Water Scarcity Through the Looking Glass

By Francisco Mateo

I’m convinced this past October and early November were the warmest in the Northeast that I could recall. It just seemed unusual to have temperatures in the 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit this late in the fall. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy it and especially since I had more opportunities to run laps around the park. It even made a difference in my transition from the tropical weather of the Caribbean where I lived for the last 3 years to the changing seasons up here in the North.  It was during one of my early morning runs that I started to ponder the implications of the warmer planet. Enough has been discussed about climate change from a scientific point of view, but what are the security implications of a warmer planet on the long run. Looking over the horizon, one of the issues that we often hear experts talk about is water scarcity as a consequence of longer drought periods. If the history of other precious and scarce resources is an indication than we can deduce that water shortage would likely spark a rush to protect, commoditize and commercialize it.  Water being one of the basic elements supporting life on the planet, speculation over it would lead to impending conflicts both at the micro and macro level.

When I set out to analyze an area of global risk I try to focus on the pockets of dispersed activity that when weaved together would give me a bigger picture. In this sense places like Yemen are but the petri dish of the future scenarios that may play out over water. According to the Yemen Times “Violence over land and water kills more people in Yemen than the secessionist violence in the south, the armed rebellion in the north and Yemeni Al-Qaeda combined” this in return quoting a report by the Yemen Armed Violence Assessment (YAVA).  Yemeni government statistics show that water conflicts lead to 4,000 deaths each year, a staggering number taking in consideration other conflict zones around the world.  At the center of the bloodshed is the diminishing water supply, which lead into heighten competition for fresh water resources and eventually deteriorating into armed conflict.

The significance of water shortage-driven conflict in this volatile and strategically sensitive area goes beyond its national security interests. Any conflict in Yemen could have knock-on effect for the entire region and the rest of the world.  Bab-el-Mandeb, the narrow strait that separates the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea is one of seven strategic world oil shipping chokepoints. Oil and other exports from the Persian Gulf must pass through Bab el-Mandab before entering the Suez Canal.  It’s estimated that 3.3 million barrels a day of oil flowed through this narrow waterway to Europe, the United States, and Asia. The majority of the oil, some 2.1 million barrels a day, goes north through the Bab el-Mandab strait to the Suez/Sumed complex into the Mediterranean. Widespread conflict in this region has the potential to shock global trade a disrupt oil supply. It is obvious that its water shortage problem would eventually be of significance to the rest of the world.

Elsewhere severe droughts cause millions of people to endure harsh living conditions. In Jordan the government can only supply tap water once a week. Its main river, the River Jordan, has lost 95% of its natural flow due to diversion. Syria, Israel and Jordan have built dams along the banks of the river. The struggle to control natural resources is one of the reasons for the volatility prevalent in this region. Sharing these vital resources has proven elusive and the effects of a warmer climate will only serve to stoke continuing tensions among their regional neighbors.  By closer inspection many experts have noted that Israel has built their settlements in the occupied Palestinian area in such a way to maximize their access to the water resources there. In the negotiations on water they’ve indicated the wish to hold on to the lion’s share of the natural water resources while the Palestinians would have to rely on desalinations projects. It’s the type of hoarding seen in many areas around the world where water scarcity is driving geopolitical agendas.

Another example is Iraq which has acute water shortages and is expected to worsen as its population grows beyond 30 million. Areas like Falluja in western Anbar province continue to suffer from years of drought which have threatened its fragile communities. Besides the war which has left its extensive irrigation system in disrepair, Iraq’s main rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, provide little relief to the parched plains as hydroelectric dams in neighboring Turkey, Iran and Syria have stemmed the water flow.

But the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East are hardly the only regions where water shortage is expected to become a significant issue that could eventually develop into full-fledge conflict. Severe drought in northern Africa have the potential to stoke violent conflict.  What happens when countries affected by transnational water extraction decide to stand up for their water rights? Take for example Libya’s 7.5 mm diameter pipeline, the “Great Man Made River” (GMMR) designed to bring fossil groundwater from underneath the desert area of Chad and Southern Libya over 4000 km to the North to facilitate irrigation for agricultural production along the Libyan coastline.

