Tag Archives: risk

Evaluating Likelihoods for Libya – Scenario 2 Methodology

In this article and the next, we shall evaluate the likelihood of the primary scenarios for foreign military intervention, which we started to detail in “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenario 2: The Joint Arab Force Takes a Side (1).” We shall focus on preliminary methodological work allowing for better describing the intervention cases for likelihood estimates. In the last article we discussed the likelihood of Scenario 1, where the Libyan actors negotiate a peace settlement—a scenario for which the probability we assessed was less than 20%, or highly unlikely.

As detailed previously, we shall use the methodology developed by The Red (Team) Analysis Society, building upon Heuer (“Assessing Probability of a Scenario”, in Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, pp.156-157) and the capability given by indicators. This methodology allows us to obtain an estimated likelihood, which is considered not only as good enough for the purpose of anticipation through scenarios but also as remaining usable by analysts.

Note: In the following article, we shall use the acronym COR for the Council of Representatives (nationalists), GNC for the General National Congress (Islamists), and GNA for the UN-backed Government of National Accord (unity government).

Organizing the Scenarios & Indicators

In order to mathematically deduce the likelihood of this scenario and its sub-scenarios, we organized the sub-scenarios in such a way as to correctly account for scenarios not detailed in our articles previously because they were not necessary in terms of narrative and understanding of the future of Libya – they were implicit.

For this scenario, we also had to add a supplementary step to account for intervention in support of the three separate governments, as well as the order in which intervention could occur­ as an intervention taking place for one of the governments could affect the likelihood of subsequent interventions occurring (see graphs below). With that in mind, we developed the graphs in such a way as to easily estimate the scenario likelihoods on different tiers and determine their overall likelihoods in various order of interventions.

In the first graph, external actors intervene (or not) first for the General National Congress, then on behalf of the COR depending on whether intervention has occurred (or not) in support of its rival, the General National Congress.

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In the second graph, external actors intervene (or not) first for the GNA, then in support of the COR depending on the level of intervention for the GNA.

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In the third graph, external actors intervene (or not) first on behalf of the Council of Representatives (COR), then for the GNA depending on whether intervention occurs in support of the Council of Representatives.

Click to access larger image

For tiers 2 and 3, we also had to add additional indicators that considered the potential intervention occurring in favor of the actors on tiers 1 and 2, because some indications may become more likely in the case of rivalry between competing Libyan authorities (GNC vs. COR). For example, the United Arab Emirates may be more willing to militarily intervene for the COR if Qatar has begun to intervene on the side of the GNC, possibly more so than a case where no external actors intervened in support of the GNC. Thus, we added this additional indicator to the pair of scenarios that follow an intervention in support of a particular actor on tier 1 or tier 2. In the tier 2 scenarios following the branch starting with “No Intervention in Support of [Actor]” on tier 1, we used the regular set of indicators for intervention, since no intervention occurred for the tier 1 actor.

Tier 3 accounts for the third actor receiving external intervention on its behalf according to the various branches of the “tree of scenarios for likelihoods”. As for Tier 3, we added supplementary indicators for scenarios that followed intervention of the tier 2 actor.

With the ability to estimate likelihoods (depending on the tier 1 actor) and thus calculate probabilities for three different orders of interventions, we are able to cover a broad range of scenarios. Having discussed the methodology of how we organized the various trees of intervention, we shall discuss the sets of indicators according to tiers and if necessary revise them, detail their evaluation and proceed with a first likelihood estimate in the next article.

Featured Photo: Norwegian F-16 Libya 2011 by Metziker, [CC BY-NC 2.0], via Flickr

The Psychological Impact of the Islamic State Terrorist Attacks – Geopolitics, Uncertainties and Business (6)

This article is part of a series seeking to identify the impacts of the current and most probably forthcoming Islamic State and jihadist terrorist attacks and focuses on major socio-psychological consequences. It follows a first article, which started outlining a framework for impact assessment out of our current understanding of the economic consequences of terrorism, which notably pointed out the need to use mapping as methodology if the complex and cascading characters of these impacts are to be properly assessed. The larger aim of the series is notably to understand if businesses should or not neglect these aggressions and related geopolitical uncertainties, while finding out ways to foresee these risks so as to best design answers (see Helene Lavoix, “Businesses and Geopolitics: Caught up in the Whirlwinds? (1)”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 17 Oct 2016)

