After 18 long months of continuous doubt, anxiety and fear, the young Italian volunteer Silvia Romano has been reunited with her family, friends and colleagues.
Kidnaped from the Kenyan village of Chakama during an armed attack in which 5 local people were injured, she was transferred to Somalia and held by Islamist militants before finally being relaesed following lengthy and complex negotiations with her captors.
While Silvia can today begin a new chapter in her personal and professional life, a new chapter also needs to be opened in regards to the management of Non Governmental activities in complex environments such as Kenya where, as the case in question illustrates, the inherent risks also include the threat of abduction.
While we cannot under any circumstances shy away from the obligation of identifying a series of lessons learned, we must avoid the counterproductive temptation of polemic and non constructive criticism.
The reality of the fact is that Romano’s abduction was not the first of its kind, indeed there are a plethora of similar cases and this fact raises the question of both risk analysis and the capacity of organisations to mitigate and develop a capacity to manage crises.
To compound difficulties, one of the most obvious consequences of the current Covid-19 crisis is that non governmental organisations will be operating in environments where rising poverty levels will be accompanied by rising crime levels.
Without any shadow of doubt, as in 2015 Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will play an important role in guiding non governmental organisations in regards as to how to address security concerns. The roundtable discussions of 2015 produced a series of precious guidelines and it is only to be expected that they will represent the basis of future discussions.
However, whilst awaiting a new round of interaction and debate, Italian non governmental organisations have the opportunity to begin addressing security considerations and measures to deal with them.
This is of fundamental importance as not only is it an ethical, moral and legal requirements in terms of Duty of Care towards staff working in the field, but is also a question of the very same organisation’s survival: a kidnapping or death can result in funds drying up leading to the organisation being unable to continue field operations.
As specifically regards the legal obligation, what holds true for a private company holds true for a non governmental organisation: management has a precise duty towards staff and will be charged with criminal negligence if an investigation concludes that the necessary security measures were not implemented.
Put quite simply, it is a case of those less fortunate being put at risk of no longer receiving precious support and assistance due to an organisation not implementing the steps necessary to protecting their field operators.
While nobody will suggest for a moment that they know and understand the local reality better than the organisation actually working there, the experience and professionality of the private sector can be of great assistance.
A security provider has to be thoroughly vetted, this means not only a careful examination of the company and their staff’s practical experience, but also the details of their proposed strategy including full respect for human rights in accordance with ICOCA (International Code of Conduct Association) principals.
Another important factor is that of choosing a provider that can cover all of the specific considerations: at the very least the development of procedures, staff training (basic and advanced), special risk insurance (medical and crisis), briefings and risk analysis, and the capability to fully support the organisation during all phases of a crisis.
As specifically regards insurance, while for well-known reasons K&R cover cannot be offered to Italian companies, it is worth clearing a little ambiguity: while the insurance cover in question will reimburse a ransom payment, perhaps more importantly it will cover the costs of the specialist assistance offered during and after the kidnapping event. It should be remembered that there have been cases where the protracted length of negotiations have resulted in the cost of the specialist assistance being greater than the ransom payment itself.
Pyramid Temi Group is very well aware of the value of the important work conducted by the NGO sector. We are amongst the founder members of ICOCA and our advisory services conform with the best practices and guidelines developed and adopted by the most important international associations and organisations. We are also aligned with the ISO31030 standard currently under development by the ISO TC262 technical committee of which PTG is a member.
We assist non governmental organisations in all phases of security planning and management from the development of procedures to the training of frontline staff and on-site support during a crisis.
Please contact us directly for a copy of our vadecum and description of our NGO support services.