A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Held by the Taliban - An interview with David Rhodes

This MSNBC video interview with David Rhodes on his kidnapping by the Taliban is a little light but worth watching if you have the bandwidth. Rhodes reveals that his Taliban captors 'googled' him and his family members in their quest for information.

Aid workers released in Somalia and Chad

Some good news for a change:

Six foreigners kidnapped in Somalia in November of last year have been released according to this AlertNet report. Four were aid workers with Action Contre La Faim (ACF) while the other two were the Kenyan pilots who had flown them in to Somalia.

Meanwhile MSF indicates that one of its staff members, missing since 4 August, returned safely last Friday. Unfortunately the international staff member is still being held by an unidentified armed group.

Al-Shabaab's NGO liaison office announces closure of UN offices in Somalia

It seems that Al-Ahabaab has an NGO liaison office. No... really! I’m not kidding. The official communication below announces the formation of the “Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies”. It also announces the closure of UNDP, UNDSS, and UNOPS offices in al-Shabaab controlled areas of Somalia.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

al-Shabaab logo

Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen
Department of Political Affairs and Regional Administrations

Date 27/07/1430H- 20/07/2009.

Press release on behalf of the Department of Political Affairs and Regional Administrations regarding the status of the various NGOs and foreign agencies operating in Somalia.

1. This is the official announcement of the establishment of The Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies. This office has been set up to coordinate all dealings with NGOs and foreign agencies and to fully monitor them.

It is mandatory upon all NGOs and foreign agencies operating in Somalia to immediately contact The Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies in their area. They must contact the Administration of the area that they are currently operating in and they will give out the address for the new office. The NGOs and foreign agencies will be informed of the conditions and restrictions on their work and on how their work may continue. Any NGO or foreign agency found to be working with an agenda against the Somali Muslim population and/or against the establishment of an Islamic State will be immediately closed and dealt with according to the evidence found.

2. As of (20/7/2009), a number of NGOs and foreign agencies currently operating in Somalia will be completely closed down and considered enemies of Islam and Muslims. The current list is as follows:


This decision was finally concluded after thorough research and due to an ongoing investigation into the actions and motives of many of the NGOs and foreign agencies currently in operation. The above foreign agencies have been found to be working against the benefits of the Somali Muslim population and against the establishment of an Islamic State in Somalia. Some of the findings include evidence of training and support for the apostate goverment and the training of its troops. The research also found material support being given to the apostate militias in the border regions in hopes of destabilizing the regions and disrupting the safety and security that the Islamic administrations of those regions have accomplished by the permission of Allah. On top of that, it has not been hidden that over $250 million dollars have been gathered in Brussels on April 23, 2009 from various infidel countries and donors for the crusader Amisom troops to continue their mission of oppression and massacre of the Somali Muslim people.

Previously, CARE and IMC, two American agencies, were closed down as evidence was found of participation in activities against Islam. Proof was uncovered of spying for and aiding the intelligence agencies of the enemies of Islam. In addition, as it is well known, those agencies assisted in the assassination of Sheikh Maalim Adam ‘Aayro.

Allah is our Protector and our Sustainer.
Department of Political Affairs and Regional Administrations

Personal Safety and Security Course - UK

Armadillo at Large is running a three day personal safety and security course from 27 July to 31 July at Farnham, UK. The course will be followed by two days of either field first aid or communications training.

The course syllabus:

The Security Management Framework
Risk, Threat, and Vulnerability
Situational Awareness
Standard Operating Procedures and Contingency Planning
Incident Reporting
Explosive Remnants of War Training
Hostage Survival Strategies
Guns and Bombs and things that go Bang
Personal Preparation
Safety Management
Travel Risks
Practical Simulations

If you are an aid worker heading off to a conflict zone, or you would like to be, I strongly recommend this course. The Armadillo at Large team has top notch instructors who have extensive first hand field experience garnered from some of the world’s most dangerous hot spots.

If you need more details download the course outline or contact Steve directly at steve@armadilloatlarge.com .

Course outline

Links for 2/19/2009

UN on alert ahead of Beshir arrest warrant decision - Unfortunate quote, “UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni was unapologetic about the contingency planning.” Hmmm... need we ever be apologetic about contingency planning?

Italian nuns freed after kidnap by Somalis - Some good news for a change.

Security forces raid office, intimidate staff of NGO that reports on human rights abuses - Thai military forces NGO staff to reveal confidential information on victims of human rights abuses.

Sri Lanka to probe NGO activities - Having been directly involved in a previous Sri Lankan government inquiry into NGO activities I think the term ‘witch hunt’ is entirely appropriate.

Aid workers die in freak ferry accident

Sri Lankan newspapers are reporting the death of two foreign aid workers after they accidently drove their vehicle off the end of the Muttur to Trincomalee ferry in eastern Sri Lanka.

Local police have stated that the pair started their vehicle to run the air conditioning without realizing that the vehicle had been left in gear. The bodies of the yet unnamed aid workers have been recovered and are in the Trincomalee hospital.