Furthermore, south Asia’s dispute over limited water resources continues to fuel India-Pakistan tensions. Despite recent efforts to mend peace between the two nations, nothing could align extremist and government officials like water resource distribution problems.  On-going allegations that India is stealing water from glacier-fed rivers that start in the disputed territory of Kashmir may not help matters. Kashmir is the source of six rivers that irrigate crops in Pakistan’s agricultural heartland of Punjab province and elsewhere. Under Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, Pakistan has the use of the three western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. India has the three eastern ones, the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi. Under this agreement India was granted limited use of Pakistan’s rivers for agricultural purposes, plus the right to build hydroelectric dams, as long as they don’t store or divert large amounts of water. But it is India’s damn construction which is stemming the flow of water so vital to Pakistan, one of the driest countries in the world, which has the potential to restore the long running stalemate in the region. Add to that the fact that agriculture uses almost 90 percent of India’s water. The end-game: in the absence of concerted action, most of India’s river basins could face a severe water deficit by 2030.

China’s water problems are well known. About 42 percent of China’s population lives in the arid north, which has approximately eight percent of the country’s water resources. Already the internal scramble for water due to growing city population and industrial prosperity “is pitting downstream communities against upstream ones, farmers against factories, and people concerned about the country’s environment against those worried that water shortages might be the mighty Chinese economy’s Achilles’ heel.”  Concurrent with monumental infrastructure projects that would bring water flow from the Yangtze banks to be fed into the Yellow River and on to the water-starved north, China plans for more dams on the Mekong and on other major rivers that tumble down from the Tibetan plateau. These water diversion plans already have its southern neighbors on edge. Moreover, there is clear evidence that global warming is already eroding the Himalayan glaciers covering the Tibetan plateau, which feed neighbors including India and Pakistan as well as China itself.  Because 60 percent of the run-off from China’s glaciers flows out of the country, this can spell only trouble. As scarcity continues to spread around the region transboundary water management issues related to the Himalayas are likely to be a flashpoint. “The risk of conflict over water rights is magnified because China and India are home to over a third of the world’s population yet have to make do with less than 10 percent of its water.”

While the water-starved emerging economies would be able to allocate their increasing new earned wealth to accelerate clean water technology, population growth, and industrial agriculture threatens to outpace the output, making fresh water import as a real possibility in the near future.  The 70% of our freshwater resources we allocate to agriculture globally will increase along with the growth in population and prosperity in emerging economies. It is under these scenarios that a wildcard, according to expert, climate change impacts would become pervasive, wide-ranging and affect the core systems of our society: transportation, ecosystems, agriculture, business, infrastructure, water, and energy, among others.

A New Global Market on the Rise

Looking over a dry horizon, it’s clear that water would be front and center as one of the key national security issues. Experts tacitly agree that the “20th century witnessed the rise and fall of nations over oil, the 21st century could be one in which the rise and fall of nations is determined by water.” It’d come as no surprise that a new market for bulk water transport are expanding today. But instead of tunnels and pipe infrastructure transportation would likely be done across much larger distances on super tankers usually reserved for oil transport. That also means that countries like Canada, New Zealand and Russia could become net exporters of water. As water from public hands to private ones, legal battles and regulation over new industry looms. The new speculative forces gathering around water trade would increasingly push water from human rights arena to a commodity available to those that can pay for it. War and peace could clearly depend on it.

Copper Theft Menace

I’ve been following copper theft for quite sometime. As I reported before, I have compelling reasons for doing so, having been victimized in personal and professional spheres. There are reasons why copper theft occurs in cycles around the world. One of those reasons is the demand; the emerged economies of China and India have an insatiable appetite for raw materials for their burgeoning industrial productions. The other is supply, limited supply drives up prices and increases motivation for theft of copper bearing assets wherever they could be had. The illegal copper trade is one exemplary of how the underbelly of the global economy operates. The global commodity trends are a driving force in local criminal trends. Unless you keep a close watch of the tendencies, it becomes a silent menace that quickly balloons to the tune of millions in asset losses.

