Conflict Resolution Is a Good Skill to Know

By Francisco Mateo

“Man is at bottom a dreadful wild animal, a beast of prey which will pounce upon a weaker neighbor as soon as he notices his existence.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

“Change is our enemy…Change means crisis. And crisis means conflict.” Daniel Suarez

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”, Matthew 5:9

Just on observation I’ve seen my fair share of conflict escalations over the last few days. It got me thinking that just on account of the weather people young and old appear to be edgier, less tolerant to differences that could otherwise be easily resolved. But could this be more than just the hot weather? Can the economic downturn be indirectly influencing people’s attitude towards conflict. If this hypotheses makes any sense than I’m motivated to seek a deeper understanding of how to defuse conflict–especially since  the basis of our economic stability has been and will continue to be shaken to the core.

With surprising regularity we hear of workplace shootings; “bossnapings”, besides taking account of numerous labor conflicts around the world. These incidents have been exacerbated by the prolonged economic recession. A look around the world reveals that conditions are rife for social conflicts.  An eroding safety net would give rise to further protests, riots and deeply rooted resentment. Economic analyst report overwhelming signs of double dip recession in the US and many the European Union. Funny that global politicos and finance gurus assured the world that the advent of economic and political interconnectedness among the concert of nations would lead to growing prosperity. What we have today is a fragmented international economic system; where conflicts have proliferated since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Systemic disintegration will result in a sharp rise in the number of conflicts worldwide over diminishing resources. I guess “the rising tide that lifts all boats”, turned out to be a tsunami. But I digress….

Meanwhile the psychological toll we are all exposed to is tremendous.  Uncertainty is one condition difficult for the average human to comprehend and subsequently manage. The stress felt during long term exposure to this state of mind can lead to both physical and psychological overload.  Enough motivation to usher in a new order where solutions are organic; in other words where economic growth is organic or secure at the local level, in our communities, cities and regions and made strong enough to permeate out to the global system. Perhaps through this we’d turn the “continuous conflict among the people” paradigm on its head.  Doubt and insecurity about our economic present and future are directly linked to the basic human need to feel secure. Unless we deal with the root cause of our problems in a similar systematic way, our ability to predict and contain conflict even at the interpersonal level would be severely limited.

Think of how a holistic approach to conflict resolutions would work for a second. If we were capable of developing such a system in the Western world, we could ensure quick diffusion by retrofitting or building-up new multinational corporations with high levels of ethical and social values to be standard bearers for conflict resolution the same way some unethical companies engage in acts of “corporate insurgency” today, using their weight and influence to stoke violence and disrupt the flow of aid in the name of profits in what can only be described as the death spiral of efficient markets.

Our current economic situation should lead us to new ways of thinking and acting against these problems. From my own vantage point the solutions we find to physical security vulnerabilities at the micro level, we can extrapolate them to fit the macro level. As a security analyst I first look to assess vulnerability, as well as the possible immediate threats to a given asset, be it people or valuable object. I then use my knowledge of protection strategies to counteract the aforementioned threats and minimize the vulnerabilities. The strategies can go from the affordable awareness education to the investment in technology spread over a period of time. A similar strategy could be applied to develop a new sustainable economic paradigm. We should start by taking a deep look at the economics that influence our families, our communities and our cities. We should identify vulnerabilities and possible threat scenarios long before they become a reality, no matter if the threats are foreign or local. Once we detect a possible threat to our collective well-being the appropriate countermeasures should be put in place. The farther we can see over the horizon would determine how prepare we would be. Let’s not forget that in our interconnected economies contagion travels at stealthy speed.  Like a protective perimeter fence we would have to act in lockstep in order to give whatever countermeasures are devised and applied the strength of consistency and continuity.