Links for 2/5/2009

Five Sudanese charged with murdering U.S. aid worker - In an area where impunity is the order of the day it looks like just might actually be done in the case of the murder of John Granville. Minor point - I think this should read “USAID worker” versus “U.S. aid worker”.

Israel seizes Gaza-bound aid ship - If you are trying to get aid into Gaza its probably not prudent to contract a Lebanese vessel.

Lone worker solution - I wouldn’t actually advocate sending aid workers out alone but this might be good for small teams in high risk environments.

UNHCR officer kidnapped, driver killed in Quetta

On 2 February, unidentified gunmen kidnapped UNHCR sub-office Chief John Soloki from the Chaman Housing area in Quetta, Pakistan. The gunmen opened fire on his vehicle as he was leaving for work in the morning killing his driver.

Links for 1/29/2009

Human Rights and Wrongs at the UN - This BBC audio podcast examines the UN Human Rights Council and whether its obsession with Israel, and apparent blindness human rights abuses in countries like Zimbabwe, has destroyed its credibility.

Filipino rebels want investment for hostages - During a meeting with a Philippines provincial vice governor the al-Queda linked kidnappers of three Red Cross staff demanded education and development projects for Muslim communities.

wfplogistics - WFP Logistics now has a Twitter account. Is this a sign that large humanitarian organizations are losing their fear of Twitter?

Links for 1/28/2009

2 UN Staff Freed - Two WFP workers kidnapped in Afghanistan n New Year’s Day were freed late Tuesday with mediation from tribal elders.

Red Cross sticks to no-ransom stand - The Red Cross again refuses to pay a P5 million ransom demand for the three staff kidnapped and reiterates that they never pay ransom.

KarKorder - NGO drivers face significant risk, both from traffic accidents and violent incidents. This vehicle mounted combination video recorder and GPS data logger might be useful for mitigating some of the risk.

New Zealand aid worker mauled by tiger

Ruth Corlett with Pancake the Tiger
Photo: Ruth with Pancake the Tiger by Corlett family

An aid worker from New Zealand is in hospital after being mauled by a tiger at the Khumsu Chiang Mai Tiger Centre in Thailand. According to Thai media the year old tiger attacked Ruth Corlett after she touched its head during a hands on exhibition at the centre.

According to Stuart, Ruth’s husband, she is remains in hospital but is doing “OK”.

Ruth Corlett and her husband were apparently working with Partners in Thailand near the border with Myanmar.

Partners is a faith based organization working on relief and development.

Update to Darfur violence - Bombing in El Fasher

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Sudanese rebel group, is reporting to local media that Government of Sudan (GOS) aircraft bombed an area near El Fasher on 26 January.

According to this US Embassy in Khartoum warden message the GOS has cancelled all flights to El Fasher airport:

U.S. Embassy KhartoumJanuary 26, 2008This Warden Message alerts U.S. citizens to fighting outside of El Fasher and other areas of Darfur between government and rebel forces. The Government of Sudan has cancelled all flights to/from El Fasher airport for January 26. The US Embassy urges all U.S. citizens in the Darfur region to take maximum security precautions, monitor news reports, and remain in a safe location until the situation stabilizes. U.S. citizens traveling in Sudan despite the current Travel Warning should register their presence in Sudan with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the Department of State's website (http://travel.state.gov/) and obtain updated information regarding travel and security within Sudan. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Sharia Ali Abdul Latif, Khartoum; tel. (249-183)774-700/1/2/3 (outside Sudan); tel (0183) 774-700/1/2/3 (inside Sudan). Americans may contact Embassy by phone or email KhartoumConsular@state.gov. For emergencies, please call the Embassy and ask to be connected to the duty officer.

Links for 1/26/2009

Twitter updates from Madagascar - Unconfirmed reports that the president has fled the country, radio and TV stations going off air, and a five star hotel burning. @MadagascarTweet is attempting to amalgamate reports.

Twitter As A Business Continuity Tool? - After reading Twitter is a Continuity of Operations Tool, State Agency Discovers Dave Fleet outlines some of the potential pitfalls of relying on Twitter as a continuity tool.

‘Solar Powered Medical Clinic Will Save Lives in War Torn Iraq’ - Aid Worker Daily wonders why NGOs are not quicker to be involved in alternative energy in the field. It is something I’ve always wondered as well. Alternative energy even has security advantages for NGOs. There is no need to expose drivers to increased risk bringing large amounts of fuel into crisis zones. Generators make it difficult to hear what is going on around your compound and even reduce your acceptance. Who wants to live next to a noisy generator? Especially if you don’t have an opportunity to use it yourself.

MSF forced to relocate by South Darfur violence

On 15 January, following heavy fighting in Muhajariya, South Darfur, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was forced to temporarily relocate most of its medical team to Nyala.

According to a recent MSF article the MSF base in Muhajariya has since been completely destroyed by fire. Fortunately the MSF clinic remains functional and a skeleton crew of local staff are attempting to provide basic services despite the risks.

The security situation in the Muhajariya area remains far from clear. Fighting between government forces and the Justice and Equality Movement has made delivery of aid very difficult. UNAMID is trying to fill the humanitarian void left after the withdrawal of the other humanitarian organizations.