According to this news report Spain is in the throws of a copper theft epidemic. The rash of copper motivated thefts does not only leave electric utilities, railways and telecommunications companies on a scramble to stem hundreds of thousands of Euros in losses, but has created public safety hazards as towns are left without power or telephone service, and unlit streetlights along dozens of kilometers (miles) of streets and roadways. I personally have experience these trends unfold in different regions (Latin America, North America and beyond), so the Spanish authority’s strategy as described by the article strikes me as effective; going after the dealers and wheelers. But the hierarchy goes much further, since corruption and collusion play a large role in this illicit trade. Global criminals are also wise to the ways of globalization, leveraging cheap freight cost and trade liberalization to move stolen goods unimpeded.  My recommendation is that more cooperation is needed across international law enforcement agencies to first understand the trends and then attack the other end of this global illicit trade, the industrial buyers. Local solutions would only go so far, you need multipliers to balance out the laws of global supply and demand.

Read More Here: http://bit.ly/dcbo9t

Observations on Competitive Intelligence in Latin America

During my time as a Security Manager in Latin America I encountered many former security practitioners who had morphed into Competitive Intelligence (CI) professionals in diverse industry, mostly in the financial sector.  The phenomenon obviously intrigued me since it could be argued that security practitioners sit on the defense bench and CI or SI practitioners sit on the offense bench; if such a comparison could be drawn. But then again some aspects of security management, particularly investigations, brand and reputation protection lend themselves really well to the art of gathering, collating and analyzing commercial information to gain competitive advantage on the market.

For those of you not familiar with the term Competitive Intelligence, according to SCIP.org CI is the process of monitoring the competitive environment and analyzing the findings in the context of internal issues, for the purpose of decision support. CI enables senior managers in companies of all sizes to make more informed decisions about everything from marketing, R&D, and investing tactics to long-term business strategies. Effective CI is a continuous process involving the legal and ethical collection of information, analysis that does not avoid unwelcome conclusions, and controlled dissemination of actionable intelligence to decision makers. Learning from the military sphere many previously fragmented areas like business intelligence (BI), knowledge management (KM) along with CI have converged into an overarching tool called Strategic Intelligence (SI), which leverages the synergies among these component pieces of the internal and external information jigsaw puzzle toward making better decisions.

In fact many in the Security management community, most notably at the CSO level, believe this is a natural evolution of the Security Suite. A natural transition would likely take effect through leveraging Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) “to deliver actionable business intelligence” to their organizations. In this respect those professionals in Latin America who have made the transition to Competitive Intelligence units appear to be ahead of the overall evolution phase. A trend perhaps borrowed from Europe. The obvious question remains whether a transition from security management to business/competitive intelligence (which for long has being the stronghold of risk/knowledge management practitioners, as well as other traditional business functions like marketing and sales) would be as fluid elsewhere as those in Latin America. My intuition tells me that it’d depend on our own abilities to transcend the security role one organization at a time.


Fraud Prevention, Awareness and Investigation as the Corner Stone of a Revenue Protection Practice

The real and effectual discipline which is exercised over a workman is that of his customers. It is the fear of losing their employment which restrains his frauds and corrects his negligence — Adam Smith

Security and loss prevention as a corporate function has historically competed for resources and recognition. Our contributions, like that of many service organizations, is often peg with the prevailing swing of the economic pendulum, despite the level of real of perceived value added to the business.  In that sense our organizations have evolved; like a peacock in the animal world our feathers have morphed to be more visible and colorful. Through trial and error we’ve shaken off the image of the corporate cop or rent-a-cop, getting in the way of business and a burden on profitability, to one of a trusted business partner driving the security and loss prevention function.  One area of our practice that has increasingly proven our value within many organizations in these economic recessionary times is that of fraud prevention, awareness and investigations.

Today’s fraud practice is the culmination of twenty years of research and real world practice into the root causes of fraud. That means that if you structure your team to get the right training through organizations like the ACFE, chances are great your security suite would be well positioned to become a strategic partner within any given organization by among many other contributions, setting up programs that prevent, identify and eradicate fraud. As many Chief Security Officers hear from their board of directors fraud has become a structural deficiency around the world costing hundreds of billions of dollars each year. If the organization couldn’t properly defend itself against internal and external fraud, it couldn’t be expected to remain competitive and comply with its fiduciary duties to investors.