To find out which could be the psychological impacts of the ongoing string of terrorist attacks, we shall use articles related to 9/11 as well as studies following the second Intifada, which took place in Israel from the end of September 2000 until the beginning of 2005 and was waged by “Palestinian terrorism on Israeli society” (Dov Waxman, “Living with terror, not Living in Terror: The Impact of Chronic Terrorism on Israeli Society“, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol 5, No 5-6 (2011). Each case will bring insights in what we could expect in terms of current and future socio-psychological impacts, although differences with the contemporary and forthcoming Islamic State’s and jihadist attacks should not be understated. Notably, 9/11 was a huge shock and a very large and spectacular multiple attack, but happened only once and only to one country. The Second Intifada, although targeting too a single country, taking place on a much smaller territory and aiming at a smaller population, compared with the current and probably near-future situation, should give us an insight into the consequences of attacks repeatedly waged over time and carried out in very various ways when, as outlined by Waxman, “once innocuous items (drinks, shoes, backpacks) can become the means of deadly attacks”.

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We shall first explain the disconnection existing between direct exposure to the attack, objective threat and socio-psychological impacts, i.e. how people are impacted psychologically even though they are not in the immediate vicinity of the attack and how this phenomenon takes place. This will allow us better envisioning who can be impacted. We shall then turn to the more individual harmful psychological consequences of terror attacks, from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to depression and insomnia and their impacts on businesses through impaired professional life. This will notably allow us pointing out that a crucial stakeholder for the corporate sector in terms of considering the Islamic State’s and Jihadist terrorist attacks and thus related geopolitical uncertainties is the department of human resources, which must thus be primarily involved, besides other more obvious departments such as security, risks, or sales, marketing, operations and finance. Staff in charge of exports and supplies must also become involved as the companies with whom they are dealing could be impacted by terrorist attacks. Finally, we shall turn to socio-psychological consequences with collective impacts, which have various effects on companies and de facto societies and countries, from avoidance (not doing something anymore, e.g. flying, traveling by train, visiting some countries, investing in some sectors and countries, etc.) to the rise of collectively aggressive behaviour.

Disconnection between exposure, objective threat and socio-psychological impacts

The first crucial element to consider if one is to understand and take into account properly the socio-psychological impacts of terrorist attacks is the disconnection existing between personal direct exposure, objective threat and happenstance of effects.

This disconnection has been observed again and again according to research. Silver, Holman, et al. show, in the context of the consequences of 9/11, that “the psychological effects of a major national trauma are not limited to those who experience it directly, and the degree of response is not predicted simply by objective measures of exposure to or loss from the trauma” (“Nationwide Longitudinal Study of Psychological Responses to September 11“. JAMA. 2002;288(10)). This was confirmed by Bleich, Gelkopf and Solomon, in the framework of the second Intifada, as they found “no association between symptom criteria for PTSD,…  number or intensity of TSR symptoms or any of the other indicators of distress”, and level of exposure to terrorist attacks (“Exposure to Terrorism, Stress-Related Mental Health Symptoms, and Coping Behaviors Among a Nationally Representative Sample in Israel“, JAMA. 2003;290(5): 619). Gigerenzer, similarly, in his study on dread risk and avoidance (see below) notably after 9/11, show that more people chose to drive rather than fly after the attack, even though those people had not been directly exposed (“Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire: Behavioral Reactions to Terrorist Attacks“, Risk Analysis,  Vol. 26, No. 2, 2006).

Furthermore, Bleich et al. (Ibid.) found “no significant association … between objective threat (high vs low residency risk, urban vs nonurban, Jewish vs Arab Israeli), exposure and future orientation, or sense of personal safety,” apart from association that could be found only in the case of fear for friends and family. The only demographic indicator that could be identified as having an effect on the happenstance of psychological symptoms was that women were more susceptible (5.5 times more likely for Israeli women) to develop PTSD and TSR symptoms and to experience feelings of depression (Ibid.), which, of course, does not imply that men do not develop these symptoms. This means also that neither the level of education nor age, nor social class etc. have an effect on the development of psycho-social impacts after a terrorist attacks, but, on the contrary that everyone is affected.