Further complicating the situation, local civilians and ‘some’ combatants have taken refuge at UNAMID camps. This clearly endangers the safety and security of UNAMID troops and those civilians seeking refuge in the camps.

Although Sudanese officials have not directly linked the current attacks with the impending indictment of Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court, Sudanese government officials have repeatedly threatened recriminations against civilians, peacekeepers, aid workers and others in the event of an arrest warrant.

Links for 1/23/2009

SNAPR: Social Networking Action & Privacy Risk Methodology - This website, developed by security and risk analysis students at Penn State University is a handy tool for assessing your risk exposure from your use of popular social networking sites.

Australia worried about aid workers in Mindanao - but not enough to do anything practical.

Surveying OpenStreetMap in Africa - a handy overview of the open source mapping activity going on in Africa.

If you weren’t already cynical enough

As with many things in life it seems that the death of Jiri Zivny may not have been what it first seemed. A report in the AsiaSentinal suggests that Jiri may have died in a motorcycle accident rather than a robbery. You can read more in this disillusioning report: Cashing in by Doing Good in Cambodia

At this point it is very difficult to know exactly what is going on but it reinforces my previous advice - “Ensure you have proper medical evacuation insurance before you go abroad. The organization you work for should be able to provide this for you. If not, you will need to pay for your own... and you should probably consider choosing another organization.”

Whatever the outcome of this incident may be my thoughts are for Ziri, a man who seems to have been struggling to turn his life around for the better.

Links for 1/19/2009

The Three Myths About Plane Crashes - The short version: most people survive plane crashes, most people don’t panic during crashes, your actions during a crash do influence your survival.

Philippines: Aid workers' abductors want military to call off manhunt - The kidnappers have also demanded a five million dollar ransom while the Philippines government is asking the Swiss and Italian governments not to pay any ransom. Negotiations are likely to be difficult. There are three governments, three families, the Red Cross, and possibly two kidnapping groups involved and each has differing interests.

Canada sends child soldiers donated guns and knives to help in their fight

Canadians trade indifference for action by donating weapons to minors in foreign countries.

If you want to help visit War Child Canada.

Links for 1/16/2009

Women, the Devout and People with Good Memories Among Those that Worry Most About Terrorism - Comments on a somewhat flawed study that purports to show that women, the religiously devout, those with good memories, the less educated, and those lived close to the twin towers in NYC worry more about their vulnerability to terrorism.

Abducted Red Cross workers in Philippines make contact - The three Red Cross workers who were kidnapped have established contact with the Red Cross but they are still being held by their captors.

Where Walkie-talkies Dare - Ken Banks on using Walkie-talkies as an intermediate technology in the developing world. Cheap Walkie-talkies (FRS radio) are also great for ad-hoc NGO security arrangements.

Canadian humanitarian worker dies

The Canadian Aid Worker who was seriously beaten in Cambodia last week has died from his injuries. Jiri Zivny died at 5:15 p.m. local time on 15 January at Phnom Penh's Calmette hospital from injuries he sustained during a mugging.

As sad as this is it gets worse. According to CBC:

Zivny's medical insurance had expired before the attack. News of his death came as Picklyk and others were trying to raise funds to bring him back to Canada for treatment.

In other words Zivny did not have insurance to cover medical evacuation and neither did the organization he had paid 2700.00 CDN to volunteer for.

Potential aid workers take note - Ensure you have proper medical evacuation insurance before you go abroad. The organization you work for should be able to provide this for you. If not you will need to pay for your own... and you should probably consider choosing another organization.

More: B.C. aid worker dies in Cambodia

Links for 1/15/2009

3 Red Cross workers kidnapped in Philippines - Three workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross were abducted n the town of Patikul, on Sulu where Abu Sayyaf and other rebel groups have been active. Officials identified the victims as Andreas Notter of Switzerland, Eugenio Vagni of Italy and a Filipino, Jean Lacaba.

UN chief 'outraged' as Israeli shells hit Gaza headquarters - At least three white phosphorus rounds hit the UN headquarters building in Gaza wounding three staff members.

Twitter for emergency management - Gavin Treadgold posts about the value of Twitter in emergency management. According to Gavin, “One reason sites like Twitter have become so popular with the public is because they can get information quicker than we, as emergency managers, are able to otherwise provide it. That sends a pretty strong message that we need to do better in terms of getting information out to the public.” The same could be said for NGOs.

Links for 1/14/2009

Hamas confiscates aid trucks to Gaza - At least ten Jordanian Red Crescent humanitarian aid trucks have been confiscated by Hamas. The contents have apparently been distributed to Hamas run programs.

Lost BRCA hard drive contains 300 social security numbers - A small american NGO has suffered a data breach. Approximately 300 people's Social Security numbers and personal information is on an external computer hard drive missing from Blue Ridge Community Action.

The war in Gaza escalates. Civilian and aid worker casualties on the rise. Words "Crimes Against Humanity" coming up. - A summary of recent events in Gaza including attacks on aid workers and humanitarian facilities and equipment.

Top Ten Reasons You Know You’re Working at an Aid Organization Headquarters - This has been circulating on email for a while but if you haven’t seen it you might get a chuckle.

