Thursday, August 31, 2006

Incident: Homicide, Darfur

A Sudanese employee of the ICRC has been killed after being abducted east of the Jebel Marra mountains in North Darfur. The man was kidnapped and forced by armed men to drive trucks stolen during food distribution on August 16. Condolences to family, colleagues and friends.

Darfur Security Incidents Map

US Department of State Humanitarian Information Unit map and chronology of 2006 to date security incidents in the Darfur area (PDF format).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

SLMM Accuses Sri Lanka Army of Killings

The Swedish-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) is accusing the Sri Lankan military of killing 17 humanitarian workers earlier in the month. The accusations are based on SLMM interviews and discussions with confidential sources. The Sri Lankan government denies a role in the killings. A complete investigation report has yet to be issued. Update 8/30/06 - The UN is threatening to suspend aid operations unless there is accountability for the killings.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Aid Workers Threatened by Sectarian Violence

As international aid agencies increasingly withdrew their staff from Iraq for security reasons, local NGOs assumed a greater role in helping sick, displaced and hungry Iraqis. But now these local humanitarian groups also have become victims of sectarian violence, with volunteers under personal threat. The dire situation highlights the need for greater security so that Iraqi NGOs can deliver aid to those who need it most. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Recent ANSO Reported Incidents

Summarized security incidents in Afghanistan over the past several days as reported by ANSO:

August 24 - An INGO office in Nangarhar Province, Jalalabad City was robbed after hours by six armed men. The criminals both forced entry into the compound and posed as police officers, intimidating the guards. Money and cell phones were stolen.

August 23 - A female INGO international staff member was harassed by a man with a knife in Herat City. She was not physically harmed or robbed during the incident.

August 22 - A rental car used by an INGO was fired on by an AK-47 in Haji Kama Jan Village, Nazyan district of the Nangarhar Province. No injuries were reported.

Incident: Office Looting and Arson, Sri Lanka

According to a Tamil news source, the Jaffna office of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation was looted and burned by armed men. Intruders forced a night watchman to leave the office and then destroyed computers, files and other equipment before setting the building on fire. 8/28/06 Update - More details, and a list of other recent security incidents TRO has experienced, here.

Incident: Shootings (fatalities), Sri Lanka

Two reports of national staff aid workers being shot and killed in Sri Lanka. A Sinhalese working for the United Office Project Firm, was shot outside his office in the eastern Ampara district. And earlier in the week a Tamil Red Cross worker was murdered outside her home in Cheddikulam, Vavuniya. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Interview: Michael O'Neill, Save the Children US

If you've done any aid work in conflict zones, especially on the safety and security side of the house, chances are you've run into Michael O'Neill, the Security Director for Save the Children US. In addition to having a tremendous amount of field experience, Michael has also been influential in advancing the acceptance of NGO security concepts and practices throughout the humanitarian community. He just got back from Beirut, where he was tasked with rapidly establishing basic security operating procedures and building an INGO security coordination presence. We asked him to share a few of his Lebanon experiences and insights with us.

First off, there were reports that getting into the country was a bit challenging. Can you tell us a little about that?
There were basically two ways into Lebanon: Syria and Cyprus. The direct road from Damascus to Beirut had already been compromised by aerial bombardment by the time we arrived. That left the northern route from Damascus through Al Aarida or Al Aabboudiye. Due to the uncertainties surrounding US relations with Syria and the extent to which the road routes would remain viable (given Israel's demonstrated willingness to target overland routes), we decided to enter through Cyprus. From Larnaca we gained passage on a small cruise ship that had been chartered by the Canadian government to evacuate its citizens from Lebanon. We waited for several hours on the jetty until the ship arrived, disgorged its passengers, resupplied and departed for the 7-hour trip back to Beirut. After a few weeks the Cyprus option disappeared as governments determined that they had evacuated all those willing to do so. So I departed Lebanon overland via the Al Aabboudiye border crossing. Since the ceasefire, I understand that commercial airlines have begun to fly into Beirut (or will do so shortly) and the UN has established a regular ferry service from Cyprus.
What were the major safety and security issues facing INGO assessment teams in Lebanon when you got there and through the ceasefire?
There was one dominant threat - IDF aerial bombardment. The Israelis targeted suspected Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and the southern suburbs of Beirut. In addition, they targeted infrastructure - roads, bridges, border crossings, power stations, etc. Just a few days before the announced cease-fire it seemed clear to all that the strategy, if it continued would eventually close off Beirut and preclude the evacuation route through Syria.

