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The Unlikely Counter-Terrorists – Launch Event Findings

Article by Foreign Policy Centre

September 15, 2006

The Unlikely Counter-Terrorists argues that business involvement in counter-terrorism policies and activities is vital to the success of the UK’s response. While it is now widely understood that companies are targets for terrorists, they have not yet been integrated into the UK’s fight against terrorism. Though companies cannot be expected to interdict terrorist networks on the ground, predict attacks or stop them from succeeding, the collection shows that there is much the corporate world can do to reduce the damage caused by a successful attack. But while there is much that companies can do in this regard, without a structured framework within which to operate, the effectiveness of their efforts will be limited. This is the new challenge for the UK government.
A counter-terrorism policy without business will leave the UK a soft target for terrorists. As Roger Davies argued during the event, September 11th breathed new life into Clausewitz’s concept of ‘Total War’. A total war is a war waged by those whose targets are not limited, but who seek to cause damage across the whole of society. This necessitates a total response: not just by the military, but all actors – including the government, the corporate sector, local communities and the public at large. This analysis is informative in considering the most effective ways of responding to the threat posed by Al Qaida. The network does not just aim to damage people and property, it has shown a desire to hit national and global economies, all on a scale not seen in recent memory, and like all terrorists, it uses these methods to create fear and panic across the whole of society.
Key Findings from the Launch Event
Beyond the findings of the collection, the launch event raised three key issues that require further consideration:
# The type of information and advice that it would be useful for the government to provide for the business community
# The challenge of involving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK’s counter-terrorism policies and activities – and the opportunities for dissemination through membership organisations such as the CBI and Chambers of Commerce
# Whether or not it is possible to design terrorism out of our cities
Information and advice from government
In order for companies to play their full role in countering terrorism, it is vital that they have access to information and intelligence on which to base their decisions. The issue of public access to government information and intelligence often causes concern: it is vital that sensitivities are observed and sources are protected. While more information is usually helpful, it was agreed that the first step should be to centralise what is already publicly available. Companies can often find it difficult to track down information, need to refer to many different sources, or resort to relying on contacts as a fast-track to what they need to know. It was suggested that the government could perform a useful role as co-ordinator of these sources, and become as Dr Sally Leivesley suggests in the collection, a ‘one-stop-shop’ for business. It was also noted that, while there are sensitivities around some information sources, this is not true of all information that is restricted, and the government should perhaps re-consider its classification. It is telling, for example, that one participant working for the UK operations of his multi-national company noted that he currently relies on intelligence from the US Embassy in London, even in relation to threats in the UK. This raises the challenge for national governments of communicating with multi-national companies, and raises questions about whether some form of multi-national intelligence system between the public and private sectors might be the logical next step. If government is serious about tackling terrorism head-on, it needs to re-think the type of information it needs to hold back, what it is able to share and how it should do this.
Reaching SMEs
As the ‘total war’ analogy suggests, the impact of a successful Al Qaida attack on the UK would likely have impacts right across the country. While the ability of large corporations to survive an attack may be a higher order strategic priority for the UK, it is critical that SMEs receive the attention they deserve. Firstly, they are the most difficult companies to reach. While large multi-nationals tend to have a dedicated corporate security manager with experience and contacts to bring to the job, SMEs rarely have this expertise. They are also less well connected into the wider business and policy communities and so harder to reach and incorporate into counter-terrorism policies and activities. Secondly, SMEs tend to be the face of the country. They are the life-blood of cities and towns across the country, they employ an important proportion of the British workforce, and their presence brings reassurance of business as usual. There was discussion of the best way to reach SMEs, with private sector membership organisations, such as the CBI, or Chambers of Commerce being put forward as possible conduits for information and advice.
Can we design terrorism out of our cities?
As well as ensuring response systems and processes are able to cope in the event of an attack, it was also suggested that we might take a more fundamental look at the design and workings of our towns and cities in an attempt to make them harder targets for terrorists. It may, for example, be possible to modify designs in such a way as to reduce potential damage from attack. It might be sensible to consider re-locating some buildings, especially high-risk targets away from major population concentrations. A representative from the London Chamber of Commerce noted they were carrying out some work in this area. This is an issues that requires further consideration, both from within the architecture and town planning professions and also among the broader policy community.
The launch event for ‘The Unlikely Counter-Terrorists’ usefully carried forward some of the important themes raised by contributors in the collection. But importantly, it raised new issues that the policy community must grapple with in tackling the emerging threat from Al Qaida. The Risk and Security Programme will be developing further work in the area of homeland defence in 2003. If you have comments on the issues raised in this report or would like to put forward recommendations about priorities for future work your comments would be gratefully received. Please contact Rachel Briggs, Risk and Security Programme Manager at
The Unlikely Counter-Terrorists was published by The Foreign Policy Centre in November 2002. Contributors are: John Bray, Bruno Brunskill, Roger Davies, Bruce George MP, Dr Sally Leivesley, Richard Sambrook, John Smith, David Veness and Natalie Whatford.
Copies are available at £19.95. To order call Central Books on 020 8986 5488 or order online at