Links for 1/13/2009

Japan doctor held by Somali gunmen returns home - Keiko Akahane of Medecins du Monde talks about being held by Somali gunmen.

Terrorism & Security In South Asia: Likely Scenarios During 2009 - Despite its title this paper is more of a review of terrorism in 2008 than an it is scenarios for 2009 but its still worth reading if your organization works in this area.

Oxfam worker and family in Gaza narrowly escape death as rocket hits house - An Oxfam worker describes the destruction of her house and the difficulty of finding a safe area in Gaza.

GAZA Rafah eyewitness: CARE aid worker bombed with his family - A CARE staff member has his own narrow escape story.

Aid worker killed in Somalia

It’s only the sixth day of the new year and already we have this disturbing report of the death of an aid worker colleague in Somalia.

According to WFP:

Three masked gunmen shot and killed 44-year-old Somali national Ibrahim Hussein Duale, while he was monitoring school feeding in a WFP-supported school in Yubsan village six kilometres from the Gedo region capital of Garbahare. Witnesses say the gunmen approached him while he was seated, ordered him to stand up and then shot him.

WFP Statement
Aid worker killed in Somalia

Gunmen kill ICRC driver in Sri Lanka

On 23 December unidentified gunmen shot and killed a driver with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

Mr. Sivasundaralingam Gangatharan (32) was killed near the ICRC office after stepping down from the bus he was taking to work. The father of two had been working for ICRC since 1999.

Sri Lanka: ICRC staff member killed in Jaffna
ICRC driver shot dead in Northern Sri Lanka

Gunmen fire on WFP food truck killing one

On 22 December, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a WFP contracted food aid delivery truck in the southern Philippines. The vehicle’s driver assistant was killed in the attack.

more: Gunmen fire on U.N. aid truck in Philippines, 1 dead

Obama and NGO Security

Can a change of president improve NGO security? It is possible, but only with effort from us.

The UN rights chief says the world’s hopes are pinned on Obama. Obama says he’ll listen to the people. Change.org is taking him up on the offer.

So what does any of this have to do with NGO security? Let me explain. Amongst the ideas submitted so far is this one from Michael Bear Kleinman; “The US Should Establish a Department of Development”. A Department of Development would help give some perceptual distance between US military foreign policy and development efforts. The rhetoric surrounding recent fatal attacks on NGO’s in Afghanistan and Somalia suggests that some see little difference between american soldiers and aid workers. Anything that can be done to draw a clear distinction between development policy and military foreign policy can’t help but improve the situation.

If you think the concept of a Department of Development is a good one you can use the link in the widget below to vote.

German aid worker, parents abducted in Yemen

Bani Thabyan tribesmen kidnapped a German aid worker and her parents in southern Yemen on Monday. The aid worker and her visiting mother and father were seized by the tribesmen in Dhamar province, 105 kilometres south of the capital, San'a according to security officials. The kidnappers are demanding the release of imprisoned fellow tribesman.

German and Yemeni officials have yet to release the identity of the captives.

Kidnappings of this type are fairly common in Yemen. In the majority of cases, the hostages are freed unharmed after negotiations.

Map of Dhamar

Aid Worker Murdered in DRC

On 11 December, Seguin Tshisekedi was shot dead by unknown assailants a short distance from his home in the city center of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the IRC, Mr. Tshisekedi had worked for IRC as a data entry assistant since 2003.

The motives for the attack are unclear. Radio Okapi reports that Tshisekedi’s mobile phones are missing but that 425.00 USD and personal valuables were left behind.

Pasted Graphic

Somali Piracy is just a Symptom

Somali pirates have grabbed a lot of media attention lately and understandably so. Pirates make for an easy way to write about Somalia. There is little need for journalists to face the risks of travel in Somalia. They can write from the safety of Nairobi. There is no need for long complex explanations of fractured social systems, failed international interventions, war crimes, acute malnutrition, or clan and factional politics. It’s just nice clean swashbuckling pirate fun.

This Listening Post episode from AlJazeera does a good job of moving beyond the media hype. It is well worth the download time. Take special note of the comments by the International Crisis Group spokesman and those of Lynne Fredriksson of Amnesty International.

To paraphrase Lynne the Somali pirates are merely the symptom. The disease is the situation in Somalia itself. Which begs the question; do we treat the symptom or the disease?

Reasons to be Thankful

Today is the day that Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Going through my email and news feeds I’ve been thinking of things to be thankful for.

First and foremost for me is that Bev did not make it as far as Mumbai on her break from the dangers of Afghanistan. Fortunately for her the attacks began before she could leave Delhi.

Afghanistan hasn’t been quiet either of course. A suicide bombing near the American embassy in Kabul disrupted Thanksgiving Day activities, killing at least four people.

Aid Worker Daily points to another reason to be thankful. I could have been born in eastern Congo rather than western Canada. Condition: Critical highlights the struggles of those living in war torn Congo.

Most of all this morning I am thankful that I am not Dany Egreteau the French aid worker kidnapped in Kabul on 3 November. Warning: The video contains graphic and disturbing images.