More than anytime before organizations are increasingly expecting their largest share of revenue to come from emerging market countries. Many of these countries however have been plagued by deeply rooted and widespread corrupt practices which can catch the unaware organization conducting business therein by surprise. Losses sustained due to fraud and corruption could undermine an organization’s revenue prospects, but more importantly it could threaten its strategic market presence. That is were a fraud prevention practice could add the most significant contribution to the bottom line. Implemented successfully the fraud program could not only prevent losses, but presented correctly with the right metrics, it could be demonstrated to assure revenue, which under these circumstances could be as important as generating it.

By ensuring that revenue is not lost to fraud waste and abuse security units with capable fraud practitioners amidst their ranks have won the heart and minds of stalwarts within the organizations who previously derided it as dead weight. It is a reputation won through trial by fire.

Most Common International Fraud Schemes

  • Bribes and Kickbacks
  • Front Companies
  • Bid Rigging
  • Information Brokers
  • Fraud by contractors

The Fraud Triangle:

  • Opportunity
  • Rationalizations
  • Pressure

Prevention Strategy:

  • Opportunity is addressed by the organization’s internal control environment. Organizations with a strong system of internal controls and built-in checks and balances present their employees with less opportunity for fraud. For a given asset, a strong system of internal controls should include separating the functions of the asset’s physical custody, recording the asset’s activity and authorizing the asset’s use.
  • Rationalization often is addressed through corporate culture. Consider the message a management team’s actions send to employees, contractors and clients. If owners and managers tend to play fast and loose with the rules, stakeholders could have similar thoughts about corporate assets.
  • Pressure is primarily internal to the person, and most often manifests itself as perceived personal financial pressure. It is often the most difficult to control through policy. Due diligence could help identify potential red flags before they result in fraud.

Common Skills and Tools Needed:

  • Unconventional interviewing skills to be able to elicit asymmetric information in the absence of documentary evidence.
  • Reliable boots on the ground presence that’s familiar with local customs, language and traditional information sources
  • Assemble a multidisciplinary team (including fraud examiners, forensic accountants, and adept investigators) all familiar with the specific environment
  • Be familiar with trends in the commodity markets, as many frauds are perpetrated due to price volatility
  • Be thoroughly familiar with the inner workings of your global supply chain especially as it pertains to trade documents (bill of ladings, letters of credit, commercial invoice, etc.) as they can be forged easily
  • Be familiar with wired transfer (EFT) red flags for fraud. Plenty of large commercial transactions with emerging markets require it.

Five-fingered discounts? Not in the US

Two divergent trends came under scope recently. Apparently and contrary to popular belief retail theft has decreased by approximately 6.8 percent in the US compared to 2009. The downward trend is credited to an increased spending to reduce the amount and scope of shrinkage.  This is of extreme importance to all shoppers since retails pass losses sustained do to retail theft onto their legitimate shoppers, adding an average of $186 to every family’s shopping bill. That is a huge dent for most during these tough economic times.

Elsewhere around the developed world however, trend held steady the opposite way. Countries like India, Brazil, South Africa and France Britain and Germany shoplifting has continued to grow albeit at a lower pace. Despite these developments, The US apparently leads the way in terms of magnitude of loss standing at approximately $39 billion dollars in losses, followed by Britain with losses standing at a far removed $6.6 billion.

As some wise guy once said “the truth is in the pudding”

Read More: http://bit.ly/cQ7z75 and http://bit.ly/96FI9y

Strategic Purpose, Valuable During Job Prospecting

By Francisco Mateo

I have to run like a fugitive to save the life I live

I’m gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion – Bob Marley


While searching for security job opportunities I started thinking about how I as a security practitioner have set up security master plans and have been responsible for carrying out a strategic security vision in the past. Now I’m sitting on the sidelines waiting my chance to jump back into the labor pool. Well the more I think about both experiences the more I see similarities between the way I should strategically think/act.