The explanation that is most often given for these disconnections is first that people are actually exposed to the attacks through media coverage (e.g. Vaxman; Daniel Antonius, “When fear is a weapon: how terror attacks influence mental health“, The Conversation, 5 Dec 2015, updated March 23, 2016;  Schlenger et al., “Psychological reactions to terrorist attacks: findings from the National Study of Americans’ Reactions to September 11.“, JAMA. 2002 Aug 7;288(5):581-8); for a review up to 2007, Marshall et al. “The psychology of ongoing threat: relative risk appraisal, the September 11 attacks, and terrorism-related fears“, Am Psychol. 2007 May-Jun;62(4). This does not mean that media should not provide coverage of the attacks, on the contrary, or, to anticipate on what is explained below, the factor of “unknowability” which mediates our distorted appraisal of risk would be heightened.

As far as the current Islamic State’s and other jihadist attacks are concerned, the rising spread not only of media access and exposure but also of direct access to witnesses’ videos, pictures and accounts through social networks, from Twitter to Facebook, through Instagram and YouTube may only heighten this characteristics of the socio-psychological effects of terrorist attacks.

Once people are exposed to attacks through media, individuals would interpret the information received through what Marshall et al. (ibid.) suggest to call “relative risk appraisal”,  a “multidimensional process that mediates the relation between environmental events and the individual’s meaningful appraisal of them.” Interestingly, we may note that individuals, when they evaluate the terrorist risk they face (ibid.) are prey to exactly the same biases as analysts trying to foresee future events (see online course, module 2).

As explained by Marshall et al. (Ibid.), this appraisal process is notably influenced by three elements, as identified by Slovic (“Perception of Risk”, Science, 1987 Apr 17;  236(4799), and Slovic P, MacGregor D, Kraus NN, “Perception of risk from automobile safety defects”, Accid Anal Prev. 1987 Oct; 19(5)). First, we have the “catastrophic, uncontrollable, and inequitable” aspect of danger, called “dread risk”. Second we have the unknowable character of the hazard, notably in terms of timing (when waiting for a plane, at a cafe, in a restaurant, when shopping, when commuting, any time and any place actually), and specificities (a suicide bomber, a knife stabbing, a lorry ramming a crowd, etc.). Finally, these characteristics must have “signal potential”, i.e. they must be interpreted as a warning of an existing danger, “which has entered the environment” (Slovic et al., 1987, ibid.).

As far as the Islamic State and other jihadist attacks are concerned, we definitely find the characteristics of uncontrollable as well as inequitable dangers, while the catastrophic element is sometimes present in terms of scope, as with the Bataclan, Stade de France and restaurants attacks in November 2015 in Paris, and often emphasised in repeated signal potentials, such as, for example, references to nuclear risk in Belgium (Debra Decker, “ISIL’s next Belgian target could be a nuclear plant“, USA Today, 24 March 2016), or regular mention of the potential use of Weapons of Massive Destructions (WMD) by the Islamic State (e.g. Associated Press, “Chemical weapons found in Mosul in Isis lab, say Iraqi forces“, The Guardian, 29 Jan 2017;  Rob Merrick, “Isis wants to carry out a chemical weapons attack in Britain, the national security minister warns“, The Independent, 1 Jan 2017).

Similarly the wide variety of modus operandi for the attacks, the inherent element of surprise found in terrorist attacks, added to the stress put by politicians, governments’ and states’ officials on the impossibility of zero risk, show that Slovic second factor is also present in the current string of attacks. Furthermore, the rising suspicion against the ruling establishment (as evidenced by President Trump election in the U.S., or shown by the degrading OECD index of “trust in government, with only 40% citizens continuing to trust their government in 2016), the willingness of governments and media to sometimes hide the terrorist character of attacks by initially favouring explanations in terms of psychiatric unbalance (e.g. Mark Mazzetti and Erik Schmitt, “In the Age of ISIS, Who’s a Terrorist, and Who’s Simply Deranged?“, The New York Times, 17 July 2016) may only heighten the feeling of “unknowability” of the population, while the signal potential has not been lowered. Finally, the signal potential may only remain as long as the Islamic State’s and Jihadist threat exist.

As a result, we may expect the disconnect to take place currently and in the near future, potentially leading to an even more distorted relative risk appraisal compared with previous episodes of attacks, considering current specificities.