Have courage brother. Rest assured that there are many working for your safe return.

Women, War, Aid and Reconstruction in Afghanistan

I just ran across this interview with Kathy Ullyott, Homemakers Magazine’s editor-in-chief. I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy during her visit to Kabul. She struck me as thoughtful and perceptive. This interview does nothing to change that opinion. If you want an understanding of the challenges in Afghanistan that extends deeper than ‘body count’ headlines you owe it to yourself to take the time to listen to all six parts of the interview.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

You can also find a three part text transcript of the interview with additional photos at Digital Journal 1, 2. Part 3 should be out shortly.

Somali Gunmen Kidnap Aid Workers on Airstrip

Somali gunmen have kidnapped a group of aid workers from an airstrip in central Somalia.

French Aid Worker Kidnapped in Kabul

The details are still sketchy but it appears that a French aid worker has been kidnapped in Kabul this morning. According to various sources he was taken while walking in Karta Parwan, a suburb of Kabul. An Afghan, possibly with the National Directorate of Security, was shot when he tried to intervene.

More: Western aid worker kidnapped in Kabul, Afghan shot dead

Updated: Video From Hargeisa Attacks

Thanks to noodlepie for sending the link to this video of the aftermath of the suicide attacks in Hargeisa.

Warning: Some of the footage is graphic. Don’t watch it if you find coverage of victims of violence exploitive.

More video showing the UNDP compound.

Updated: Suicide Attacks on UNDP and Horn Relief in Somalia

Update: New information suggests three killed and eight injured at UNDP compound.

A UNDP compound has been struck by a suicide bomb attack in what seems to be a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks across northern Somalia. Initial reports suggest that at least one UN staff member and a security guard were killed.

It appears that Horn Relief, an NGO working in the horn of Africa may also have been hit in the attacks.

Suicide bombers in Somalia strike UN compound

Kabul Funeral for Gayle Williams

Two French Aid Workers Kidnapped in Afghanistan

Two French aid workers from Action Against Hunger (ACF) were kidnapped in Afghanistan on Friday. The pair were taken at 1 AM as they slept in their ACF guest house in Nili, Day Kundi Province. The kidnappers reportedly tied up the local guards before fleeing with thier two victims.

According to ACF they have knowledge that the two staff members are still alive.

Kidnapping in Afghanistan: Two ACF Humanitarian Aid Workers Abducted
Two French aid workers kidnapped in Afghanistan

Gunmen Kill Aid Workers in Somalia

On 11 July gunmen shot and killed Mohamed Muhamoud Keyre, the deputy head of Mogadishu-based, German-funded Daryeel Bulsho Guud (DBG). DBG reported that he had been gunned down as he was performing ablutions at a Mosque at Elasha Biyaha, Mogadishu.

In a separate incident gunmen seriously wounded Ali Bashi, who heads Mogadishu-based charity group, SORDA. Ali Bashi was attacked while distributing food to internally displaced people in Taredishe camp 13 kilometres south of Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, in southern Somalia, gunmen shot and killed a WFP-contracted driver. Ahmed Saali was killed in fighting between convoy escorts and militiamen at a checkpoint in Lower Shabelle region on Monday.

Somali aid worker killed near Mogadishu, another wounded
Somali aid worker killed by gunmen

Massive Suicide Blast Targets Indian Embassy in Kabul

IFRC Aid Workers Leave Chad After Threat

Aid workers from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have been temporarily pulled out of Chad after an unstated but specific security threat. IFRC staff have been supporting the Chadian Red Cross.

Red Cross aid workers leave Chad after threat

The WolfGroup

Raj Rana is back online with his new company’s website. The WolfGroup is a consulting group with expertise in civil-military relations, post-conflict peace building, critical incident management, NGO security, risk management, protection and advocacy. Recommended!

Ahmed Rashid on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid discusses the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan with Charlie Rose. This video is a timely summary of the region’s difficulties.

30% of aid money is spent on security for aid agencies?

If you read this blog you’ve probably already seen the article above. I almost didn’t read it because it looked like yet another “aid is inefficient and ineffective article”. It was the reference to NGO security costs that caught my eye. According to Integrity Watch Afghanistan, “Between 15 to 30 percent of aid money is spent on security for aid agencies, the IWA report said...”

What? Really? Where did those numbers come from? Given the difficulty I’ve had in finding money for things as simple as burglar resistant doors and decent fencing I really have my doubts.

If you download the full report you’ll see this:

For instance, the contracted security of the Kabul-Kandahar road during its reconstruction* prevented the disarmament of the equivalent of a whole private militia. Serious estimates put the number of armed guards who were used by the aid agencies at tens of thousands. An estimated 15 to 30 percent of aid money has been spent on security.

Maybe that’s where things got confused. To be clear the meaning of the statement “15 to 30 percent of aid money has been spent on security” is nowhere near the same as, “Between 15 to 30 percent of aid money is spent on security for aid agencies...” While considerable donor money might go to ‘security’ in Afghanistan it includes things like security sector reform, demining, counter-narcotics, police training, etc. This is not the same thing as “security for aid agencies.”

