A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Mexico's kidnapping business

According to AlJazeera kidnappings are big business in Mexico with an average of 900 kidnappings per day last year.



Watching the video reminded me of a kidnapping conference I attended a couple of years ago. Among the participants was Rachel Briggs, the author of "The Kidnapping Business". Her publication is well worth reading even without the extensive references to the NGO community.

To paraphrase her report a kidnapping business hotspot country can be identified by the following characteristics:

1. The presence of networked groups that can support the crime. Tribal groups, fringe political groups, religious groups, and pure criminal groups are the major classifications and they are by no means mutually exclusive.

2. Political or economic transition that results in ineffective policing, corrupt judiciary, or weak laws but avoids outright conflict which would likely limit the number potential victims.

3. A local middle class, significant numbers of expatriate businessmen, or I would argue the presence of large numbers of aid worker.

4. Areas where potential victims are poorly protected and do not manage risk well.


Does the country you work in have some or all of these characteristics? Does your organization have a kidnap and ransom policy? Do you know what it is? Do you know what personal security measures to take to reduce your risk? Do you actually use them?

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