Little thought is given to how the rates of interpersonal conflicts within a city rise. We only remotely consider how changing elements such as climate change (especially summer months), job opportunities, and ability to support basic life necessities to name a few, become a Petri dish sample of larger societal ailments.  When an African American man complaints to his downstairs Latino neighbor about the lack of water pressure coming up to his apartment, he doesn’t automatically place blame on the city’s water shortage and strain on a century-old water system; he’d zero in on the stereotypical misconception that all Latino’s live in overcrowded apartments. Our inability to conceptualize about these fundamental problems represents part of our limitations when it comes to dealing with these conflicts.  As population all over the world continue their exponential growth, the increasing strain on natural resources (energy, fresh water and food) would become sources of conflict and instability which we must be prepared to handle.

Another seemingly cause of conflict in inner cities appears to be the effect of homes vacated by owners unable to pay their mortgage.  The fact is that as more houses get run down the quality of life in many neighborhoods would also be set back. My hypothesis is hinged on the Broken Window Theory (James Q. Wilson y George Kelling) by which these social scientist came to the conclusion that neglected, dirty and visibly disorganized areas become breeding ground for crime and violence. According to this criminal theory the rate of crimes would be commensurate to the pace at which residents begin to abandoned homes and public areas. During the first stage due to lack of financial security and on the second stage due to fear of violent gangs and the bazaar of violence that follows. And if you think conflict can only take place in the physical realm, think again. Our ubiquitous access to technology makes network communication systems an adequate medium by which to drive conflict through. For prove just look at the amount of hate rhetoric that is channeled through the web.

Having mentioned all this, what strategies are there to effectively defuse conflict?  Here are 8 easy to grasp elements of conflict resolution from Professor Harry Webne-Behrman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison which I found during my research:

1. “Know Thyself” and Take Care of Self

  • Understand your “perceptual filters,” biases, triggers
  • Create a personally affirming environment (eat, sleep, exercise)

2. Clarify Personal Needs Threatened by the Dispute

  • Substantive, Procedural, and Psychological Needs
  • Look at BATNA, WATNA, and MLATNA
  • Identify “Desired Outcomes” from a Negotiated Process

3. Identify a Safe Place for Negotiation

  • Appropriate Space for Discussion/ Private and Neutral
  • Mutual Consent to Negotiate/ Appropriate Time
  • Role of Support People (Facilitators, Mediators, Advocates), as needed
  • Agreement to Ground rules

4. Take a Listening Stance into the Interaction

  • “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (Covey)
  • Use Active Listening skills

5. Assert Your Needs Clearly and Specifically

  • Use “I-messages” as tools for clarification
  • Build from what you have heard – continue to listen well

6. Approach Problem-Solving with Flexibility

  • Identify Issues Clearly and Concisely
  • Generate Options (Brainstorm), While Deferring Judgment
  • Be open to “tangents” and other problem definitions
  • Clarify Criteria for Decision-Making

7. Manage Impasse with Calm, Patience, and Respect

  • Clarify Feelings
  • Focus on Underlying Needs, Interests, and Concerns
  • Take a structured break, as needed

8. Build an Agreement that Works

  • Review “Hallmarks” of a Good Agreement
  • Implement and Evaluate – Live and Learn

Unfortunately there can’t be a cookie-cutter approach to conflicts as each would bring their own set of complications, which the parties involve must learn to recognize as much as to avoid the pitfalls as well as to get to quick resolutions. What these eight elements provide are frameworks for approaching conflict logically, with a clear head and strong position from which to negotiate durable agreements for both sides. Compromise and agreements should substitute prejudice and irate behavior which only breeds hate.  These strategies can also be the foundation for more dynamic conflict resolution tactics, which can be scaled according to your particular set of issues. When push comes to shove personal, labor, or even at the macro level, conflicts involving nation states, resolution would depend on the willingness of each side in the conflict to give and takeaway in a manner that avoids forceful confrontation and encourages fairness and justice.

