Ending the year … lost two more colleagues

Published on The Road to the Horizon, by blog owner, 29.12.2009.

… But I want to make it even more black and white: We, the aid community are left clueless what to do with this increased risk we face. The only thing we seem to be doing is piling up those sandbags even higher. Buying more bomb-blast film, bullet-proof jackets and mine-resistant Kevlar layers for our vehicles. Measures which should be taken, but proven to be insufficient.

I will make a prediction for 2010: there will be no end to the killing of aidworkers. And unless the aid community drastically changes its approach toward the risks now inherent to aidwork, one year from now, we will be looking back at the year 2010 and say “This was a bad year …”. My suggestions to any aid organisation who is concerned about security for their staff:  

  • 1.Make it compulsive for all aid staff to follow a two-three days security awareness course. The course is to be re-done, as a refresher, every two years.
  • 2.Everyone going into high risk area, should get a separate and customized security briefing.
  • 3.Every agency and NGO should comply with the MOSS (Minimum Operational Security Standards), and ensure the MOSS guidelines are strictly adhered to. MOSS compliance is to be verified by an independent external team.
  • 4.Security compliance should become part of the normal audit cycle. Complaints about security deficiencies should be handled with the same priority as theft, harassment or embezzlement.
  • 5.Every agency and NGO should employ a “Dirty Harry” team, with one and only one task: to try and bypass the security systems in order to expose deficiencies.
  • 6.And most importantly: as you can not reduce the thread, but can only decrease the risk to your staff members: reduce the amount of people we employ in security-risky areas. Resist donor pressure and the aidwork-inherent-testosterone-craze by wanting to rush into any emergency operation, without thinking “are we really needed there?”

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