Employee Responsibility for Safety – Seminar Report
To What Extent and How Should Individual Employees Be Responsible For Their Own Safety When Working In Emerging Markets?
Tuesday 8th October 2002, 8.30-10.15am,
The context for the seminar:
As part of the research project, ‘Corporate Personnel Security in Emerging Markets’, seminar two focused on the role of the individual employee and what they require from their employers in order to be able to meet their own responsibilities. This followed on from the first seminar, which focused on the company’s duty of care. Jim Alvarez and Lloyd Roberts spoke to an audience of corporate security managers, specialist security consultants, HR managers and researchers specializing in the field of travel risks. This report summarises the main points that were covered during the presentations and the discussion session. The seminar was chaired by Rachel Briggs.
About the speakers:
Lloyd Roberts – Global Security Services Advisor for Shell International Limited Lloyd Roberts is part of the four-man internal consultancy that gives security advice to Shell Companies operating around the globe. Lloyd established the Security Committee of the Organisation of Petroleum Producers, a 60-member institution representing the worlds leading energy producers, and was elected as its first chairman. He is also a regular attendee of the UK’s Oil and Gas Security committee, a forum for exchanging information on security matters that affect UK based Companies. Lloyd’s military training in bomb disposal and Intelligence was followed by a Diploma in Management and an MBA. Lloyd spoke in a personal capacity.
Dr. James Alvarez – CEO of Clarity Advisors Group, a consultancy specializing in psychological training and organizational design. Dr. Alvarez specializes in advising and training a variety of clients in critical consequence management, negotiations, and debriefing. Clients include diverse public and private sector organizations, from Scotland Yard to Fortune 100 companies. He also advises the insurance industry on the impact of these issues. Dr. Alvarez is a licensed clinical Psychologist who has published numerous research articles and contributes regularly to media coverage of this topic.
The main findings of the seminar:
The seminar concluded that while it is possible for individuals to manage their exposure to risks, their ability to do so will be limited by a number of factors – some relating to the individual themselves; some to the company and its approach to risk management and staff safety; and some to third parties, such as the UK government and the legal framework.
Individual Factors
A number of psychological factors will influence the way an individual approaches business travel and responds to the risks it brings. ‘Culture shock’ describes the stress, anxiety, lack of direction produced when an individual enters a new environment. The extent to which an individual suffers ‘culture shock’ will determine their ability to effectively manage the risks they face: stress causes all non-essential functions, including memory and judgment, to shut down. This leaves an individual to rely on their instincts, which, for new risk environments, are unlikely to be developed. This will therefore impact on their ability to apply information or advice in such a way that will keep themselves safe. Culture shock is an extreme version of everyday stress. For many people, the effects of culture shock can be reduced through fairly simple training or advice ahead of their trip, which can help to develop new instinctive behaviour that overcomes these reactions. This might include advice about the risks that are present and how to recognize the warning signs.
Companies should, importantly, avoid the temptation to manage risks by cocooning employees from their local environments. It is impossible for companies to eliminate all threats by this means, and without contact with the local culture employees won’t be able to read the danger signs that enable them to predict problems arising and stay out of trouble. Researching the effects of the social and physical environment on expatriates in West Africa, Wicker and August showed that recognition of cultural differences is one of the key defences to staying safe. They call this an individual’s ‘sense-making’ cycles, “…people as they go about their daily lives are exposed to a vast array of events…the particular environmental events that they notice depend on their existing ’cause-map’, their prior understandings about the world.” This explains why even employees who live in cities with higher crime rates in the UK than their posting can fall victim to local street crimes because they are unable to read the signs as they would have done at home. Travel advice can help by providing information that allows individuals to create their new sense-making cycles: instinct is a tool to be exploited, but it needs to be pre-programmed. Companies can help by ensuring employees have sufficient time to settle in and language skills to allow them to integrate themselves.
There are also those factors that training cannot easily overcome. Those prone to stress are likely to respond less well to training than those who are not. While this is not something that companies can influence, they should think carefully about the people they send overseas, particularly to demanding countries or regions. It is also true that risk taking is a defining characteristic of many of those willing to take overseas assignments. Companies must take steps to ensure that these individuals receive clear guidance about the balance between reasonable and unreasonable risk. One recommendation from the seminar was that companies should consider widening the amount of staff screening they carry out to ensure that individuals sent to risky parts of the world are those best able to cope.
Ultimately, companies must respond to what Lloyd Roberts termed their employees’ ‘scale of needs’. Each will need different types of help and support, and some more than others. As well as those differences between individuals determined by psychological factors, an individual’s needs will also be influenced by their length of stay in a given location, for example, expat versus frequent business traveller, their experience of travel, and the nature of their work.
Company Factors