Risk To Maritime Transport

“Ships may move slowly, but they can carry far more cargo than more recently invented modes of transportation such as planes, trains, and trucks, according to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development in its “Review of Maritime Transport 2009.” – Foreign Policy

According to this article 80% of the world’s cargo is transported via cargo ships.  That said, the fact that we are so heavily dependant on this mode of transportation adds a great layer of risks to global trade. It begs two important questions: first, what are the risks associated with maritime transport around the world? And, second how are they mitigated?

First I’d focus on the Piracy problem, which ranks high on the maritime transport industry’s risk charts. The fact of the matter is that tankers and cargo ships are being hijacked on the high seas at an alarming rate. Since 2008 pirates off the coast of Somalia have up the ante, taking to firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on their way to making cargo ship hijacking into a growth industry.  Piracy has not only added additional cost of doing business for ship operators, but avoiding hotspots aggregates additional time to complete trips as ships sail around the Cape of Good Hope. Navigating this alternative route can take two to three extra weeks, saddling the industry with inefficiencies.

Consequently, what can cargo vessel owners do to deter/repel attacks?  They’re teaching their crew to fishtail (evasive maneuvers) their vessels at high speed, drive off intruders with high-pressure water hoses and illuminate their decks with floodlights, or emitting deafening sound waves from special devices. They’re also working on prevention protocols, mandating “pirate watches,” learning to use hoses and conduct frequent drills with alarms indicating when the ship has been boarded. They also take account of the fact that it is illegal for crews to carry weapons in the territorial waters of many nations, and many ship captains are wary of arming crew members for fear of mutinies. If gunpowder is your kind of deterrence, than go with the pros. Many PMC’s have began offering their ship protection services in the Gulf of Aden, Malacca Straits and other piracy hotspots. Of course the latter countermeasure is not without its share of controversy.

A second threat to the maritime transport industry, with high potential for disruption, is political risk. A particular concern today is the Strait of Hormuz, that narrow stretch of sea between Iran and the United Arab Emirates and Oman to its south that connects the Persian Gulf to open international waters where approximately 40 per cent of global ship-borne crude oil passes through on its way to the West.  According to the US-based Energy Information Administration, an average of 15 tankers carry 16-17 million tonnes of crude oil through the Strait every day. Needless to say this is the world’s most sensitive choke-point for vessels transporting oil. Add in the element that Iran, leveraging its sovereign territorial rights over these waters, could seek to blockade commercial traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, given an escalation of its conflict with the West.  It is indeed a factor that should be playing out in scenario planning sessions for both industries concerned.

As far as countermeasures are concern, political risk, especially the aforementioned example, is obviously an issue with implications beyond the maritime transport industry.  It’s indeed a prime policy issue on the diplomatic agenda for the US, China and Russia. The maritime industry however can’t sit around and wait for a diplomatic resolution. It must instead develop a business continuity portfolio. Knowing that such risk exposure can’t be fully avoided, ship operators should focus on strategic planning, “Mapping key supplier dependencies is the first step in taking control of the risk exposures. By identifying single-point failures and quantifying exposures, organizations can take conscious decisions to mitigate exposures.” Like the piracy issue the industry can mitigate part of the hazards through “political risk insurance” to offset the cost of rerouting its cargo. Unlike the piracy problem however, ship owners cannot deploy armed response in a potential conflict zone.

Quiz: What percentage of world trade is carried on ships?

In Brief: India’s Terror Challenges

Recent high profile incidents make India appear prone to terror attack. Granted that many “countries with advanced economies as well as a high degree of civil liberties are most likely to face the brunt of terror attacks.” But it is now facing more difficulties due to its unique geopolitical realities. India faces two fundamental challenges, formidable enemies in both multiple splinter and unified terrorist groups operating from within Pakistan, as well as a mighty economic behemoth in China which undermines its stature in the region and thus making it difficult to become more furtive against terrorist on the international stage. While facing these asymmetrical threats, India has been considering these factors in its long view planning.