I’m pretty confident that aid agencies are not spending 15 to 30 percent of their budgets on their own security. I know mine isn’t. Most NGOs do not use armed guards and security budgets are generally small even if you include what are traditional safety costs.

* To the best of my knowledge the vast majority of the work done on the Kabul-Kandahar road was done by private contractors, not aid workers.

Zimbabwe Orders All Aid Groups to Suspend Work

Not satisfied with merely stopping CARE’s work in Zimbabwe the government has ordered all aid groups to cease work. This might be a good time for NGOs in Zimbabwe to dust of hibernation/relocation plans, exercise the Crisis Management Team, and review security measures.

More Cartoons and More Threats

A Norwegian newspaper recently published a drawing of a man with Turban, having his clothes open and displaying a t-shirt with the text: "I am Mohammed, no one dares to print me”. The artist says that the half naked caricature represents the naked face of terrorism. However, it is fairly obvious that others may interpret the cartoon differently.
The drawing seems to be circulating quickly on Arabic websites. 

In an apparently unrelated, but likely synergistic threat, AQ seems to include Norway as well as other EU countries on its target list as the story below highlights.

NGOs would be wise to monitor the situation closely. Any indicator of negative reactions to the new cartoon should be taken seriously and any necessary risk reduction and mitigation measures implemented.

CARE Ordered to Stop Work in Zimbabwe

According to a CARE spokesman Zimbabwe's government has ordered CARE International to suspend its operations in after accusing it of political interference.

Gunmen Threaten INGO Staff in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

Gunmen in civilian clothing have reportedly threatened INGO staff and local residents in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. In one incident an INGO staff member had a weapon pointed at his head.

Young gunmen in civilian clothing have caused a series of disturbances on the town streets in recent days, threatening civilians and aid workers in broad daylight.
At least one International NGO has gone into hibernation until the situation stabilizes.

Human Security Brief 2007 - We Are Winning!

The Human Security Brief 2007 has been released. It challenges the conventional doom and gloom we've become so used to hearing. Maybe, just maybe, the voices of reason are winning.

Number of Reported Battle-Deaths from State-Based Armed Conflict by Type, 1946-2006

You can also listen to a webcast of Andrew Mack's press conference to discuss the report. Sorry but you'll need RealPlayer. Note to UN - why can't you use a non-proprietary format?

Three Aid Workers Kidnapped in Somalia

Three aid workers from Cooperazione Italiana Nord Sud were kidnapped by gunmen on 21 May in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia. Two Italians, one male and one female, and a male Somali colleague were kidnapped early in the morning in the village of Awdhegle.

Two Italians among three aid workers kidnapped in Somalia: officials
Somali gunmen kidnap two Italian aid workers-officials
Witness: Somali gunmen seize 2 Italian aid workers

Red Cross Website Hacked to Steal Quake Relief Donations

A section of the Chinese Red Cross website has reportedly been hacked. Apparently the hacker gained access to the website and created four fraudulent bank accounts to steal earthquake relief funding. If you can read Chinese you can read the report here. Otherwise check out the link attached to the graphic below. Read the full report from The Dark Visitor.

Kidnapped Aid Workers Released in Pakistan

On 17 May, Taliban fighters operating in Mohmand Agency, Pakistan, released four employees of two NGOs. The four were kidnapped by the Taliban on 23 April.

The aid workers were reportedly released after a local Peace Jirga facilitated talks between the Pakistani government and the Taliban.

Aid Vessel Hijacked near Somalia

A Jordanian vessel carrying 4,000 tonnes of sugar donated by Denmark was seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia on 17 May.

The Indian Ocean near Somalia has one of the highest piracy rates in the world. At least twelve ships have been attacked this year. Vessels carrying aid shipments are easy and lucrative targets for the pirates who ply the Somalia coastline.

Darfur 'No Fly Zone'?

According to sources the Government of Sudan is creating a 'no fly zone' for UN and humanitarian operations in Darfur. There are contradictory reports of airport closures and the grounding of flights. Nyala and El Fasher airstrips were closed on 13 May.

NGO security advisors are advised to reassess their medical evacuation plans for Darfur. The lack of reliable aeromedical evacuation capability increases the threat to life and limb of even relatively minor medical events.

Aid-worker, show me your visa!

WFP Head of Sub-office Killed by Gunmen in Northwestern Kenya

On Wednesday, 7 May 2008, gunmen shot dead 37-year-old Zimbabwean Silence Chirara outside a UN compound in Lokichoggio, north of Nairobi, near the border with southern Sudan. He was ambushed while driving a clearly marked UN vehicle.

See also:
UN food agency shocked by killing of staffer in Kenya
Zimbabwean Aid worker killed in Kenya

Centre for Monitoring Election Violence - Sri Lanka

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence is monitoring the election in eastern Sri Lanka. They are using the emerging standard, Twitter updates mashed with google maps, a blog, and mobile phone access to spread the word. Even if you are not interested in the elections you should check it out in case you need to do something similar in your own country.

CMEV is comprised of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) the Free Media Movement (FMM) and INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre. Despite financial constraints they plan to field 330 stationary monitors at selected polling centres across the Eastern Province along with 49 Mobile Teams.

