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NGO Security Management Workshop in Kosovo (Prizren, 2-5 Nov 1999)

News and Press Release
Originally published
Koenraad Van Brabant, Relief and Rehabilitation Network (RRN), Overseas Development Institute, London. 15 December 1999. (
This workshop, organised by RedR, brought together 24 participants from 13 organisations. Four participants, two of them nationals, had come from Albania. Those based in Kosovo included representatives ( 4 of them Albanian Kosovars) from local and international NGOs as well as the OFDA and Swiss Disaster Relief.

Three core objectives of the workshop were:

  • to offer a systematic and transferable management approach to safety and security
  • to provide an opportunity to review the risk analysis and safety and security measures of the participants in their current contexts (Kosovo/Albania)
  • to facilitate and strengthen inter-agency linkages and collaboration around security.
    To that latter end, the workshop also brought in resource people from the OSCE, UNMIK police, KFOR CIMIC, UNHCR and the legal office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General in Kosovo.
The management approach drew on the curriculum developed during the OFDA/InterAction project (1997-1998) and the various sessions covered general situational analysis, threat and risk analysis, security strategies, security planning, incident analysis, inter-agency security information exchange and collaboration, safe driving including winter driving, site security, mines and unexploded ordnance, telecommunications, staff recruitment and -management, team building, and stress management.

Compared to other locations or to the situation a year ago Kosovo is not necessarily perceived as a high risk environment, an impression fed by the fact that the war and violent ethnic confrontations are over, and that the international community enjoys a high level of acceptance among the (Albanian) Kosovars. Agencies so far have been able to focus on programme implementation, without too many security considerations. The interest in a workshop on security at a time when there is, perhaps, not a perceived high risk is a positive indication of growing awareness in the aid community that security management deserves focused attention and requires some skill.

An initial threat assessment and risk analysis by the participants identified the following: accidents relating to vehicle travel and construction sites, potential problems arising from discontent beneficiaries, disgruntled staff and property ownership disputes, security risks related to ethnic tensions and confrontations, mines and unexploded ordnance and working in a pure cash economy (there is no functioning banking system). There remains a perceived threat, especially in northern Kosovo, of undercover infiltration or overt incursion by Serbia's security forces.

A broader and more pro-active contextual analysis and information from other international actors with an involvement in security management however indicated potential future treats that were not necessarily fully recognised: the municipal elections scheduled for the spring of 2000 may lead to an increase in political violence among Albanian Kosovars of different party affiliation; unemployment and inflation combined with the absence of a functioning bank system pose a threat of increased burglary and possibly armed robbery; the "re-opening" of Kosovo as a route for the drug trade, together with unemployment, is likely to stimulate drug use and associated petty crime; car theft, probably by organised gangs, at the moment affects Kosovar citizens but in time may well also hit international organisations; fire could be a major hazard in an environment where houses have been damaged and/or rapidly rebuild, and where candles and wood will be much used this coming winter. Sexual assault and rape were not identified as a current or imminent threat. Yet consideration may have to be given to the possibility of an increased risk, in an environment where much rape recently has been committed in a context of ethnic conflict, and where small arms undoubtedly are still in circulation. Rape was not identified as a major threat during a similar workshop in Albania in May 1999, but since then there have been a number of assaults also on international staff.

The discussions showed that participants clearly recognised that incident reporting needs to be complemented by incident analysis and pattern and trend analysis, and that stress, fatigue, complacency, inconsistent employment practices for Kosovar staff, as well as too many focal points on security and poor information sharing, can all contribute to higher risk.

The collective review also indicated the need for organisational and institutional or 'system-wide' attention in the following areas:

  • up-to-date and in-depth knowledge of the political, economic and institutional environment;
  • mandatory orientation and briefing for new international staff;
  • a pro-active rather than reactive identification of threats and risks;
  • a full and context-appropriate security plan in place;
  • a designated security focal point, trained and prepared for that responsibility;
  • security management to be clearly recognised as a general management responsibility. There was concern that designated security officials may be sidelined and their advice overridden by other programme managers and programme expansion considerations;
  • adequate fire-fighting and ambulance capacity Kosovo-wide and coordination of the existing capacities;
  • effective linkages at the operational level between key players in the security field, especially KFOR, UNMIK police and UNHCR/operational NGOs; there is a UNHCR managed VHF radio network that encompasses many NGOs, and that is being refined in order to cope with the high number of users, but linkages with other actors that have information and expertise to bring in the realm of security management, can be strengthened;
  • clarification about the geographical and task responsibilities for law and order and emergency rescue operations:
  • effective use of maps for security management purposes; the visualisation of mine and UXO risk areas must keep pace with the programmatic movements of assistance agencies;
  • minimum standards of mine awareness training (in some current training there is too much stress on technical characteristics rather than outdoor simulations and basic guidelines for first aid and extraction).
The collective review confirmed the need for urgent preparations for recognised risks that will be aggravated by the coming winter: practical steps need to be taken, and skills developed, to control the increased risks of driving in snow, ice and foggy weather. There is also an urgent need to maintain or strengthen awareness and discipline with regard to mines and UXO. Indeed, snow will hide markings of danger areas, and rain and the thaw in spring will contribute to mines 'migrating' from where they have been laid and might have been identified.

Recommendations from the workshop for improved practice included:

  • a shaping up of agency employment policy and of policy and practice towards private suppliers and subcontractors;
  • regular liaison with the legal office of the SRSG regarding developing legislation related to property, contract and employment law;
  • more regular and in-depth monitoring of contextual developments, in collaboration with e.g. the OSCE;
  • pro-active information and transparency about programme plans and policy changes towards target groups;
  • active use of maps for security management purposes (available from CIMIC);
  • mandatory briefing, more training and regular refreshment within agencies regarding safety and security;
  • drawing on the potential training capabilities present in KFOR, the UNMIK police and/or collective inter-agency initiatives to bring in additional training expertise;
  • greater consideration of safety and security risks among senior management teams of agencies operating in Kosovo; better integration of security and programming considerations; a policy directive in agencies to make incident analysis mandatory;
  • integrated communication links between UNHCR, KFOR/CIMIC, UNMIK police and NGOs ;
  • regular clarification of shifting responsibilities as KFOR hands over tasks to the UNMIK police;
  • standardisation of incident reporting and preliminary analysis formats;
  • centralisation of security related information, more and better retro-active incident analysis and pro-active threat-assessment, and more effective dissemination e.g. through an email listserve;
  • creation of an enhanced inter-agency capacity for responding to fires and medical emergencies, both in terms of sufficient specialised equipment and better coordination and allocation of tasks and responsibilities;
  • inter-agency security working groups at Prishtina and local levels;
  • rapid investment in measures to control the heightened risks of road accidents, fire, mines and UXO, under winter conditions.
The experience indicates that an inter-agency security workshop, in context, can confirm existing good practice, add to further knowledge and skill development within agencies, and initiate relevant inter-agency links around security management.