Speaking of Risk Management, Who is Guiding Your Organization Towards the Highroad?

Here is Exhibit-A on how to approach political risks.  Choosing the highroad seems a better option in retrospect and always. Organizations can’t place profits before human life in affront to their parlayed core values; if they ever stipulate any.  When the point is to protect your PARB, there are many strategies and tactics to achieve this, even in the most hostile environments.  Lessons to all multinationals out there; there are dedicated security practitioners adept at protecting your business operation wherever and whenever so long as it is doing ethically and under the right doctrines.

Chiquita Must Face U.S. Suit Over Colombian Terrorist Murders:   

Global Yachting Protection and Prevention

By Francisco Mateo, CPP, CFE

 Owning a Yacht is a big investment that requires protection from myriad risks. Many layers of security should be considered, including the vessels’ exterior as well as the facilities (homeport or marina) where it docks when not out on the high seas.  Whether natural or man-made, sailing/cruising the world’s waterways involves intrinsic and extrinsic vulnerabilities. Intrinsically Yachts are seen are as status of wealth and therefore are vulnerable to theft and burglary. Extrinsically these vessels navigate the oceans around the world and therefore are subject to hurricanes and other natural dangers. Likewise the ability to reach international waters makes it vulnerable to geopolitical issues that plague many conflict zones around the globe.  My aim is to analyze the multitude of risks pleasure boat owners face as well as to suggest a number of protection and prevention strategies that can be applied under different scenarios.   

The risk of theft or burglary of any asset increases when it is not attended to or guarded. This principle applies to boat theft since it spends a great amount of time on a homeport or marina. According to subject matter experts “Thieves generally prefer easy targets and often go for specific equipment, such as electronics and communication systems. They are expensive and easy to remove. They are also produced in big numbers; therefore, it is easier to re-sell them without a trace.” To protect your property from the high risk of theft and burglary while at any facility it’s necessary to take account of the physical security at these sites.  Besides deciding an insurance policy, ensure that the facilities perimeter is properly protected and that only authorized persons are allowed to the dock areas.  Lighting, CCTV and other deterrence devices can be effective even for a boat; “Get a professional alarm system, especially for luxury yachts. Light, alarm sound systems and cameras can be scary to thieves. Get stickers pointing out that your boat is secured. Get fake-cameras as burglar scare crows if you want to be cheap.” It’s obvious that you should not leave valuables equipment or property within view or easy reach, but you should also make photo records of all areas and property within the boat.  All of these measures if applied correctly should deter theft since thieves would simply opt for easier pickings. 

If despite your best efforts the boat is stolen; “There are several websites that will allow you to list stolen yachts or check whether a used boat that was offered to you has been reported as stolen. Some list boat type and technical details as well as features that will allow you to identify the vessel.” In popular boating areas around the world there has also been cooperation between the local authorities and marina owners to protect vessels from rising theft. Such is the case in Rio Dulce, where the “Guatemalan government last month joined marina owners along the Rio Dulce waterway to build a floating security network to protect cruising sailors. The Rio Dulce has long been a popular place for cruising sailors to leave their boats during the hurricane season, but recently has been marred by robbery and violence.”           

Living in the Caribbean for the last few years has made me sensitive to certain security issues.  The Caribbean is a favored destination for many yachtsmen from around the world. Yet many risks exist, especially while docked at marinas in the Caribbean. Take for instance “two recent Caribbean sailing murders, including that of Australian sailor Drew Gollan in Antigua. Sailors considering a visit in their own boat or a charter holiday to the Caribbean are wondering: were they isolated? Or is it too dangerous to go there?” Capt. Les Annan offers his insight on this respect “I have had my boat broken into twice in the Bahamas (no one was hurt and the crew detained one of them for the cops) I must say that I always warn the crew to stay together and take cabs everywhere.”  The risk of theft and violence is evenly spread across the Caribbean as evidenced by reports of boat theft in the Northwest Caribbean.    

