Aid workers Cyd Mizell and Muhammad Hadi have apparently been killed in Afghanistan according to this statement by Asian Rural Life Development Foundation. The pair had been kidnapped by armed men in Kandahar while they travelled to work in the morning.
Thanks to Sources and Methods for pointing out the Trunk Monkey Vehicle Security System. Hopefully they'll develop a ruggedized version for NGO use. Just imagine how useful it could be at militia checkpoints or when the police want to search your vehicle for the fifth time that day.
According to AlJazeera kidnappings are big business in Mexico with an average of 900 kidnappings per day last year.
Watching the video reminded me of a kidnapping conference I attended a couple of years ago. Among the participants was Rachel Briggs, the author of "The Kidnapping Business". Her publication is well worth reading even without the extensive references to the NGO community.
To paraphrase her report a kidnapping business hotspot country can be identified by the following characteristics:
1. The presence of networked groups that can support the crime. Tribal groups, fringe political groups, religious groups, and pure criminal groups are the major classifications and they are by no means mutually exclusive.
2. Political or economic transition that results in ineffective policing, corrupt judiciary, or weak laws but avoids outright conflict which would likely limit the number potential victims.
3. A local middle class, significant numbers of expatriate businessmen, or I would argue the presence of large numbers of aid worker.
4. Areas where potential victims are poorly protected and do not manage risk well.
Does the country you work in have some or all of these characteristics? Does your organization have a kidnap and ransom policy? Do you know what it is? Do you know what personal security measures to take to reduce your risk? Do you actually use them?
I believe that publicly funded data (data from governments, the UN and other world bodies, and INGOs) should be truly public. By this I mean that anyone can easily, and without cost, access the data in a non-propietary format. No locked pdf files. No password protected databases. No one-query-at-a-time, one-answer-at-a-time forms. Just the data in a simple user accessible format.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) understand. They have teamed up to provide an integrated database known as FIRST . FIRST contains free, open source, clearly documented information from research institutes around the world. The databases filled with hard facts on armed conflict, peace keeping, arms production and trade, military expenditure, armed forces and conventional weapons holding, nuclear weapons, security, international relations, human rights, and health statistics. Most of the data can be exported in comma-seperated value (.csv) or Excel (.xls) formats. These formats are easily imported by many analytical tools allowing the user to carry out their own processing and analysis.
As an excellent example of what can be done with data from FIRST check out Jeffrey Warren's Vestal Design interactive data visualization of world-wide arms transactions. You can view the full Java-based visualization at ARMSFLOW. I love this kind of thing. Effective data visualization allows you to quickly present complex data to senior level decision makers without overwhelming them.
Now if only there was a way to get NGOs to share security incident data in the same way!
CARE is looking for a safety and security officer for North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Along with the usual security officer skills they are looking for proficiency in English, French and Kiswahili.
NGO compounds can be very vulnerable to civil disturbance, especially when they become the focus an angry crowd’s attention. Walls, fences and gates will only slow determined rioters and not for very long at that. Even armed guards are of little use. Guards from a reputable private security company are unlikely to be willing to fire upon a crowd of their fellow countrymen, nor would humanitarian organizations want them to. So the question is, how does one slow the advancing crowd long enough for staff to seek safety?
The Inferno invisible security barrier might be a solution worthy of consideration for at risk humanitarian organizations. The modules look like sleek high tech stereo speakers but they emit a wall of sound so unpleasant that it forces most people to leave the area immediately. Any intruder who doesn’t leave immediately faces the unpleasant prospects of vertigo and nausea and will have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand.
The system works by emitting a combination of sound frequencies from 2 to 5 kHz. Unlike the comparably loud scream of a regular siren the inferno’s unique frequency combinations have a disturbing but non-permanent effects on human physiology. The system won’t even cause hearing loss without repeated exposure.
Yes, a determined intruder could still get in, perhaps covering his ears, but recall that the intent is not to prevent entry. Rather, the intent is to delay the intruders long enough for staff to seek safety and for assistance to arrive. Like walls and fences you'll need to leave an escape route for staff.
Welthungerhilfe is looking for someone to fill the position of Head of Project for the Afghan NGO Security Organization. The Head successful candidate will have overall responsibility for the project including five Regional Safety Officers and an Operations Coordinator. You will also be responsible for advancing the ANSO project, preparing new project stages and securing the required funding. In your capacity as Head of Project, you will act as the national contact person on safety issues or as a security consultant for all NGOs operating in Afghanistan.
