Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Inside Jobs

The Telegraph is reporting that the two Danish Refugee Council aid workers recently kidnapped in Somalia, fell victim to their own security staff. The abduction occurred within 48 hours of the pair's arrival in Somalia, and apparently was facilitated by members of the armed guard force contracted by the humanitarian organization. Without having specific details, any analysis of this incident would be speculative at best. However if the news report is accurate , it does highlight a seldom talked about factor in national or international aid worker abductions. That is there is often an insider within the organization that is somehow involved with the kidnapping. Whether the motivation is political, monetary, or simple revenge, some set of circumstances cause a staff member to act against a colleague.

Unfortunately, NGOs don't seem to be very good at picking up on warning signals prior to an inside job. For that matter neither do corporations, as criminal activities by insiders are far more common than those committed by people outside a company. It probably comes down to a bit of denial, thinking someone's not going to bite the hand that feeds him or her. But in many cases, that's just what happens.

Obviously, properly vetting staff members is a useful preventative measure. After that though, managers need to have a high degree of sensitivity to their employees and be mindful of behaviors that could suggest a staff member might act against the organization. Unfortunately, this isn't widely taught within the humanitarian community. (A good starting point for self-study is Gavin de Becker's book "The Gift of Fear," which offers some basic behavioral insights to potentially violent internal threats.) Another detriment to preventing these types of incidents has been a lack of willingness for organizations to share information about precursors that lead up to an incident. While I appreciate the potential negative PR and legal exposure implications of disclosure, not understanding the events that led to an incident and not applying lessons-learned, almost certainly guarantees the incident will occur again - to your own organization or another.

Inside jobs are tough. But the first step in dealing with them is to acknowledge they occur. With that and the local context in mind, you can start crafting ways to mitigate the risk; whether it's abduction, theft, or workplace violence.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post...I particularly appreciate when you point to the lack of co operation among all NGOs. We got hit a week after another NGO. Nobody in the NGO told us anything about the serious crime and a week later it was our turn. Thanks again for pointing this out

9:39 AM  

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