One key area of risk related to owning a boat is the potential for facing natural disasters.  Climate change is perhaps the most talked about global issue along with the peak of energy resources.  But what kind of risk can climate change represent for sailing/cruising; maintaining a boat on the water safely for that matter.  From hurricanes to tsunamis the types of severe natural events seem to be increasing in regularity and strength, leaving many owners vulnerable to nature’s whims. What can you do to protect your vessel? There is actually plenty that unfortunate events have taught experienced boat owners, from keeping the boat safe while on the ground or the water; knowing where to place the vessels in relations to wind directions during storms; how to properly tie down your boat; as well as protecting the engine, electronics, windows, hatchets and the boat’s interior. If you like your boat and want to extend its useful life-span learn the best protection practices against the worst storms nature can brew.    

Yacht piracy is another serious risk to consider. The recent rash of pirate attacks off the coast of Africa is not isolated to commercial vessels, it also includes leisure vessels, which are seen as softer and lucrative targets since owners are often affluent individuals. The most notorious and heart wrenching recent case is that of a British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates at sea while in their yacht.  The pirates demand for ransom has reached a crescendo, especially when the British government is by law would not “make substantive concessions”.  It is a reminder that geopolitical issues, like piracy should be considered when choosing where to sail to. Sadly the Chandler’s case is far from isolated as there have been at least five pirate attacks against private yachts in 2009. Distance appears to be a reason why sailors would risk being captured in pirate infested waters while circumnavigating their vessels: “For yachts wishing to reach the Mediterranean from Asia, it’s a vexed question – round the Cape of Good Hope, which normally then involves crossing the Atlantic twice to catch prevailing winds? or through pirate infested Gulf of Aden? These questions are part and parcel of sailing or crusing safely around the world today.

In the last twenty years the world’s economy has began to shift from centuries of steady progress in the West as compared to the “Ottoman Middle East, Mogul India and Ming China”.  The new economic paradigm has created a series of political rifts, which have had a destabilizing effect in many regions of the world.  As the balance of power swings, nowhere is the new reality more prevalent than the world’s seas and oceans.  Sailing or cruising the world’s oceans and seas can also exposed you to global geopolitical forces and thus a great deal of risk.  Today’s sailors are required to add to their toolkit, knowledge of conflict zones as well as a healthy dose of prudence. 

Many events reflect how dynamic and fluid the risks can be. To bring this issue into sharp focus, as recently as November, 2009, the racing yacht crewed by five Britons ‘was stopped by Iranian naval vessels, on its way from Bahrain to Dubai for straying inadvertently into Iranian waters,’ the British Foreign Office (FO) said. The crew aboard ‘The Kingdom of Bahrain’ were Oliver Smith, Oliver Young, Sam Usher, Luke Porter and David Bloomer. The boat was arrested while sailing to Dubai for the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Race.  Also in November “The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) of India seized a French yacht, Adriano, in Kochi after it entered the port without valid documents. It’s a timely warning for cruising sailors ensure that their documents are in order before entering foreign ports and not take their documentation casually.”  It’s also a sign of the intricacies of politically motivated risks at international/national waters. Lastly, there was also “the car bombing on the Spanish island of Mallorca, a very popular sailing venue, staged just before the start of the 28th Copa del Rey Audi Sailing Cup, which has brought the topics of terrorism and sailing into sharp relief. Just as the risk scenarios become evermore fluid, so most the sailors become more sophisticated about their prevention as well as mitigation protocols. 