SC (Save the Children) teams going to the field were required to strictly follow movement procedures: travel authorization request, pre-departure security briefing, convoy, redundant communications (cell phone, sat phone), regular call-in & personal protection equipment (depending on location). All SC staff must attend the MAG landmine and UXO awareness training prior to going to the field.
How much security coordination was going on among the INGOs? I believe there were 100 international staff from the major INGOs in Beirut doing assessments of various kinds. Was there good information sharing?
From the second day I arrived (Aug 25) I met up with the UN security office and several security colleagues from IRC, IMC, CRS, Relief International and others. The UN at that point was not yet ready to coordinate with the NGOs as they had there own challenges dealing with the IDF and the security of UN staff and property (two days later they were directly impacted by the violent demonstrations outside the UN office in the wake of the Qana massacre). So the INGO security managers convened a meeting on our own and agreed to meet twice weekly. Within a week our group numbered nearly 20, we had developed a contact list, email network, regular meetings, and a WIKI site. By this time the UN had designated a representative to the group, so the coordination and information sharing improved accordingly.
What were your biggest personal safety concerns while you were in Beirut?
The greatest fear was being targeted by the IDF for aerial bombardment. According to our threat assessment if Hezbollah succeeded in reaching Tel Aviv with one of their long-range missiles, we felt certain that Beirut would be targeted for reprisal. The turnaround time for the anticipated counterattack we figured would be 30 minutes maximum. As such we established a location in the hotel basement for a bunker, worked with hotel staff to ensure that bedding and water were available, and conducted a walk-through with all our staff.
The U.N. had a large number of security officers present in Lebanon. How much were the INGOs relying on their security planning and information?
The UN was committed to submitting movement plans to the IDF for concurrence prior to moving anything. We chose not to follow this procedure. As mentioned above, the UN was pre-occupied in the early stages but after about week three were regular attendees at the INGO coordination meetings and sent out daily security sitreps.