CARE International is still looking for a Staff and Program Security Advisor for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is currently entering a critical phase of its civil conflict therefore the successful candidate will be required to have strong analytical, diplomatic, and cross cultural communications skills. Regular travel to volatile and dangerous conflict areas will also be required.
According to his colleagues a German aid worker of German Agro Action (Deutsche Welthungerhilfe) was kidnapped by armed gunmen in Era Gabo, Somaliland. Daniel Bronkal was apparently taken during an ambush on the GAA vehicle. The driver, who sustained injuries during the attack, and a fellow aid worker avoided capture in the confusion.
Although it the motivation for the kidnapping is not clear at this point the area has experienced a spate of criminal kidnappings for ransom. In January two MSF Spain staff were released by their kidnappers after being held for a week.
I love maps. Good maps can be a security analyst's best friend. A good map can summarize an entire analytical report.
A recent post on sources and methods led me to Aon Corporation'sTerrorism Threat Map. Risk levels, regions of special risk, religious extremist groups, political extremism, separatist movements, and kidnap risk are all covered in a simple and easy to grasp format. The legends are chock full of information as well. One even contains a concise explanation of the terrorism risk assessment process.
Aon's 2008 Political and Economic Risk Map is another that deserves a place on your office wall. Not only does it illustrate the usual war, terrorism, and civil disturbance risks but it also highlights exposure to the current global credit crisis. You can get a copy here but unfortunately you'll have to fill in one of those annoying online forms.
Privacy International's map of Surveillance Societies Around the World isn't nearly as professional as the ones above but it is still effective at pointing out that the world's nosiest governments aren't necessarily where you might think. Although I think Privacy International tends to be somewhat alarmist my biggest problem with their latest report is that they still leave large portions of the world uncovered. Surely Africa, the Middle east, and South Asia deserve greater attention?
For extra analytical fun try overlaying the maps. How does surveillance intensity compare to terrorism risk? Kidnap risk?
Save the Children is looking for a Safety and Security Coordinator for Kenya. Given the recent rapid deterioration in the security environment in Kenya this should prove to be a challenging position. Ref: 4458
CHF International is seeking a Security Manager for Pakistan. The position is based in Peshawar and requires experience working in the FATA region of Pakistan. Tracking Code: 1460
10 Ways We Get the Odds Wrong: Psychology today takes a look at why our brains are so bad at assessing modern risks. There is an interesting if strictly US-centric quiz at the end that will let you test your risk knowledge.
Finding a Job: The AidWorkers Network has a good guide for anyone looking to break into the aid worker job market. Its not limited to security jobs but it doesn't exclude them either.
Travel Safely: Gadling shows you how to create your own DIY personal first aid kit for the road. Note that this kit is for travel related "nuisance illnesses". For field work I carry a larger first aid kit as well.
Cyd Mizell's father asks for his daughters safe return in this video statement.
If your connection is too slow for the video you can read the text of the statement below.
SEATTLE, Feb. 3 /CNW/ -- The family of Cyd Mizell, an American aid worker currently being held in Afghanistan, today released the following statementfrom her father, George Mizell: "I am Cydney's father. My family and I want to thank all those who have shown their deep concern for the safety and well being of my daughter, Cydney Mizell, and Muhammad Hadi. I am indebted to the Afghan people for their support of Cydney and Muhammad. "My family and I love Cyd very much. I'm confused why my daughter would be taken because she's a gentle, caring and respectful person. "When we talk to Cyd, she tells us about the friends she's made and the kindness that's been shown to her and her desire to help them. "To those people who are holding our daughter, please let Cyd come home. Each day that passes without knowing about Cyd is difficult for our family andfriends. "We ask that you work with us so Cyd can come home. Cyd knows how to contact us and her co-workers. All of us are waiting to hear from you."
For further information: Bill Curry, spokesman for the Mizell family, +1-206-697-3684 Web Site: http://www.onlinefilefolder.com
Christina Lamb is interesting in her own right but that's not why I think you should watch this video. Its worth watching it just for her short description of what it is like to be in a survivor of suicide attack. I firmly believe in visualization as a tool for preparing people for traumatic events. Gaining insight from people who have been through the experience helps do this but you need to concentrate on the emotions and feeling of the event. She also talks about trusting your instincts when working in dangerous areas.
Of course Christina has lots of other interesting insights as well so if, like me, you are a spending a lazy Saturday recouping from a hectic week grab yourself a coffee and watch the whole thing.