Friday, April 28, 2006

Incident: Resumption, Côte d'Ivoire

Due to improved security conditions, UNHCR has resumed operations in the western part of Côte d'Ivoire. Several facilities were looted and destroyed in January, prompting a suspension.

US Senate Hurricane Katrina Report

The US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released its findings on Hurricane Katrina this week. The reports are fairly hard hitting and don't pull any punches. Good reading for any NGO security practitioner for a couple of reasons. (1) It exposes general breakdowns in command, operations, logistics and communication that could happen to any humanitarian effort, (2) it highlights safety and security issues that your staff may encounter if your organization responds to some future large-scale incident in the US.

Following the wake of Katrina, a number of large US NGOs are reevaluating thier position in responding to disasters within the United States. From being involved with the USG disaster response system over the past seven years, I can tell you it is very broken and is going to take considerable time and effort to fix. The take home message for NGOs is to be very sure you have your own safety and security measures in place for staff members. There's a tendency to think the government will take care of you, especially if the disaster is within US borders, however after being on the ground in New Orleans, I can tell you this may not always be the case.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

ICRC Privatizing War Conference

AC writes in with a link to a BBC article about an ICRC-sponsored conference currently going on in Warsaw that addresses private military companies (PMCs) and the privatization of war. If you regularly read this blog, you'll have noticed this topic is frequently mentioned. Not to sound like a broken record, but we strongly encourage anyone practicing NGO security to be aware of this trend and its implications. It is the future...

5/4/06 Update: Here is a link to the conferenc statement of purpose and agenda as well as some photos taken during the event.

Sri Lanka Spiral

As hope for peace in Sri Lanka seems to have once again failed, the spiralling violence is impacting humanitarian efforts. Word on the street is that various NGOs are quietly suspending operations and reducing staff in the eastern part of the country due to security concerns.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fire Extinguisher Training

Training staff members in fire safety is a fairly common duty for a security officer. Training can often be outsourced to local fire brigades/departments or other emergency response agencies, but sometimes the circumstances may warrant a security officer to personally teach a class.

Oklahoma State University's Environmental Health & Safety Department has an excellent training module on fire extinguisher use (as well as other fire safety resources). You can freely download the module as a Powerpoint presentation or Word document.

Spend some time browsing through this Web site. There are a large number of safety-related modules on other topics that you can leverage for your own trainings.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Incident: Mine Fatality, Tajikistan

A French Army officer working for the Fondation Suisse de Déminage (FSD) demining organization was killed in a mine field in the Panj District, Tajikistan. Condolences to family, friends and Swiss Mine Action colleagues.

Incident: Plane crash, Chad

A Libyan cargo plane carrying food aid crashed on the Chad-Cameroon border on Sunday while attempting to land at the Chadian capital of N'Djamena. All six people aboard were killed. No information on organizational affiliation. Condolences to families, friends and colleagues.

The Latest Bin Laden Tape

An audio tape claiming to have come from Bin Laden has surfaced over the past few days. The significance of this one is what seems to be clear threats against Western civilians. While Taliban attacks on humanitarian organizations have been generally limited to Afghanistan, the potential of more widespread attacks on NGO staff and assets is certainly a possibility. Bin Laden is also now calling for jihad in Darfur (an analysis is here), which would obviously complicate relief efforts.

In most parts of the world, the threat of terrorism against NGOs tends to be very low. However the prudent NGO security officer should pay attention to global patterns and trends and be prepared to adjust security measures appropriately.

Private Military Companies in Darfur

AC provides a pointer to a news article about the possibility of using private military companies (PMCs) in Darfur. As the new Iraqi government exerts more control over private security companies (as well as the country moves to the brink of civil war), businesses such as Blackwater are starting to look for new sources of revenue. Conflict zones where humanitarian operations are taking place are being viewed as likely opportunities. The prudent NGO security officer should start learning about how PMCs operate. It seems quite probable in some locations that whether they like it or not, PMCs and NGOs will be working side by side.

Postscript: Here's a link to a recent article that debates both sides of using PMCs in conflict zones.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The History of the Car Bomb

AC writes in with an article on the history of car bombs by Tom Davis. This is an interesting read, providing some background on what's turning out to be a very common threat in some parts of the world.

From a related mitgation standpoint, check out the U.S. Government's FEMA Risk Management Series, which has two good publications that provide guidance in securing buildings from car bombs and other threats (FEMA 426 - Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings and FEMA 427 - Primer for Design of Commercial Buildings to Mitigate Terrorist Attacks).

Incident: Hijacking, Senegal

Report of a UNICEF vehicle in the Casamance region of Senegal hijacked. A fair number of people in the humanitarian world think that an acceptance strategy coupled with clearly identified vehicles will always keep them out of trouble. Reality proves otherwise...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Refugees caught in the crossfire between Chad and Sudan

An Agence France-Presse news article on the possible impacts to refugees due to the escalating hostilities between Chad and Sudan. A large number of safety and security implications if refugee relocations are forced.

Best Unintentional Security Pun of the Day...