The disconnection and the way it is taking place through relative risk appraisal process not only allows for the occurrence of pathological symptoms within individuals, but also favours harmful behaviour at collective or aggregate level (Marshall et al., ibid.). It is first to these different pathological symptoms in individuals  we shall now turn.

Harmful individual socio-psychological impacts: from PTSD to lower work quality and burnout

Acute Stress Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Stress-Related Symptoms

Without entering into the clinical details, best left to Medical Doctors, these disorders are now gathered in a single category, “Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders“, and are the most painful and incapacitating range of symptoms that an individual may experience after a terrorist attack.

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) usually appears immediately after the trauma and may last from 3 days to 1 months, while the others last for more than a month (MSD Manual).

A precise model of estimation would be necessary here, but without it, we can at least obtain a rough estimate of the number of people who are potentially concerned by these disorders out of previous instances. In the case of the second Intifada, Bleich et al. (Ibid.) report that 76.7% people suffered from at least one Traumatic Stress- Related (TSR) symptom, 9.4% suffered of PTSD and 1 person from ASD.

In the case of 9/11, two months after the attack, “the prevalence of probable PTSD was 11.2% in the greater New York area and 4.3% across the United States as a whole” (Marshall et al.). Note the difference of results between the U.S. and Israel in terms of exposure. It could stem from numerous variations, such as size of country and would justify further research. Indeed, understanding the various variables leading to variations would be crucial to better estimates for the case of the attacks at hand: for example we could test the hypothesis that the further away not only in geographical terms and exposure but also feeling of “imagined community”, to borrow from Benedict Anderson, the least likely the relative risk appraisal would operate to favour the happenstance of TSR disorders (TSRD) (Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and. Spread of Nationalism, 1983, 1991, 2006).

The number of people suffering of these disorders drops after 6 months but does not disappear. Studies found that 6 months after 9/11, between 3.4% and 5.8% of people indirectly exposed through media experienced PTSD symptoms (Ibid.). In the New York area, the six-month prevalence of PTSD in the directly affected subgroup of New-Yorkers was 12.0% … and in the indirectly affected group, 3.7% (Ibid.). Always in New York, one year after the attack 4.2 % people had PTSD and the following year this number fell to 3.3%(Joseph A. Boscarino, Richard E. Adams, and Charles R. Figley, “Worker Productivity and Outpatient Service Use After the September 11th Attacks: Results From the New York City Terrorism Outcome Study“, Am J Ind Med. 2006 August ; 49(8).

The repetition of attacks, although potentially allowing for desensitisation (Bleich et al., Ibid.), also obviously multiplies the number of people who can suffer from TSR disorders, thus spreading over time adverse consequences within the very fabric of everyday life of a society.

Operations within businesses may be impacted inasmuch as the staff is psychologically hurt, which can virtually hit almost anyone, with various consequences according to whom develops TSRD and to the size of the company: a small company with, for example 10 employees, which sees one crucial member of its staff suffering of PTSD may see its overall activity more hurt than a very large company employing thousands of people, when someone can more easily be replaced.

The findings from Israel regarding less severe “suffering of one symptom of TSR” let us expect that three quarters of the population may be impacted (Bleich et al.) Thus,  pretty much all companies will have to deal with negative symptoms and, as a result, impacts on operations. The impact of the psychological trauma is not only limited  to the few months following the attacks, but could last much longer, as seen. For example, Boscarino et al. document a loss of productivity (measured through work loss and lower work quality), especially through lower work quality stemming from PTSD, notably during the second year following 9/11.

Human Resources Offices and related services should thus pay a particular attention to the potential for terrorist attacks as stemming from related geopolitical uncertainties. Meanwhile clients and suppliers may also be impacted, and this should be kept in mind by all staff dealing with them.

Depression and impaired productivity

Depression is another symptom that has been observed following terrorist attacks.

For New York residents, a study found that 11% of workers had depression during the first year following 9/11 and 10% during the second year. Depression was found as a major cause of work loss and lower work quality during the first year following 9/11, mitigated by self-esteem (Boscarino et al., Ibid).