The INGO community is hoping to develop a full-time security cell that will take up the logistical, communications and coordination functions of the current group and liaise with the UN security personnel. What form this might take is still under discussion, but member NGOs have already committed funds to get things started.
There were rumors that the Thuraya satellite phone system was being jammed. Did you encounter any communication difficulties?
We used Iridium with excellent results. Thurayas did not work in Lebanon or Syria it was reliably reported.
With the Israeli air strikes on the major transportation corridors, evacuation route options begin to get limited. How did you deal with this?
We established a convoy plan to head to Damascus via the northern route - even though we realized that route would likely be jammed with thousands trying to evacuate the same way - the only way or that the IDP might target bridges or the crossing itself thus eliminating this course as an option. So we developed a fallback plan where we would head 35 km east-northeast near Broummana, a Christian enclave we determined to be the least likely target of Israeli bombardment. There we would shelter in place and wait out the precipitating event (likely the bombardment of Beirut). Both options were part of our evacuation plan.
There were some reports of rising anti-American and British sentiment in Beirut. How much of an impact did this have on your security planning?
Right after the Qana massacre demonstrators in Beirut were quite vocal about their anti-UN and anti-US views. There were also reports of local NGOs and municipalities rejecting any assistance from US donors or those affiliated with the US. With the daily media broadcasts of innocent Lebanese civilians being killed, maimed and displaced by the unrelenting Israeli bombing of civilian targets and the perceived complicity of the US government in supporting Israel's aggression, many Lebanese felt aggrieved and abandoned by the West especially the US. The rhetoric was often passionate and critical of US policy, but none of our staff encountered any overt anti-US sentiment in Beirut. We remain vigilant to the potential for a surge in anti-US sentiment due to actions taken by the Israelis or US government, or a general breakdown in the ceasefire. My twofold recommendation to our program management has been: First, limit the number of international staff deployed, especially to those who will work and travel in the south of the country. Because local capacity is quite high in many of the professional areas that are likely to be required and the fact that SC has had programs in Lebanon for many years indicates to me that this shuld be the preferred course of action. Second, seek out Arabic-speaking, middle-east experienced candidates for the positions that are filled by international personnel.
What programs will Save the Children be implementing in Lebanon now that a ceasefire is in place?
Child protection, education and health seem to be the needs that we are in the best position to address. In addition to the main office in Beirut, we have established an office in Sur (Tyre) and will focus our attention in these areas working through local partners to support those Lebanese returning to their places of origin and the IDPs who cannot yet return. We expect to work through various local partners as the Lebanese civil society has proven well organized, efficient and largely effective - though divided by the same sectarian issues represented in the larger society.
What do you feel are going to be the major safety and security challenges as INGOs start programming in Lebanon?
Landmines and UXO have already claimed lives as the IDPs rushed to return to their homes once the hostilities ceased. This will be an enduring threat. According to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) in addition to the landmines remaining from earlier conflicts in southern Lebanon, add 10-15% of the 3000 daily bombings, shellings, and bombardments during the 33 days of conflict. Of course, the ceasefire is still fragile and there could be a return to hostilities that will change the threat environment once again. We will continue to work with MAG, have our staff orientated to the landmine/UXO issues, and develop related messages into our education/protection activities.
Any "lessons learned" from the trip you'd like to share with other NGO security practitioners?
Getting the INGO security group activated early on was very important and will benefit the NGO community as organizations move further into the affected areas in the south. Having access to a WIKI site though useful, turned out to be less user friendly than necessary. Having someone on the ground to manage the site and the information would be very useful.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Incident: Planned Evacuation, Sri Lanka

A Red Cross-flagged ferry is planned to be used later in the week to evacuate several hundred foreign passport holders and aid workers from the besieged city of Jaffna. A ship carrying relief supplies is set to sail for the port city on Monday to replenish stores in northern Jaffna district. 8/28/06 Update - 161 people were successfully evacuated on the ship.

Incident: Evacuation Interference, Sri Lanka

A convoy of vehicles carrying 141 mostly local staff from foreign and local aid agencies was stopped as it tried to leave the LTTE northern base of Kilinochchi. There is speculation the LTTE is preventing aid workers from leaving the area as a political move.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Incident: Evacuation, Sri Lanka

Reuters is reporting that "Some international agencies - as well as unarmed Nordic ceasefire monitors - are moving their staff south out of Trincomalee after artillery fire came down within a couple of miles of the beachfront hotels where many were staying." The situation in Sri Lanka continues to deteriorate, with road and air links into Jaffna blocked.

Incident: Possible H5N1 Cluster, Indonesia

Health officials are concerned that the death of a woman from the village of Cikelet (150 kilometers southeast of Jakarta), may hallmark an H5N1 Avian flu cluster.

From white vans to war zones

BBC news article on Toyota Gibraltar Stockholdings, which reportedly supplies about 30% of all vehicles going to charities, governments, NGOs and aid agencies in the developing world. The company's Web site lists a variety of security-related accessories such ballistic blankets, window security film, and ballistic seat protection. While vehicles typically fall into the logistics side of the house, it's worthwhile for NGO security practitioners to know about different vehicles and available safety and security options.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

CARE International Safety & Security Handbook

The CARE International Safety & Security Handbook is a concise and comprehensive reference guide distributed to CARE staff throughout the world. The 156-page manual provides guidance on dealing with a wide variety of safety and security issues and includes a number of very useful checklists. This is a great resource for anyone taking on NGO security responsibilities, but unfortunately, copies are a little hard to find outside of CARE and the handbook hasn't been readily available on the Internet. However that's changed as of now since Bob Macpherson, director of the CARE Security Unit, kindly made the most recent second edition available to us in PDF format. Right mouse click one of the following links and "Save as" to download an English, Arabic, French, Spanish or Portuguese version of the handbook. We've also added these links to our Primary Readings. Thanks much Bob!