Citizen Reports on Election Violence and Malpractices in Sri Lanka

Vikalpa has launched a new site on Twitter with short reports generated by its citizen journalist network in Eastern Sri Lanka. eastelections08 will provide updates on election related violence and malpractices in the Eastern Province.

You can also view the updates on the vikalpa website. You'll find them in the middle column just above the fold.

UNDP Worker Arrested with Pistol - Snarky Comments Follow

This article about a UNDP worker being arrested while carrying a pistol is interesting but its the comments that stand out. Some are funny... some just sad. What does it say about acceptance as a security strategy in Sri Lanka? Have we been doing a good job communicating what it is we do and who we are?

The Taliban and Propaganda of the Deed

The Insurgency Research Group has an excellent analysis of the significance of the Taliban attack on Sunday's Afghan National Day parade. The whole post is worth reading but don't do it yet. Read the following paragraph first and then watch the No Comment TV video.

The incident on Sunday demonstrates a classic propaganda of the deed partnership in which the insurgents with growing skill select a media-significant target and with witless incomprehension international reporters beam the most sensationally damning images of the event around the world so as to deliver the worst possible interpretation. There is no need for a Taliban subtext or even a photo caption, the images speak powerfully for themselves sending messages of a stricken regime put to flight in their gilded uniforms by the daring fighters of the Taliban.

OK. Now go ahead and read the whole post.

iPM: Twittering Around the World

BBC Radio's iPM until Chris Vallance contacted me to talk about using Twitter in Afghanistan. He has put together a a great piece titled "Twittering Around the World". Its definitely worth listening to. There are a lot of fascinating people doing interesting things with Twitter.

Add IPM Radio4's channel to your page

Be sure to check out the blog post too. Chris has links to some cool Twitter related sites.

IFRC Releases Two New Security Manuals

IFRC has released "Stay Safe", its new security manual. I've only taken a quick look at it but so far it looks good. There is also a security manager's version.

Learning to Think Analytically with Video Games

According to Wired US intelligence agencies are using custom video games to teach analytical thinking. Despite what the graphics might suggest the games' emphasis is on critical thinking skills and the use of the analytical process rather than violence.

I'd love to see an NGO version of something like this. It shouldn't be too hard to come up with an interesting story with a humanitarian slant that would challenge the players reasoning. Perhaps based on Darfur with the player attempting to shift through opposing claims and counter claims. Or how about a scenario based in Gaza?

Only the eight principles of intelligence analysis can save him? Oh my Gawd! I don't remember them! I'm hoping that its Richards J. Heuer's eight step Analysis of Competing Hypotheses otherwise little DIA dude is doomed.

Action Against Hunger Leaves Sri Lanka in Protest

ACF has made the difficult decision to withdraw from Sri Lanka due to lack of confidence in the government's investigation into the massacre of 17 ACF staff two years ago. This couldn't have been an easy decision for ACF. Concerns over the impact of their withdrawal on beneficiaries must weigh heavily. However, ACF's action may well help raise the profile of attacks on NGOs in Sri Lanka and help end the culture of impunity that grips the island.

I applaud ACF for making morally courageous choices under difficult circumstances.

More on Espionage Against Pro-Tibet NGOs

You might recall that a couple of weeks ago NGO Security and humanitarian.info covered cyber attacks on NGO's in Tibet. Now Wired magazine has a more mainstream follow up article on the issue. Most alarming perhaps is that some of the malware used in the attacks was designed to steal PGP encryption keys. PGP is used by many human rights groups to secure their email from prying eyes.

If you'd like to know more about how to protect your organization's information from prying eyes be sure and check out "Digital Security and Privacy for Human Rights Defenders".

NGO Security is Compiling a Security Training Directory

NGO Security is compiling a humanitarian security training directory. If you or your organization want to be included in the directory drop them a line. If you know someone who might want to be included please pass the word.

The Globe and Mail "Talking to the Taliban"

"Talking to the Taliban" is a unique look at the attitudes and motivations of the 'average' rank and file Taliban fighter. This six part video series is based on standardized interviews of 42 Taliban insurgents conducted in five districts of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Topics of discussion ranged from their motivations for fighting, their world view, relations with Pakistan and their views on suicide bombing. This is a view of the Taliban that is stripped of the myth, mystique and misunderstanding.

globeandmail.com: Talking to the Taliban

Pakistan: Shifting Targets?

Disarming Afghans

This short AlJazeera piece outlines largely unsuccessful disarmament efforts in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, any disarmament effort is likely to fail as long as average Afghans feel that the government cannot provide effective security for their families and communities.

Security Links

Suicide attacks, bomb warnings, damage to undersea internet cables, and SMS service cuts have all conspired to keep me from finishing my comparison of SMS tools so you'll have to settle for some links.

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.

Aid Agencies Lack Focus on Security: According to a former aid worker who was evacuated from Chad last year some aid organizations don't focus enough on security.

Custom Garmin GPS Maps: NGO Security explains where to find open source Garmin GPS maps. This is a very good resource. I was able to find a street map for Colombo and some good Afghanistan maps.

