Imagine the following scenarios:

1. A mining company undertakes exploration activities in West Africa. There are signs of growing civil unrest including a minor conflict between opposing political groups.
2. An aid organisation drills wells for clean water in a remote village in South Asia. They are threatened because a community leader doesn’t feel adequately compensated for safe passage.
3. A media organisation seeks access to conflict areas to speak with displaced civilians.


How should an organisation approach these situations differently to the same projects in a standard operating environment?

When employees are sent overseas they may face a number of risks, such as disease, crime, natural disasters and civil unrest. To ensure the safety of their staff, organisations must take measures to mitigate these risks. Such measures might include:

1. Identifying high risk activities and environments
2. Develop specific plans to respond to issues
3. Travel safety or hostile environment training
4. Personal tracking devices and welfare checks
5. Hire relevant advisors with appropriate knowledge to accompany staff


Choosing the Right Advisor

Organizations should be discerning when engaging advisors to assist them in a hostile environment. Experience is crucial. The following should be carefully considered:

1. Relevant experience in a similar industry or location - Certain skills can only be acquired through experience. Is the applicant aware of the risks relevant to the area the organisation is operating in, and have they operated in that area before? Do they understand the needs of the client that pertain to their industry? Do they have experience in emergency medicine, and would they be able to respond rapidly to a medical crisis?

2. Good judgement under pressure - It’s important to know how to avoid escalating a high-pressure situation. Advisors must understand local customs and power dynamics in order to reach mutually beneficial agreements with locals, anticipate potential escalations, and most importantly – know when to leave the area.

3. A strong network of local information - An advisor should be plugged into a local network that might include support staff, drivers, and fixers. A fixer is a general role. They might be one of many things: a translator with local contacts (such as land owners and government insiders), a journalist, or simply a citizen that knows the area.

Hostile environments present significant challenges, and if handled incorrectly the consequences can be disastrous. For more information on what you can do to negotiate risks in a hostile environment, contact Dynamiq's International Security Consultant, Shaun Filer – shaun.filer@dynamiqglobal.com 

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