Incident: New H5N1 Strain, Thailand

Thai officials have identified a new strain of the H5N1 Avian flu virus in Nakhon Phanom. The new strain is similar to one found in Southern China, and it's unclear whether this is an independent mutation or if the strain was introduced by infected fowl originating in China.

Incident: Kidnappings, Afghanistan

A medical team of 15 Aghanis, mainly doctors and nurses, was kidnapped by Taliban forces on Thursday while travelling to a refugee camp in the southern province of Kandahar. They were released unharmed several hours later.

Incident: Humanitarian Worker Impersonation, Syria

Aljazeera reports that "Mossad agents allegedly posed as volunteers for relief organisations visiting Syria to help refugees from the war in Lebanon" in an attempt to assassinate a senior Hamas official. The humanitarian organizations were not identified. Whether the allegation is true or not, perception can easily color reality, potentially casting suspicion on legitimate aid workers in the region.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Faking faith to fool death squads

While keeping a low profile is an essential security measure for humanitarian workers in certain parts of the world, for Sunnis in Iraq it can be a matter of life and death, and some are taking it to the extreme. Not specifically NGO-related, but still an interesting read.

First Responders Guide to Satellite Communications

Produced by the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), this 24-page PDF booklet is an excellent introduction to the basics of satellite communications. Easy to understand, lots of illustrations and a good glossary makes this a great reference if you don't have much experience using sat phones or terminals (or are teaching others about them). SIA even says they'll send you free hard copies if you contact them.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Jill Carroll: First Person Account

Jill Carroll, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, was abducted in Iraq earlier this year and was held for over three months. Her kidnapping became international news. In a multiple-part series, for the first time Carroll writes about her experiences in captivity, including details of the abduction. This is a gripping story as well as an excellent security case study. (The first part of the series was just published, and the Web servers seem to be overloaded with lots of readers. Be patient or try back later when the load decreases.)

Mine/UXO Threats in Lebanon

"With 4,000 explosive items now being dropped daily in Lebanon, MAG (Mines Advisory Group) - the British-based conflict recovery organisation – estimates around ten per cent will fail to explode and many items will remain dangerous as internally displaced people return to their homes." From a brief Mines Advisory Group press release.

Airport Security Restrictions Eased

In the wake of last week's terrorist threat, airports in the US and UK are starting to ease some of the initial security restrictions. News on revised US rules here and UK rules here. With more discussion and information in the security forum.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Incident: Convoy Attack (fatalities), Lebanon

Israeli aircraft attacked a civilian evacuation convoy outside of Marjeyoun, killing seven (including a Red Cross worker) and wounding 36. Some of the attacked vehicles had Red Cross markings and the UN stated the convoy had received permission to travel on a named route. The IDF denied permission was given and said vehicles in the convoy were suspected of carrying Hezbollah arms.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Incident: Expulsion, Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is in the process of kicking out yet another NGO, this time Crosslink Development International. In the past six months the government has has expelled the Urban Institute, Winrock International, the Eurasia Foundation, Freedom House, the International Research and Exchanges Board, the American Bar Association, Counterpart International, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the American Council for Collaboration in Education and Language Study (ACCELS).

More on the Muttur Incident

Additional information following the execution of 17 national staff members in Sri Lanka:
During the past two years, hostility and suspicion toward humanitarian NGOs operating in Sri Lanka has increased. This can be tied directly to shortcomings of tsunami relief efforts, accusations of corruption, and hardliner opinions that NGOs were providing too much support for the LTTE, thus threatening national security.