In the case of the second Intifada, Bleich et al. (Ibid.) find that “58.6% [of respondents] reported feeling depressed or gloomy and 28% that they felt “very” depressed or gloomy.” Yet, the authors also point out that “the majority of participants (82.2% [421/512]) stated that they felt optimistic about their personal future and 66.2% (337/509) that they felt optimistic about the future of Israel.” We thus are presented with strange results, as one of the characteristics of depression is “pessimistic thoughts” (DSM-IV Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder – MDD). Further research would be needed to investigate this phenomenon, all the more so that it is used to outline the resilience of society (e.g. Vaxman, Ibid.).

Considering the impact on work quality, again, human resources offices, as well as those staff dealing with clients and suppliers which may be likewise, impacted should pay attention to terrorist attacks and to uncertainties leading to them.

From Insomnia to Burn-out

Also working on the Second Intifada, researchers found out that fear of terrorist attacks heightened the probability to develop insomnia two years after the attacks. In turn, the tiredness generated by insomnia led to heightened odds to see the impacted people experiencing job burnout “two years after insomnia increased” (Sharon Toker, Gregory A. Laurence and Yitzhak Fried, “Fear of terror and increased job burnout over time: Examining the mediating role of insomnia and the moderating role of work support“, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Volume 36, Issue 2, pages 272–291, February 2015; George Watson, “Fear of terrorism hastens path to burnout for Israeli workers“,  Texas Tech University, 19 Feb 2015).

Note that insomnia may be part of PTSD and TSRD, as well as of depression (see MSD Manual and DSM-IV Criteria). It may also be experienced without PTSD, TSRD or depression.

As previously, human resources offices, and staff dealing with clients and suppliers, are most concerned here. Interestingly, Toker et al. study also points out that co-workers’ support but not management concern had a mitigating impact and suggests that the creation of a work environment conducive to this adequate support could be key (Ibid.). Assuming the current campaign of terrorist attacks continues, as the December 2016 attack in Berlin or the February 2017 Louvre attack in Paris (e.g. The Telegraph) indicate, we are thus faced here with the possibility to have to fundamentally re-design work spaces and possibilities for employees relations, assuming companies do not want to see their operations impacted because of adverse consequences of terrorism on staff, including management and senior executives.

Socio-psychological symptoms with negative collective impacts:  avoidance and aggressive behaviour

Impaired sense of safety and avoidance

People living in societies victims of terrorist attacks tend to experience an impaired sense of safety, which lasts for a relatively long time. In the 2002 survey in Israel, 60.4% people feared for their own safety and 67.9% for the lives of family and friends (Bleich et al, Ibid).  After 9/11 in the U.S. we find a similar impact: six months after the attack 40 to 50% of Americans “feared for their safety and that of family members” (Marshall et al.). One year after the attack, in New York, up to 73% people feared for their own safety and 75% for the lives of family and friends (Ibid.).

As fear for safety leads, besides notably the fear to relive painful memories, to avoidance behaviour (Marshall et al.), this psychological impact is particularly important.

Avoidance behaviour, which is not always considered as pathological, means that affected people will avoid places and situations where they feel their life can be threatened, considering the previous terrorist attacks. For example, after 9/11 people avoided flying:  airlines’ passenger traffic in the U.S. dropped by 20% for September to December 2001 (Marshall et al.; Gigerenzer). This avoidance led to an increase in driving at least for the next three months and, also, unfortunately to more death out of car crashes (Gigerenzer, Ibid; Ropeik D, “The consequences of fear“, EMBO Reports, 2004 Oct; Spec No 5). After the March 2004 Madrid attacks, for the two following months, people in Spain reduced train travel, however less significantly, and there no increase in driving-related death was observed (Gigerenzer; López-Rousseau, “Avoiding the death risk of avoiding a dread risk: the aftermath of March 11 in Spain“, Psychol Sci. 2005 Jun;16(6) ).

For the current string of attacks, a similar avoidance phenomenon seems to be observable in Paris, although comprehensive and detailed studies focusing on avoidance for these attacks are not (yet) available: following directly the November 2015 attacks, cafés and restaurants saw a drop in attendance of 44% and 58% respectively, while hotels saw their occupancy rate lowered by 51% (Sondage Synhorcat auprès des adhérents, 20 novembre 2015 in “Rapport au Premier Ministre sur la Destination France après les Attentats“,  Rapporteur M. Sharon Elbaz, Prime Minister Office, Sept 2016: 25). Avoidance continued, although less starkly, in the following months (Ibid, p.26-31)*. The attack in Nice and St Etienne de Rouvray in July 2016, again led to touristic avoidance not only in the Cote d’Azur (region of Nice) but attendance and occupancy rate remain bad in Paris, at least until September. At the end of the first semester 2016, the number of tourist in France had fallen by 7% since january 2016 (Ibid.). The sector of tourism for the region Ile de France (region around Paris) lost 1 bn euros for the first semester. We may note here that the recurrence of attacks appears to lead to a much longer avoidance compared with flight avoidance and 9/11.

