirates hadn't been paying attention to the lesson in pirate school about not attacking a pair of armed to the teeth warships that are twenty times larger than your own vessel. The pirates sustained one fatality with several wounded. A Navy boarding party detained other crew members.

Maritime security is fairly specialized and can be very challenging in parts of the world where pirates operate. This is a good example of needing to rely on a military presence to ensure or reestablish program security.

IPA Commercial Security Report

The International Peace Academy just released a report by James Cockayne entitled "Commercial Security in Humanitarian and Post-Conflict Settings: An Exploratory Study." This is by far the best paper to date on the subject of using commercial security in a humanitarian context. Very comprehensive and highly recommended reading. It's not on their Web site yet (thanks to AC for the advance copy), but it should be soon. We'll add a link to this post when it becomes available.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Front Line Security Resources

AC writes in that Front Line, the Irish NGO that supports human rights groups, has a good collection of security resources on their Web site. Especially interesting is the NGO in a Box - Security Edition. Many security practitioners don't have a background in IT (information technology), which means significant security vulnerabilities in an office's computer systems can go unnoticed. This resource provides introductory and advanced information on information security as well as tools and procedures to keep data secure. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Incident: Shooting, Sudan

Two gunmen attacked a compound of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR in Yei, southern Sudan, killing a local guard and wounding an Iraqi logistics officer and another guard. The injured were evacuated for treatment and some staff members may be relocated to Nairobi due to the security situation.

Incident: Suspension, Somalia

MSF Holland has ceased its relief operations in the Southern part of Galka’ayo, Somalia with evacuation of whole its staff to Nairobi. The suspension was prompted by threats.

Incident: Suspension, Bangladesh

The U.S. Peace Corps has suspended operations in Bangladesh, because of possible terrorist attacks against its volunteers. The decision follows the arrest of two senior terrorist suspects in Bangladesh. 71 volunteers have left the country.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Incident: Abductions (and other), West Bank Gaza

An Israeli raid on a Palestinian prison in attempt to seize a known militant has set off protests and other security incidents in Gaza. Enraged that U.S. and British monitors left the prison prior to the raid (likely assuming complicity with the Israelis), militant groups struck out against foreigners. A Swiss ICRC delegate was abducted in Khan Yunis and currently is being held. An American teacher was kidnapped in Jenin and then released. There are reports that other foreign nationals have been abducted. In addition to the abductions, other security incidents occurred including a building used by the America-Mideast Educational and Training Services being stormed by militants and a convoy transporting individuals out of Gaza fired upon.

This is a classic example of how a single incident not associated with humanitarian activities can have reaching implications.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Incident: Homicide, Iraq

The body of American peace activist Tom Fox was discovered by police in Western Baghdad. Fox, 54, was a member of Christian Peacekeeper Teams. He and three other members of the organization were abducted by a group called the Swords of Righteousness Brigade in November 2005. The group released videos of the hostages and threatened to kill them unless demands were met. Initial reports said Fox had been shot in the head and chest.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Incident: Helicopter crash, Kashmir

A Puma helicopter, chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) through the South African company Starlite, crashed near the Muzaffarabad heliport in Pakistan administered Kashmir. No passengers were on board. The two crew members were injured and flown to Islamabad for treatment.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Incident: Resumption, Chechnya

Danish Refugee Committee resumed operations in Chechnya nearly a month after having activities suspended by the government.

Incident: Suspension, Sudan

International Rescue Committee temporarily suspended operations in the opposition-controlled northeastern region of Sudan following a request by the UN to cease cross-border activities from Eritrea. (Negotiations are underway with Sudanese authorities to access the region from Sudan.)

Deteriorating Security Situation in Darfur

Brief World Relief report that security in Darfur is going downhill once again.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Incident: Expulsion, Sudan

Eastern Front rebels reported that the Sudanese government no longer would be permitting the International Rescue Committee to operate in the eastern part of the country. No reason was given for the expulsion, but the other international NGO in the area, Samaritan's Purse, remains in operation. (3/9/06 Update) IRC states it was not expelled but was temporarily suspending operations at the request of the UN.

Mercy Corps Declines USAID Iraq Money

AP article on Mercy Corps turning down USAID money for programs in Iraq due to new "strings attached" that could compromise staff security.

Here we go; this is Round One between US NGOs and the Bush administration. In one corner we have a number of large NGOs who have become dependent on USAID funding. In the other corner we have an administration that wants to politicize aid and use it as a foreign policy tool. The NGOs want to keep their neutrality. The administration says you need to play by the new rules if you want funding. The NGOs say the new rules compromise their neutrality, which in turn reduces their effectiveness and jeopardizes staff in certain parts of the world. As a result, just about every major NGO that has relied on US government funding as a significant part of their budget is scrambling to figure out alternate funding sources that won't have as many strings attached.

It's not going to be a very pretty fight. While large NGOs can try to play the moral high card and decline money, the reality is there are many smaller NGOs waiting in the wings that won't be as picky when it comes to USAID funding stipulations and will see this as an opportunity to build a relationship with the US government for future monies. Which the government will be happy to establish, since working with compliant small NGOs is much easier than working with those large, old NGOs who got a little too powerful for their own good.

And if NGO staff are placed at a higher level of risk, well that's a small price to pay in the name of national security.

It's going to be an interesting next couple of years…

Monday, March 06, 2006

Incident: Homicide, Afghanistan

A national staff UN contract employee was murdered in the Bala Buluk district of Farah province. Six armed men stopped his vehicle, dragged him out and shot him. There was no claim of responsibility. This is the latest in a series of violent incidents that has the UN and other NGOs concerned about growing instability and its impact on programs.

Incident: Arson, Afghanistan

On March 2nd, two trucks hired by the United Nations World Food Program were stopped in the area of Shpolagh Manda (between Trinkot and Khas Urozgan in Urozgan province). The two drivers were threatened and beaten and their trucks were burned. 29 tons of food was destroyed.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Natsios on International Development

The very well read AC sends in a link to an article by Andrew Natsios, former head of USAID, appearing in the latest issue of Development Policy Review. Important reading in understanding the perspective of the US government as it changes its development policies.

Many senior managers of humanitarian NGOs in the US are concerned with the current administration's move toward politicizing aid. And if you're a security officer or advisor for a US NGO, you really need to start thinking about how the policy changes are going to impact field safety and security. (For example, some of the new USAID branding requirements could raise the level of risk in certain places, since they have the potential of creating a perception that a USAID funded NGO is an arm of the US government.)

The political and military actions of the United States will continue to have a large impact on humanitarian work in the coming years; whether you work for a US NGO or not. A good security officer understands this and will make informed suggestions and decisions to mitigate risk that may be brought on by this reality.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Incident: Bombing, Nepal

Two pipe bombs were thrown into the World Food Program compound in Damak, eastern Nepal, causing slight damage and no injuries. The UN Damak offices will be closed until an investigation is completed.

Incident: Suspension, Iraq

Save the Children officially ended operations in Iraq on February 28, 2006 (the decision to suspend was made last year). All remaining international field office staff left the country on that day. SC had been working in Iraq since April 2003.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Incident: Abduction, Somalia

Robert McCarthy, a UNICEF international staff member from the U.S., was abducted today on the outskirts of Afmadow, 110 kilometres north west of Kismayo in the Lower Juba region of Somalia. (3/2/06) Sounds criminal versus political, with a ransom demaned. Updates here and here. (3/3/06) McCarthy was released unharmed, and while no ransom was officially paid, the abductors were compensated for "past dues" owed to them by the government.