A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Aid worker killed in Iraq

Ra'aed Mohammed Saeed (50), an aid worker with the Human Relief Foundation’s office in Mosul, Iraq was ambushed and shot dead near his home on 1 September 2009 according to an HRF statement on the organizations website.

Mr Saeed, 50, was a project co-coordinator involved in the implementation of HRF’s projects including aid distribution and assistance to orphans and widows in northern Iraq. He leaves behind a wife and six children.

Ra'aed Mohammed Saeed

Vacancy - Security Director - Iraq

Relief International is looking for a Security Director for Iraq. Being an NGO Security Director in Iraq is one of the most challenging jobs you’ll find in the NGO security world.

Position: Security Director for Iraq
Reports to: Global Security Director
Location: Baghdad, Iraq


The Security Director for Iraq will be responsible for leading security and safety preparedness, practice, and response for 536 staff in-country, as well as 4 staff based in Jordan who travel in Iraq, and any visitors to the programs.


Duties: The Security Director for Iraq will:

• Lead security and safety preparedness, practice, and response for all RI-Iraq staff and programs;
• Develop RI-Iraq security and safety policy with the Headquarters Global Security Director and Iraq senior management team;
• Supported by the Security Coordinator, the Security Director for Iraq will liaise with the Iraqi Government, United Nations, Multi-National Forces in Iraq, Triple Canopy, and other organizations when necessary;
• Supported by the Security Coordinator and three national Regional Security Associates, routinely assess security and safety conditions for staff housing, offices, travel, and recreation, as well as trends by location, routinely enhance the policy manual, practice, and response capacity to match;
• Supported by Headquarters, the Security Coordinator, and three national Regional Security Associates, the Security Director for Iraq will lead the preparation and conduct of pre- and post-deployment orientations for staff and visitors, as well as arrange advanced security trainings and psychosocial support.


The Security Director for Iraq will report to the Headquarters Global Security Director, liaise with the Iraq senior management team, and oversee one expatriate Security Coordinator and three national Regional Security Associates. The Security Director for Iraq will be responsible for leading security and safety preparedness, practice, and response for 536 staff in-country, as well as 4 staff based in Jordan who travel in Iraq, and any visitors to the programs.


• Minimum 10 years aid-related experience in crisis zones;
• Minimum 5 years in role as security officer for aid-related programming;
• Experience with aid security policy and practice in crisis settings in at least three different cultural contexts;
• Knowledge of ICRC Code of Conduct, as well as Interaction and UNDSS security standards required;
• Extensive cross-cultural training experience;
• Strong English language communication skills;
• Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian languages a big plus;
• Experience in Iraq a big plus.

For consideration please submit all of the following: a detailed CV, cover letter, salary history, and a list of 3 previous supervisors (including email address, mailing address, and telephone number) to Human Resources, Relief International. Email to: hrinternational@ri.org. Subject line must include: Security Director - IRAQ.

Vacancy - Country Security Manager - Iraq

IRD is looking for a Country Security Manager for its operations in Iraq. They are looking for someone with a lot of experience, at least ten years as a security manager, but if you meet the requirements this challenging position just might be for you.

Read more.

Vacancy - Iraq Security Consultant - USA

Relief International (RI) is looking for someone to revise their current Iraq security handbook. The position appears to be US based.

JOB TITLE: Iraq Security Consultant

DURATION: 2-3 Weeks


Relief International (RI), an international relief and development agency with cross-sectoral programs bridging relief and development, seeks a Security Consultant to facilitate the revision of its Iraq Safety and Security Handbook.


1. Facilitates routine conference calls with senior program staff based in Iraq to discuss and come to consensus on security policies and procedures.

2. Revises the current handbook as needed based on the feedback of senior program staff. Each draft will require a quick turnaround.


1. Demonstrated experience writing technical and/or policy manuals.

2. At least three years of field security experience in conflict afflicted settings (preferably Iraq).

3. Excellent communication skills. Strong English writing skills are essential.

To Apply: send resume, cover letter, writing sample, salary history, date of availability, and 3 professional references to hrinternational@ri.org. Subject line must include: Iraq Security Consultant.

Vacancy - Regional Safety and Security Advisor - Iraq

IRC is seeking a qualified candidate for its Regional Safety and Security Advisor for the Middle East position. While the successful candidate will be based in Erbil, Iraq, they will be responsible for security throughout the region.