Considering the very direct impact of this specific psychological consequence on business operations, it seems obvious that the corporate sector should definitely consider terrorist attacks and the geopolitical uncertainties from which they stem. As attacks are varied in their modus operandi, the way forward would be to start wondering where and how the activity of a company could become victim of terrorist attacks, considering understanding and knowledge available on the perpetrators, i.e. in our case the Islamic State and other similar Jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda. Contingency plans to face and mitigate avoidance could then be developed peacefully in advance and only activated if the threat materializes. Planning in advance would be even more important in the case of terrorist attacks that CEOs, managers and staff being human beings, they are as susceptible as others to be hit by the various psychological symptoms following terrorist attacks, which may then not be very conducive to think peacefully and strategically. Furthermore, in such dire circumstances, having a plan ready could contribute to a much-needed safety feeling for staff and management.

Rise of aggressive behaviour

Finally, research on the socio-psychological consequences of terrorist attacks points out a probably less known but as important impact: “the impulse to respond aggressively” (Marshall et al., Ibid.) going hand in hand with a “sense of victimhood” (Vaxman, Ibid.)

As a result, at least three interactive collective consequences may be observed.

First, in the case of Israel, a “brutalization of interpersonal relations” was observed through the proxy of school violence and proliferation of firearms (Simha Landau, “Societal Costs of Political Violence: The Israeli Experience“, Palestine-Israel Journal 10, no. 1 (2003); Vaxman, Ibid.).

Second, and relatedly, “violent crime (homicide and robbery) and property crime” increased in a way that is found related to the stress generated by terrorism, as well as to potentially increased hardship as generated by the impact on the economy: between 2000 and 2001 in Israel, criminal homicides increased by 28% and robberies by 11%(Simha Landau, Ibid.; Vaxman, Ibid.).

Finally, it has been showed that terrorism leads to a “hardening of  attitudes” against the group responsible, or perceived as such,  for the terrorist attacks (Nehemia Friedland and Ariel Merari, “The Psychological Impact of Terrorism: A Double-Edged Sword“, Political Psychology, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Dec., 1985). Indeed, as explained by Vaxman, “terrorist attacks increase negative beliefs about and hostile attitudes toward the opposing group the terrorists claim to represent” (Daniel Bar-Tal and Daniela Labin, “The Effect of a Major Event on Stereotyping: Terrorist Attacks in Israel and Israeli Adolescents’ Perceptions of Palestinians, Jordanians and Arabs,” European Journal of Social Psychology 31, no. 3 (2001); Vaxman, Ibid.). This, added to the rising aggression and thus societal brutalisation, as well as to the feeling of “victimhood”, may only lead to a rise in hate crimes, as was also observed in the case of 9/11 (Marshall et al., ibid.).

As far as 9/11 was concerned, the increase in hate crimes seemed to have mainly occurred within 10 days following the attack (Ibid.), which corresponds to the impulsive aggressive reaction. However, in cases where attacks are repeated, then the impulsive reaction might be transformed into the more pervasive brutalization pointed out by Landau (Ibid.).

As a result, we may wonder if the Islamic State’s and other jihadists’ string of attacks does not participate in the contemporary rising polarization of society, which is observable notably throughout the Western world, as is evidenced by the brutality at work during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and its aftermath, as well as by the extreme reactions of the media and of the losing side after Mr Trump came President, as again shown by the very controversial cover page of the German magazine Der Spiegel on 4 Feb 2017 (BBC News, “Der Spiegel: Trump beheading cover sparks criticism“, 4 Feb 2017). It is most probably not the only cause, as explained in Lessons from and for the Brexit – Geopolitics, Uncertainties, and Business (2) (Helene Lavoix, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 22 Nov 2016),  but it cannot either be ruled out that it does not play a part. Feelings of victimization and its corollary of sentiments of entitlement and self-righteousness added to brutalization of societies are certainly not conducive to composed and wise democracies.