As the conflict continues to escalate and jeopardize humanitarian efforts throughout the country, it's critical for NGO senior managers to take a honest look at whether organizational decisions and actions helped to contribute to the current level of insecurity. And what, if anything, could be done differently to prevent the same thing from happening again elsewhere.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

UK Airport Security Measures

If you're departing on a flight out of a UK airport, here's an official list of the things you'll be able to carry onboard due to today's announcement of terrorist threats. This is incredibly restrictive and essentially eliminates most forms of carry-on luggage for the time being (it appears all laptops, MP3 players, cell phones, water bottles, first aid kits, cameras, GPS receivers, books, and other NGO security tools of the trade will have to go in your checked baggage). Honestly, this seems like a complete overboard reaction to a threat, much as were a number of the airline security measures put in place following 9/11. It will be interesting to see how the flying public reacts and if other countries put similar restrictions in the place. (Lots of good discussion in the Travel Safety/Security section of the forums.)

Aid Work Threatened by Maoist Rebels

As the peace process seems to be working in Nepal, Maoist rebels in the Dadeldhura and Parbat provinces are trying to shake down NGOs, by collecting "taxes" on program activities. This type of corruption certainly isn't exclusive to Nepal and happens regularly in other parts of the world. Always an interesting security question in that do you deal with potentially higher risk levels by not paying or simply write off the taxes as the cost of doing business (potentially encouraging additional extortion attempts).

MSF to Defy Israeli Travel Ban

While you certainly have to give MSF credit for sticking to its humanitarian principles, the organization's announcement that it would defy Israeli vehicle travel restrictions in South Lebanon certainly does significantly increase their level of risk. The IDF is targeting just about anything with wheels that moves. And based on their past track record, I personally wouldn't want to get into a game of chicken with the Israeli military.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Incident: Assaults/Robbery, Chad

The International Medical Corps compound in Guereda was robbed by armed men last Friday. Three international staff members were assualted during the robbery; one requiring hospitalization. This is the latest incident tied to deterioriating security conditions in the eastern Chad.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lebanon Links

Security-related bits and pieces of note in the continuing conflict.
  • Israel cuts off main aid corrdior into Southern Lebanon (think about contingencies).
  • Unexploded Ordnance a risk to aid workers in Lebanon.
  • UNFIL aid convoys (and associated security challenges).
  • UN aid coordinator condemns Israel and Hezbollah (attacks near convoys).

Incident: Executions, Sri Lanka

15 national staff members working for the French NGO, Action Contre la Faim (ACF/Action Against Hunger) were found excuted in their office in Mutter, Sri Lanka (there appears to be some confusion over the number of victims, with some sources saying 15 and others saying 16 or 17). The aid workers, involved with tsunami relief work, were apparently shot at close range. Reports indicate the staff members, eleven men and four women, were all wearing ACF t-shirts. There are reports of other security incidents in the area taking place. As a result of the attacks, ACF is suspending operations. Action Against Hunger has been working in Sri Lanka since 1996. The Sri ACF Lanka mission has 15 expatriate employees and 224 local employees. Our condolences to families, friends and colleagues. 8/8/06 Update - In addition to the 15 ACF staff members killed in their compound, 2 other ACF aid workers were found murdered in a car, as they apparently tried to flee the scene. This is the largest single incident of violence caused, humanitarian worker loss of life since the bombing of ICRC offices in Iraq in 2003. Addtional updated information here and here.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Missionary Kidnappings in Haiti

AP news article on how missionaries in Haiti are being targeted for kidnappings. "Missionaries say they believe they're targeted only because they stand out as foreigners and are more vulnerable than U.N. and foreign embassy personnel, who often travel in armored convoys." An case study of why it's important to have a balanced security strategy based on the context and not exclusively rely on acceptance. 8/8/06 Update - The UN is planning on beefing up security in response to the increase in kidnappings and violence.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Phone Camera Robberies

A news report out of South Africa about techno-savvy criminals using cell phones with cameras to rob bank customers. The set up works like this. Loitering thief inside a bank watches for a customer making a large cash withdrawal and secretly snaps a photo of the intended victim. The thief then sends the photo to accomplices with a cell phone outside the bank, who use it to identify the victim when he or she leaves the building. The victim is followed by the accomplices and robbed at an opportune time. A seemingly random crime that in reality is very targeted.