From an Agence France-Presse article:

NAIROBI, April 16, 2006 (AFP) - Kenyan authorities have deployed security personnel in the country's unstable northern region to calm tensions on its border with Ethiopia sparked by cattle rustling, officials said Sunday. "Police have been deployed in the area to beef up security," Gerald Oluoch, eastern province deputy police officer, told AFP.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

ICRC: Management of dead bodies after disasters

A new ICRC publication on recovery, basic identification, storage and disposal of dead bodies following disasters (including information on infectious disease risk). Because of numerous misconceptions and a general lack of general knowledge on this subject by many humanitarian workers, this is essential reading.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Incident: Reduced Military Support, Uganda

The Ugandan government announced it would no longer be providing military escorts to relief groups delivering non-food aid in the north part of the country. The government stated the security situation had improved enough that military protection was no longer required. There is concern among NGOs that conditions do not warrant reducing military security.

Incident: Staff Reductions, Chad

As expected, NGO staff reductions and evacuations are taking place in N'djamena, with WFP announcing evacuation of non-essential staff and families. With Chad accusing Sudan of supporting the rebels, it's very likely the situation will continue to deteriorate.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Incident: Shooting (fatality), Somalia

A Somali staff member working for the German NGO Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe was killed from crossfire during a shootout between two groups. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Incident: Rebel Activity, Chad

Rebel forces briefly entered the capital city of N'djamena, but were forced to retreat by government forces. No word on the impact to NGOs operating in the city, but it is very likely hibernation and evacuation plans are being activated. More information here, including how the situation may impact Darfur.

Incident: NGO Controls, Uganda

The Ugandan government is implementing more stringent requirements for local and international NGOs to work within the country. This is in response to criticism that some NGOs are responsible for undermining national interests.

Aid agencies being phased out in Iraq

AC writes in with a pointer to a newspaper article on how the U.S. government wants to end the Iraq Community Action Program, one of the few bright lights in U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Incident: Ambush (fatalities), Central African Republic

Two national staff World Health Organization doctors were killed in an ambush between Bossembele and Yaloke, more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of Bangui. Their driver was seriously wounded in the legs and admitted to hospital. Condolences to friends, families and colleagues.

Incident: Attack (fatalities), Afghanistan

Gunmen murdered five Afghani medical staff members, working for a Christian Aid-funded organization, in their northwest Afghanistan clinic. There is speculation the attack is linked to growing anti-Western sentiment over poppy eradication efforts. Condolences to friends, families and colleagues. More information here.

Incident: Staff Reduction, Chad

The UN and unnamed NGOs have decided to reduce staff in Goz-Beida, Chad as a security precaution. This comes after rebels temporarily occupied the village of Koukou Angarana and the nearby Goz Amir refugee camp.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Incident: Convoy Attack, Somalia

A 72-truck UN food aid convoy came under attack near Baidoa. A short exchange of fire took place between gunmen who were escorting the convoy and others manning a checkpoint. Several fatalities and injuries were reported (apparently none to NGO staff members). No food was lost during the attack.

Incident: Ambush (fatalities), Sri Lanka

TP writes in with news that two humanitarian workers were killed and two others critically injured during a roadside ambush 9 kilometers north of Chavacachcheri , in Jaffna District (300km north of capital Colombo). The Sri Lankan staff members belonged to HUDEC, a local NGO affiliated with the Catholic Church of Jaffna. The HUDEC vehicle was overtaking a military vehicle when a bomb exploded. Initial reports believe the explosion came from a claymore mine attached to a tree. Based on known information, it appears the HUDEC staff members were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Condolences to friends, families and colleagues. (4/11/06) Additional information here and here.

The incident brings to light the importance of establishing policies and educating staff members to keep a safe distance away from military vehicles in areas where they are being targeted.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Small Arms Survey - Colombia

Small Arms Survey has a new report out called Colombia's Hydra: The many faces of gun violence by Katherine Aguirre, Robert Muggah, Jorge A. Restrepo, and Michael Spagat. English and Spanish versions are available.

UNOSAT Somalia Pirate Attacks Map

Map shows 2005 to current pirate activity off Somalia and comes in small (369Kb) and large (1.5 MB) file sizes. (The UNOSAT site is a great resource by the way.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

When Elephants Attack

Elephants running amok in Zimbabwe. Does your safety and security plan account take into account probable risk from local animals (of all sizes)?

Incident: Expulsion, Sudan

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has been told by the Sudanese government to cease humanitarian operations in Darfur. No reason was given. NRC is continuing work in other parts of Sudan.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Incident: Air Space Closure, Sudan

The Sudanese government denied the UN air space access over Darfur, preventing Jan Egeland (UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator) from overflying the area on his way to Chad to visit refugees. This is the latest in the building tensions between Khartoum and the UN.

Aside from the high-level politics, this situation does raise interesting logistical and security considerations. What if a host government suddenly restricts the air space in an area your organization is working in? If you're using helicopters or fixed wing aircraft, do you have contingency plans in place to continue operations? What new risks might an air space closure bring?

Convoys in Somalia

A good account of the security challenges in operating food aid convoys in Somalia.