As far as violent crime is concerned, businesses should foresee them and take adequate preventative measures. As for the more general brutalization, this should also be considered in details, according to the activity of each business, while a better understanding of the processes at work and how they can evolve in the future should be promoted before policies are decided. Indeed, it may well be that decisions taken too rapidly or without proper analysis were themselves taken under conditions of “aggressive response and victimhood feeling”. Adequate related lobbying could also be endeavoured.

To conclude, studies on 9/11 and the Second Intifada also point out the resilience** of both the American and Israeli Society to terrorist attacks (e.g. among others, Marshall et al.). In the case of the Second Intifada, resilience suggests that a phenomenon of de-sensitisation could take place when terrorism occurs repeatedly and on a long period (Vaxman, Ibid.; Bleich et al., Ibid.). However, first, this potential  de-sensitisation does not consider the brutalization pointed out by Landau (Ibid.). Further research would thus be needed.

Second, since 2001 for 9/11 and 2000-2005 for the second Intifada, eleven years have gone by.  The world and the international system, as well as all the countries targeted and threatened by the Islamic State’s and other jihadists’ terrorist attacks are caught in the unsettling times of transition.  To this should be added the variety of targeted countries in the case of the current and potentially near future attacks, with different societies, values and belief-systems, political systems and interests, compared with past attacks on single countries, heterogeneous yet each being unified by values and beliefs. Thus, the very resilience that was displayed then should not be taken for granted now, but on the contrary cautiously checked. Targeted societies may be now and in the near future more or less resilient to the attacks, terrorism becoming then one of the causes that contribute to the transitional changes, besides potentially feeding polarization as pointed out above. The possible absence or lowered resilience of the victim societies, in turn, would heighten the importance of the socio-psychological impacts of terrorism on society as a whole, as well as, de facto, on its actors, making it even more important to foresee them and to feel concerned by the issue.

*Note that the report to the French Prime Minister does not consider the psychological aspect of avoidance and thus does not take into consideration corresponding measures that could have also been designed to face this specific impact.

**We use here the definition of resilience given by B. Walker, C.S. Holling, S. R. Carpenter, A. Kinzig Resilience, 2004, “Adaptability and Transformability in Social–ecological Systems,” Ecology and Society, 9(2): 5: “The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks.” Note that the choice of the definition will greatly influence what may be seen or not as a resilient behaviour to terrorism.

Featured image: Battling PTSD, Marines, May 24, 2010, United States government work, Public Domain.

About the author: Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 22 December 2016

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals…
Each section focuses on signals related to a specific theme: world (international politics and geopolitics); economy; science; analysis, strategy and futures; technology and weapons; energy and environment. However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

Read the 22 December 2016 scan

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our own Milky Way galaxy, can be seen as bright smudges in the night sky, in the centre of the photograph. This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESO/C. Malin [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Businesses and Geopolitics (1): Caught up in the Whirlwinds?

What if, by May 2017, “non-liberal” movements and parties were in power in the U.S. with Donald Trump, France with Marine Le Pen and Austria with Norbert Hofer? The overall geopolitical configuration would most probably greatly change, in areas such as the tensions between “the West” and Russia, the upheavals between the U.S. and Eastern Asia, the Trump, Clinton, U.S. election, scenario, geopolitics, geopolitical uncertainties, geopolitical risk, instability, business, corporate, risk management, political risk, client, strategic planningEuropean Union’s definition, policies and survival, or the TTIP and more largely the neo-liberal economic approach, without forgetting relations with the Middle-East. Would this impact most businesses? Yes, most probably.

What if the defeated parties, candidates and their supporters, in these three coming presidential elections – whichever they would be – refuse to accept the results? Considering the way some proponents of the “Remain” in the U.K. refused – and still refuse – to accept the democratic vote of the “Brexit”, such reactions, unthinkable a few years ago, have become scenario, geopolitics, geopolitical uncertainties, geopolitical risk, instability, business, corporate, risk management, political risk, client, strategic planning, Brexit, referendum, democracya very real possibility (e.g. Brendan O’Neill, “The howl against democracy“, 26 June 2016; “Democracy is hanging by a thread in this country“, 6 September 2016, The Spectator; Uri Friedman, “Should the Brexit Vote Have Happened at All?” The Atlantic, 27 June 2016; BBC News, “Brexit case ‘of fundamental constitutional importance’“, 13 Oct 2016), even if likelihood still must be discussed. Would we head towards institutional deadlock, extreme polarisation, or instability, if not civil wars in the U.S., France and Austria? Is the trend towards less democracy to continue? Would this impact most businesses? Yes, most probably.