Incident: Evacuation Route Bombing, Lebanon

Israeli air strikes have closed the main road from Beirut to Damascus, eliminating the route for evacuation use or convoys. Additional attacks earlier this morning destroyed key bridges on the northern route into Beirut, further isolating the city. (Photo Mohamed Azakir / Reuters)

I heard from a colleague on an NGO assessment team who followed a UN convoy into Beirut on the northern route within the past few days. He said there were no security issues and traffic was flowing normally. However with the bridges now destroyed, there is concern about the best way to evacuate if the need came. The part of Beirut he is located in has not been impacted by the attacks, and he describes the situation as normal seeming, but with fewer people and less traffic. Shelling can be heard to the south. One of the major safety and security concerns among international NGO staff on the scene is if Hezbollah makes good on its threat of launching missiles at Tel Aviv. How the Israelis would react is unknown, but there is some apprehension that retaliatory attacks could be launched and impact areas of Beirut that have not been physically touched by the conflict.

Our thoughts are with all the NGO security practitioners, in the field and at home, who are dealing with the many challenges this conflict has brought and continues to bring.

Havaria Information Service AlertMap

One of my favorite ways of keeping track of disasters going on in the world is with the Havaria Information Service AlertMap. Based out of Hungary, this Web site features a map of the world with icons representing different incidents (floods, earthquakes, chemical spills, landslides, etc.). Click on an icon to get additional information, including a Google map of the incident location that you can zoom in on. The map is updated with realtime data from a number of sources. No conflict information, but just about everything else. There are lots of features and it's worth spending some time exploring the site. If I was a security director of a large international NGO, something like this tied into my incident reporting system would definitely be my wish list.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Deaths of aid workers threaten Darfur operations

"Escalating violence in the volatile Darfur region has left more aid workers dead over the past two weeks than during all the previous years of conflict, jeopardising one of the world's largest aid operations, a United Nations official said on Thursday." More after the jump.

RFID Passports and Security Technology

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It's a technology that uses a small microchip that sends out a radio signal with identifying information. A special radio receiver picks up the signal and translates the information into a human readable or computer usable format. People are excited about RFID technology and envision it being used for all sorts of applications (product labels in stores, toll road collections, patient identification, etc.).

So what does this have to do with security? Well, the U.S. and other governments are in the process of incorporating RFID technology in their passports (businesses and organizations are also eyeing the technology for identification cards). Proponents say this makes passports more difficult to forge because all of the information about a person, including a digital picture, is embedded in a chip. The immigration agent uses a scanner that picks up the radio signals from your passport and then all of your personal information is displayed on a computer monitor; which is attached to a database that is automatically queried to see if you're on a bad person list.

However one of the concerns brought up by computer security professionals, is this technology makes it incredibly easy for anyone who has temporary access to your passport to download all of the information on the passport chip without you even knowing it (the data is not encrypted and is easily be read with the right type of equipment).

This concern has now moved from theory to practicality. A German security consultant appears to have found a way to easily clone passport chips. He's demonstrating the technique later in the week at this year's Black Hat conference in Las Vegas (one of the premiere get-togethers for computer security types).

My point here is there's a trend to rely on technology to address real or imagined security issues without understanding the vulnerabilities of the technology. Slick sales pitches, complexities behind the technology that are difficult for the average person to understand, and a desire to find what appears to be a simple and easy to use solution can often expose an organization to increased levels of risk by blindly adopting a security technology.

As a security practitioner you need to watch out for this. You may not be an electronics or computer guru, but you're certainly capable of asking critical questions and doing a bit of Googling on a technology before you endorse its use.

