NGO Security Management

Gretchen Severson, School for International Training


The NGO community has had staff killed, kidnapped, and injured while providing humanitarian aid. These incidents are the result of operating in insecure environments and the organization not being prepared to handle the threat or reducing their vulnerability. In order to effectively operate within these environments organizations must be prepared to accept that level of risk.

This paper is a case study of Mercy Corps’ security management. Due to Mercy Corps’ organizational culture of high flexibility and context-specific programming and the author’s interest of aid in conflict zones, the capstone highlights Mercy Corps’ security operations in Afghanistan. Research was conducted from Washington, D.C. through interviews, participation in relevant events, and Internet resources. The events attended were presentations and discussions at think tanks, universities, research centers, and at the NGO consortium, InterAction.

The study found Mercy Corps’ security management in an infancy stage in relation to the organization’s size. Heavily adhering to a security model that relies on relationships with the community for security, Mercy Corps’ organizational structure has elements of internal security capacity, but it is not yet weaved into the greater organizational culture. The capstone uses Bolman and Deal’s (2003) four-frame concept to examine organizational security management. The practical applicability of research for this capstone is intended to examine organizational practices that keep staff safe within insecure environments.