You Thought My Banana Was a Bomb: The Strategist's take on the Transportation Security Administration's new blog. Funny in a very sad sort of way.

Family Statement Regarding Cyd Mizell, Aid Worker Held in Afghanistan

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 - Flak Jackets and Suicide Attacks

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.

Imminent Threat: Potential for Violent Backlash over Anti-Qur'an Film

Although Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, has agreed to delay the release of his controversial anti-Qur'an short film the potential for a violent backlash remains. The pending release of the film has led to fears of a repeat of the worldwide Prophet Mohammad cartoon riots in 2006.

Wilders says his short will show that the Qur'an is "a source of inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror." Little else is known about the contents of the yet to be viewed video leading some to speculate that it may contain deliberately provocative acts.

NGO’s working in Islamic countries or in countries with significant Muslim communities should review their exposure to the risk of a violent backlash. Organizations that might be labelled as “Western”, “Christian”, “Dutch” or “Israeli” are especially vulnerable. Security plans should include responses for civil disobedience, demonstrations, and riots. With luck cooler heads will prevail and the plans won’t be needed but, as always, it is better to be prepared.

Deja Vu in Gaza

OK, I'm dating myself here but I find the the scenes on the Gaza - Egypt border very reminiscent of the exodus from East Berlin after the Berlin Wall came down. This is a very interesting development.

Beware Barbara Moratek of the Ivete Foundation

According to Sunbelt, a security software company, there is a new email scam going around where small non-profit organizations are being targeted by a “Barbara Moratek” of the “Ivete Foundation“. Not only does the email seem to be a scam but Googling either name can take you to sites with fake codec Trojans and other potentially damaging sites. NGOs, especially smaller ones eager for donors, should also be aware of this potential threat.

Go to their site to read the whole post.

Colombian Hostages Talk of Captivity

Two Colombian hostages, freed by the FARC after six years in captivity, describe what it was like to be a hostage. For a more in-depth interview from a former kidnap victim check out "Being Buried Alive - Surviving a Kidnapping".

People and Power - Burning Issues

An Al Jazeera report from Balochistan, where nationalists struggle for greater control over their region's natural resources.

Tracking Kenyan Violence

Ushahidi.com is a brilliant website that gives Kenyans a simple way to report and follow post-election violence. The site offers a simple map-based way to see where violence is taking place, and collects eyewitness accounts and photographs. Its even possible to report incidents via SMS.

Ushahidi.com screenshot

If you want even more White African has a comprehensive list of blogs covering the post-election violence.

Another Red Cross Worker Killed in Sri Lanka

Sooriyakanthi Thavarajah, a volunteer of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, was found dead after being abducted by unidentified gunmen last Friday. According to a Red Cross Red Crescent Movement statement:

"Mr Thavarajah had been an active member of the Red Cross for many years and served as chairman of the Point Pedro Division for the past three years. In 2005, he received an award for ‘Best Volunteer’ from the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society in recognition of his contribution during the tsunami tragedy."

This is the second killing of Red Cross workers in Sri Lanka this year. On 1 June two SLRCS volunteers were abducted and killed in Colombo by persons claiming to be police officers.

UN Staff Union Advises Staff to Skip Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is among the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers according to the United Nations Staff Union. According to these articles the union is expected to advise staffers not to take postings to Sri Lanka due to the security risks that aid workers face. Although the union places much of the blame on the government of Sri Lanka it also notes with concern “the lukewarm response by UN officials in supporting their own staff”.

Avoid Lanka: UN union tells staff
UN Staffers Union urges their Members to avoid Sri Lanka

Unreported World - Sri Lanka Killing for Peace 2007

This video by Sandra Jordan and Siobhan Sinnerton is an excellent summary of the security situation in Sri Lanka.

‘Lanka a top danger spot for aid workers’

According to this Reuters piece …

Sri Lanka is among the most dangerous places on earth for humanitarian workers, the UN’s aid chief says, calling on the government to probe civil war abuses and consider an international rights monitoring mission. Aid agencies say 34 humanitarian staff have been killed in Sri Lanka since January 2006, including 17 local staff of Action Contre La Faim shot dead in the restive northeast a year ago in a massacre Nordic truce monitors blamed on security forces. “There is a concern ... about the safety of humanitarian workers themselves and the record here is one of the worst in the world from that point of view,” John Holmes, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday during a visit to Sri Lanka.

Read more…

This is not news to most of us who work here but it is a reminder just how bad the situation has become. Sri Lanka can be a very deceptive place. It is important that we not let the sunshine, beauty, and beaches blind us to the risk that NGO staff, especially national staff, face in what is in essence a civil war. I worry that we have begun to accept these deaths as the price of doing business here.

Sri Lanka's Dirty War

Groundviews, a Sri Lankan citizen journalism initiative, is a good place to find alternative views on the conflict in Sri Lanka. Recently they posted a quick piece titled Sri Lanka's Dirty War. It includes links to an HRW report and a 13 minute video produced by Journeyman Pictures on abductions and human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Check them out, both for the story and for an idea of what citizen journalism in a conflict zone can be.

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