Darfur, Afghanistan, Beer, and Breakfast

Google Trends can be a useful tool for context analysis. If you've ever wondered why your security budget is dwindling despite the rise in security incidents or why the head office seems to have forgotten you it can be a pretty useful tool.

For those who haven't seen it before Google Trends compares the relative Google search frequency of up to five user specified terms. For example if you want to compare relative search interest in various hot beverages you might enter "coffee, tea, cocoa" and press search. Google Trends returns a nice neat chart that shows how many searches were made for each term over time. It also shows a "news reference volume" chart, or in other words the frequency with which the term has shown up in the media.

Relative frequency of search terms Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo and Sweden

The chart above was generated when I compared relative interest in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Congo, with Sweden as a control.
The results were pretty interesting. Searches for Iraq seem to correspond with increases in media coverage. No surprises there. The big surprise for me was Sweden. Google user are more interested in Sweden than they are in Darfur, Afghanistan, and the Congo. Talk about forgotten conflicts!

Flag B is interesting. It marks George Bush's call for more NATO troops in Afghanistan and clearly shows an increase in media coverage of Afghanistan. It even overtook coverage of Iraq for a short while. However, the general public took no notice.

Headlines associated with country comparison

Relative search frequency by region

The regions chart is enlightening. Americans are predominantly interested in Iraq and seem to have forgotten about Afghanistan. The Canadians, who have troops in Afghanistan but not Iraq seem equally interested in both countries. And finally, the Swedes seem to be totally obsessed with Sweden.


Not without trepidation replaced Sweden with "beer" in my search terms. I shouldn't have. I now know that your average computer using westerner is more interested in beer than they are in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. "Darfur?... never heard of it... do they have good beer?"

If you are feeling particularly masochistic try breakfast or worse boobs. For a brief while in 2004 your average Google user was more interested in what was happening in Iraq than what they were going to have for breakfast. That aberration hasn't repeated itself since. Its also interesting to note that while American's seem equally fascinated by Iraq and breasts, Canadians have a distinct preference for the later.

"...we keep them alive, until they are massacred."

The Carnegie Council has an interesting presentation by Jan Egeland, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, in which he introduces his book, "A Billion Lives: An Eyewitness Report From the Frontlines of Humanity". Its all good but a couple of quotes really caught my attention.

Jan Egeland on the need for more than just humanitarian aid:

"...in the old days, they said, "Send the Marines." Now it's, "Send the humanitarians. They will keep them alive, and we can maybe forget about it." Well, we keep them alive, until they are massacred."

Jan on humanitarian security in a post UN Bahgdad bombing world:

"...it is a watershed when we go from just preparing ourselves to survive in crossfire with militias, with child soldiers, with drunken soldiers, with mines, and so on—we have lots of procedures to survive in such circumstances, but we do not know how to survive when a well-financed, ruthless organization plans for one month to kill you."

You can watch a video excerpt of the presentation below.

If you have good bandwidth you can watch the full video presentation...
or you can listen to the audio archive...
or if your connection is very slow take a look at the transcript.

FORA.tv: Mohammed Hafez on Suicide Bombings in Iraq

I don't normally cover Iraq. There are more than enough pundits doing so. However, in this case I am going to make an exception for one simple reason: Iraq is a testing ground for a new model of war. The lessons learned in Iraq, by both sides, will be used elsewhere in the world. By the very nature of where NGOs tend to work they will be directly and indirectly impacted by this new, rapidly evolving, mode of conflict.

Suicide attacks seem to be a keystone tactic in this new conflict. Suicide attacks have a disproportionate effect on world political developments because of their targets, their apparent unpredictability and inevitability, and most of all the incredible psychological impact. NGOs can no longer be confident that they will not be the target of such attacks. Even when humanitarian workers are not directly targeted the places they frequent inevitably will be. Restaurants, hotels, night clubs, public gatherings, government buildings, and UN complexes have all been attacked by suicide bombers in recent years. To make matters worse suicide bombings are no longer rare events outside Iraq. They have increased in frequency in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries around the world.

In the two video clips below author Mohammed Hafez discusses the strategy and ideology of suicide bombing. They are well worth watching.

Question: How do INGOs, often viewed as proxies of western governments, protect themselves from suicide bombers?

Vacancy - Security Coordinator - Relief International

Relief International is looking for a Security Co-ordinator for Iraq. Fluency in English and Arabic is required. If you think you are up to the challenge check out the TOR here.

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