Incident: Subversion Accusations, Uzbekistan

From an AP news report (complete story here, along with added Mercy Corps response):

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- A pro-government analyst accused the U.S.-based aid group Mercy Corps of subversive activities Wednesday -- the latest foreign nongovernmental organization to face scrutiny and potential closure in Uzbekistan.

In a statement posted on a government web site, Ulugbek Mukhammadiev of the Fund for Regional Politics wrote that the group's work in Uzbekistan's section of the troubled Fergana Valley "looks more like espionage and subversive activity" because it monitored "negative tendencies" and accessed "the situation in border areas."

International Crisis Group - CrisisWatch #36

International Crisis Group's latest CrisisWatch (number 36) is out. "July 2006 was the grimmest month for conflict prevention around the world in three years. In 36 months of publishing CrisisWatch, the International Crisis Group has not recorded such severe deteriorations in so many conflict situations as in the past month, and several have significant regional and global implications."

Oxford Research Group, International Security Monthly Briefing

Oxford Research Group has just released their monthly briefing on global security issues, this one entitled A Third War (by Paul Rogers). A good high-level overview of events in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Incidents: Various, Darfur

MSF press release on recent security incidents the organization has experienced in Darfur in the past several weeks, including:
  • July 14, armed men robbed the compound and stole a car in Serif Umra
  • July 16, an ambulance was shot at on the road between el Geneina and Morney, the driver was beaten
  • July 18, another MSF vehicle was taken out of a medical facility in Shangil Tobaya
  • July 20, a team was robbed and beaten on the road between Golo and Niertiti
The security situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate and word on the street is more than one large international NGO is considering withdrawing. It will be instructive to see what the threshold event is that causes widespread suspensions. Operations in Darfur are very important from a public relations standpoint to NGOs and the challenge is balancing that with staff safety and honestly assessing just how much benefit programs are providing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Disaster waiting to happen?

If you follow world events (and this blog) you know how risky Afghanistan can be. Maybe I'm just being cynical, but the prospect of 1,000 South Korean Christians showing up in Kabul for a peace rally this weekend just seems like a very, very bad idea. Not only for the participants, but potentially for any NGO working in the country. The recent riots and burning of the CARE office demonstrated how things can easily spin out of control. Now add a group known for its aggressive evangelism showing up in large numbers in an Islamic country where proselytising is banned. It will be interesting to see what develops... 8/4/06 Update - The Afghan government decided to act and has canceled the weekend festival and is in the process of deporting the South Korean Christians from the country due to fears of violence.

Incident: Fatality, Darfur

An Oxfam driver, kidnapped in May, is believed to have died in fighting in West Darfur. Nouraldeen Abdalla Nourein was kidnapped during a carjacking and was taken to Chad and held there until recently (Oxfam closed its Saraf Omra office at the end of June due to Nouraldeen's abduction). In trying to return to North Darfur Nouraldeen was caught up in fighting near Kulbus. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Managing Security Risks in Hazardous Missions: The Challenges of Securing United Nations Access to Vulnerable Groups

The Spring 2006 issue of the Harvard Human Rights Journal has a great paper written by Claude Bruderlein and Pierre Gassman called Managing Security Risks in Hazardous Missions: The Challenges of Securing United Nations Access to Vulnerable Groups. The paper is based on Harvard's Program On Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research Security Management Initiative Progress Report that came out in 2005. This is an essential read for every NGO security practitioner as well as senior and field management. A very good assessment of the state of humanitarian security as well as suggestions for moving forward.

One quote I found quite telling was, "Interestingly, one of the main sources of pressure for security reform appears to come not from the staff itself, but from the families of those who lost their lives in service of the United Nations. International agencies are now facing increasingly litigious constituencies, among beneficiary populations and, more notably, among their predominantly Western staff. Such claimants increasingly seek compensation for damages incurred in preventable security and safety incidents. There are no precise numbers available on the litigation, or threats of litigation, exerted by the families. However, interlocutors we spoke with in the course of the 2005 SMI survey expressed the view that threats of litigation may be a key factor in prompting the U.N. agencies' interest in security management reforms."