There is no denying that we’re living through epochal times. The barren job landscape is not a gross spike resulting from the prevalent economic turmoil, but the new normal.

Where as creating a security master plan required that I conduct assessment of threat vulnerabilities and set priorities for implementing countermeasures; now that I’m security job prospecting I must acquire knowledge of market conditions and prioritize which leads I dedicate valuable time to. During my stay within a Security department I spent a great deal of time monitoring situations all over the world that might develop into risks for my client. I had the dual role of developing strategies to prevent and responding to security threats (fraud, theft, hijackings, labor disputes, workplace violence, extortion, counterfeit, demonstrations, political unrest, crisis). I gathered, collated, analyzed and disseminated information, for the aforementioned purpose. Well, searching for good job opportunities during these times is no different.  I know I’m preaching to the choir, but indulge my eccentricities here (in the hope they don’t disappoint), for the competition has gotten so fierce that not only must I deploy speed and agility in gathering information about a potential employers but my output must be delivered in a timely, relevant and concise manner. And that is only if I don’t get crowded out by the resume inbox stuffing threat. Beating the odds requires real focus, dexterity and having the right network of contacts to tap for information.

Sometimes you’re engaged by your client to fine solutions to mission critical problems for which you don’t have much experience. In my case it was a critical investigation that required data forensics on a suspected compromised company laptop. I knew enough not to jeopardize potential evidence with haphazard attempts to deliver results, so I hired a security consultant with the right expertise to deliver the goods. The same dynamics are play during the job hunt. I sometimes kid myself by thinking that I can research the job opportunities around the world, but logically unconventional times call for unconventional wisdom. Opportunities are few and time is of the essence; to gain favorable odds I tapped security recruiters to whip my candidacy into shape and do my bidding with organizations all over the world.

But there are differences between the two statuses as I’ve identified during the last few months. I’ve been trained to be protective over the amount of information that is shared outside the organization’s matrix.  As an employed practitioner I would not only encourage my internal clients to embrace information protection at all levels of the operation, I’d try to lead by example. The end result is that to the world outside the organization I could appear reclusive and excessively secretive. Now as an independent practitioner seeking opportunities my world is upside down. Unless I gain positive exposure through different mediums my effectiveness and credibility dwindles. Such is the nature of the beast.

One more thing I believe is part of the underlying foundation shaping our current status whether you’re gainfully employed or on the hunt for the next great opportunity. I like to call it creative destruction since most companies, if not all; undermine their best internal defenses by nickel and dimming the very same units that can strategically protect them (shared services) against fraud, asset and reputation loss. They do this in the name of greater financial efficiencies, while being fully conscious that what their doing is simply rolling the dice. In the end what they seek is fool’s gold.

Here is to all the emerging talent out there; a happy job hunting season for all my colleagues.  Stay tough like iron, fierce as a lion and you may, in due time, find Zion.

Too Young to Learn Security Awareness?

As a father and security practitioner I often balance the benefits of teaching my kids how to be constantly aware of their surrounding.  I constantly adapt simple situation awareness lessons that would be normal for young children without crossing the line into paranoia. This is obviously a sensitive subject due to the fact that a child’s learning and behavior is malleable and subject to manipulation. I worry about them becoming the target of a predator, but in my drive to get them prepared and ready to prevent or react, I wouldn’t want to create any trauma or long term negative effect on their mental health as fear and anxiety can cause.

According to The International Centre For Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), more than 2.1 million children (younger than 18) go missing around the world in a one-year period. Leading scholars and researchers estimate that one in five girls and one in ten boys will be sexually victimized before they reach adulthood, and less than 35% of these sexual assault cases are reported. With the advent of the Internet, child predators have a new avenue to contact their victims with perceived anonymity and to perpetrate crimes against children. According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, of the estimated 24 million child Internet users, one in five has received unwanted sexual solicitations yet only one in four told a parent.

I’m grateful for awareness tools such as these great e-learning materials prepared by KinderVision. I have used it as a learning tool for my children and also with clients who have expressed concern for their children’s safety outside their home.  So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  It’s our moral duty to contribute to making all our children safe by empowering them through awareness information.