# Company Culture
A company’s culture is perhaps the most important factor influencing the extent to which its staff will be kept safe. Companies need to develop ‘pro-security’ cultures, where security is considered integral to the running of the business, rather than something that gets in the way of priorities. Those companies that adopt this culture are likely to go beyond their legal obligations in delivering security for their staff. A company’s culture will also determine the extent to which employees feel comfortable discussing their worries and fears with colleagues or managers. Individuals require a tools-set from their employer, but may avoid asking for help in a company that does not take security seriously. There is much discussion within the corporate security community about how this culture can be encouraged. One possible solution would be to have security representation at board level, or to at least ensure that the corporate security manager – if there is one – reports as directly as possible to their board. One company representative present noted that they have now included a security component on their company’s management training programme for fast-streamers. This is motivated by a desire to make security a concern across the company outside the corporate security department, thus becoming a factor in all company decision-making across the board.
# Management Structures
One of the greatest challenges for companies who develop corporate security strategies is ensuring that the policy works in practice. There is often a marked difference between what is agreed to on paper in HQ and what can be achieved on the ground. Many of those with responsibility for security have taken this on alongside another main role, which means they do not necessarily have much or any experience to bring to the position. It is important that local managers have an opportunity to feed into their company’s policies and structures to ensure they are deliverable. One company representative present suggested companies hold yearly lessons-learned exercises with major posts, or posts with significant security risks. This would give both local managers and staff a stake in the process and would help to make the policies and procedures more appropriate for each location.
# Communication
Security briefings and travel advice can equip individuals with the information they need to make everyday decisions that help them avoid danger. But the value of this information is limited if it fails to reach its intended audience, and if the individual does not then act upon it. The key here is ensuring that employees have an accurate perception of the risks they face and the fact that advice can help them to avoid these threats.
Companies must examine the methods and channels they use to communicate with staff, and the content and detail of the advice they issue. There is limited value in setting up a website if there are not, for example, regular and direct prompts for individuals to visit it or have the information delivered directly to them. Companies should also avoid information overload that can cause employees to switch off from all advice. There is also evidence to show that individuals respond much more positively to advice when they are able to see the direct relevance to themselves. In a recent study, Paul Barker surveyed BG employees in Sao Paulo and Cairo. A large proportion of respondents described the briefings they received on the ground as some of the most useful. He states, “In-country security briefing and the sharing of security information between colleagues and friends outside the company were rated high by the respondents as effective sources of information.” One company representative at the seminar commented that they had found it useful to organize briefing sessions for staff in-country where they were able to listen to those who had experienced security incidents first-hand. This is a much more credible message than dry communiqués from head office.
The company must also establish its relationship with dependents, and find ways of communicating with individuals who have only indirect contact with the company. Research from Paul Barker’s study concluded that those with dependents present tended to take a more active interest in security, but the presence of spouse and children inevitably increases the overall exposure. Anecdotal evidence from those at the seminar suggests that companies can often find it easier to tackle an individual’s security during their personal life as a family issue with spouses and children taking an active role, too. One company representative present noted the value their company had gained by holding dinners in high-risk end markets at which security issues were discussed. Spouses and children were also invited to attend and this helped to make security a family issue.
The External Framework
# The Legal Framework
The consensus at the seminar was that litigation has been a key factor influencing companies to take security more seriously. It was also noted, though, that for security policies to be credible and therefore successful, they must be motivated by a genuine sense of duty of care driven by care for employees, not a fear of the courts. This issue was discussed in more detail in the last seminar.
# Role of Government
The role of the government will be explored in more detail in future seminars. This seminar concluded, though, that it is vital for the UK government to play an active role in the area of corporate personnel security policy. The UK government has interests in this issue on a number of different levels. Firstly, it has a consular responsibility for UK citizens travelling overseas – whether they are travelling for business or pleasure. Secondly, it also has an interest in ensuring that UK companies or companies with a significant interest in the UK have as much support as possible in helping them to keep their staff safe overseas. One of the key models to assess in this regard. This will be explored during stage two of the project, which will run October 2002-March 2003.
Corporate Personnel Security in Emerging Markets is a 16-month research project being run by Rachel Briggs, Risk and Security Research Programme Manager at The Foreign Policy Centre. The project is kindly supported by Shell, HSBC, GSK, Armor Group, Control Risks Group and Group 4 Falck.
The Risk and Security Research Programme has received core funding from Prudential and the RSMF.
For more information about this project or other work being carried out as part of the programme, please contact Rachel Briggs at or on tel: 020 7401 5356.
Relevant references:
Those wishing to follow up on any of the sources listed might find the following useful:
# Wicker and August, “Working Lives in Context: Engaging the views of participant analysts”, reproduced in Person Environment Psychology: New directions and perspectives, Walsh et al (eds.), 2000
# Travel Advice: Getting information to those who need it, Rachel Briggs, The Foreign Policy Centre, 2002
# Paul Barker, Managing Risks to Employees on Overseas Assignments, unpublished MSc dissertation for the Study of Security Management, Scarman Centre for The Study of Public Order, University of Leicester

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