By now you’re wondering how to keep safe from the myriad risk faced on the world seas and oceans.  Logically you would not be able to mitigate every risk, but you can make yourself and your boat more resilient by following some of these recommendations. There area a number of considerations to protect your vessel before, during or after a storm and other natural disasters. The rule of thumb is to never take chances:

  • Gather as much advance weather and potential disaster information as you can
  • When off the water the boat is safer on the ground if facing hurricane wind conditions
  • If the boat is on the water ensure that you tie your boat down at the right time before the storm, but not too so early that it blocks access to other vessels
  • Ensure there area tall dock pilings as low dock pilings can puncture the bottom or hull sides
  • Boats docked in tightly packed marinas, even if well-sheltered, need to be moved to better locations during a storm
  • Know where the boat refuges are; consider finding a well-protected, inland canal with a good dock
  • Have an extra set of new, and slightly oversized storm lines – about 1/4″ larger than normal size
  • Virtually all canvass, tops and sails and enclosures should be removed from the vessels
  • Cover small engine room hull side vents with duct tape, larger vents require the use a thin piece of plywood screwed to the vent.
  • Remove all external electronic instruments
  • All windows should be locked and duct taped

Although must boat owners, at some point, would become victims of theft and burglary there are steps you can take to minimize the likelihood:

  • Know that thieves generally prefer easy targets and often go for specific equipment, such as electronics and communication systems
  • Check your insurance – and remember to check ALL your insurance, including the policy and contract of your credit cards.
  • Keep record, in your anti-theft notebook, of all serial numbers, identification codes and other hints to identify your boat or particular equipment; also keep receipts of purchase
  • Use invisible pens to write your name and address on pieces of equipment or use etching tools.
  • Get a professional alarm system, especially for luxury yachts. Light, alarm sound systems and cameras can be scary to thieves.
  • Report theft immediately to the police and your insurance company; if the vessel is stolen make it’s listed on well known databases.

Piracy prevention can be as complex as the issues that have given rise to this phenomenon. Experts have device a number of preventative steps for leisure boat owners. Below are the best tips and advice I’ve come across:

  • Convoys seem like they may be a simple necessity in certain areas
  • Anchor during daylight hours or while asleep onboard in the cockpit or below with hatches and companionways open and unsecured
  • Buy one or more tazer guns, pepper, dog, bear sprayers, a fire extinguisher etc and mount them in crucial face height areas
  • Carry several flare guns strategically located
  • Retrofit all hatch openings and companionways are fitted with “man proof” bars
  • A power head, “bang stick”, (used for killing sharks), fitted to the end of a short speargun effectively gives you the power of a firearm at close quarters
  • Use of a military grade laser beam could temporarily blind a troupe of pirates so badly it will render them helpless
  • Consider using a portable, two-way satellite-based location, tracking and messaging technologies
  • A legal, cheap and effective deterrent is WASP SPRAY! You can clear into any country with it. It has an effective shooting distance of 20+ feet.

In conclusion, many protection and prevention strategies can be applied under different risk scenarios as analyzed above.  Taking stock of the risks scenarios is indeed a healthy practice as many events like piracy, theft, and weather events are unpredictable but can be effectively mitigated.  As far as the geopolitical implications of sailing/cruising, the effects may be predictable in so far as you do your research before setting out and keeping abreast of changes.  The ultimate aim is to make your time out in your vessels are pleasurable and safe as it can be.

The Geopolitics of Climate Change II

In light of COP 15 this week and the tacit accord reached yesterday, this report from NPR caught my attention:

Pentagon, CIA Eye New Threat: Climate Change

By Tom Gjelten

 Global warming is now officially considered a threat to U.S. national security.

For the first time, Pentagon planners in 2010 will include climate change among the security threats identified in the Quadrennial Defense Review, the Congress-mandated report that updates Pentagon priorities every four years….

Read more and listen to the podcast:

The Geopolitics of Climate Change

Are we witnessing an increase in the intensity of weather events and disasters related to climate change?  I’d like to think it’s all hype, but when the US Intelligence Community is considering climate change; changing weather patterns and rising sea level as part of military planning for the first time this year, we all should at the least be concerned. The big picture question is, could it lead to worst disasters, even war? According to Amanda Dory, Dep. Asst. Sect. of Defense/Strategy, the implications of climate change could be likely triggers.