Should businesses envision such scenarios (even if their likelihood widely varies) coldly, without considering any personal and individual preferences? Should businesses, actually, envision all possible scenarios, not only those outlined above? Yes, they definitely should, because it is only by properly identifying  scenarios for the future that correct answers may be designed, and profitability – to say nothing of survival – be ensured. In turn, all staff should also be keen to see their employer properly designing answers, because, at the end of the day, their job is at stake, with overwhelming consequences in all areas of their lives should their company downsize or close down.

The question is: will businesses consider these political and geopolitical risks and uncertainties and how?

Our aim with this series of articles is to understand better the relationship between businesses or the corporate sector and geopolitical and political risks and uncertainties, as well as those actors who are specialised in their study, and to suggest elements of answers and solutions that should help businesses to properly address these “risks”.

We shall first look, with this article, at general trends regarding the way businesses’ executives perceive and deal with geopolitical and political risks and uncertainties, using mainly the results of a survey published by McKinsey in May 2016*. This part will allow us identifying a first series of questions and features.

With forthcoming articles, we shall turn to three main examples where geopolitics and politics impacted businesses: the Brexit (“Lessons from and for the Brexit – Geopolitics, Uncertainties, and Business (2)“), the crisis in Ukraine and impact on some sectors (“Lessons from the conflict in Ukraine – Geopolitics, Uncertainties, and Business (3) and (4)”), the Islamic State’s terrorist attacks (“The Impact of the Islamic State Terrorist Attacks – Geopolitics, Uncertainties, and Business (5)”), and, to which we shall add a couple of emerging new or recent uncertainties. We shall use these examples to point out a few key elements related to geopolitical and domestic instabilities’ risks and uncertainties and what they mean (or should mean) for businesses. Finally, we shall deduce from these cases practical ways forward.

Geopolitical risks, what increasingly keeps executives up at night

Back in May 2016, McKinsey Global Survey on globalisation pointed out that “in two years’ time, the share of respondents [executives across regions, industries and companies’ sizes] identifying geopolitical instability as a very important factor affecting their businesses has doubled” (Drew Erdmann; Ezra Greenberg; and Ryan Harper, “Geostrategic risks on the rise, McKinsey & Company, 2016). Thus, 84% of executives now consider that these risks will have an impact on their business, and 49% a very important one, besides domestic instability, which is mentioned by approximately 66% of respondents (Ibid.).

scenario, geopolitics, geopolitical uncertainties, geopolitical risk, instability, business, corporate, risk management, political risk, client, strategic planning, regulations

Interestingly, what businesses have in mind when they think about “geopolitical instability” and domestic ones, always according to the same study, is mainly “uncertain or restrictive regulatory environment” (from 40% to 54% according to sectors), followed by “political or social instability” (from 27% to 43%) – and “disruption to supply chain” (27%) for the manufacturing sector – “protectionist and trade related policies” (from 17% to 32%), and only far behind “volatile prices of commodities” (from 9% to 33%) or High levels of public debt (from 5% to 24%)(Ibid., exhibit 3).

The answers, logically, differ according to sectors. The manufacturing sector is more concerned about what can disrupt its production and its transportation, compared with financial services, which are obviously not so worried about these risks, indeed quite irrelevant for them, at least directly. The differences in answers thus first point out, as stressed by McKinsey, the need to consider corporate sectors according to type of activities rather than an undifferentiated “businesses”, if we want to deliver useful actionable anticipation.

Finally, businesses, assuming that McKinsey’s survey is representative, understand “geopolitical risks” differently from those who are meant to help them understanding these risks. First, the broad label of geopolitical risk has hardly anything to do with geopolitics, “a method of foreign policy analysis which seeks to understand … international political behaviour in terms of scenario, geopolitics, geopolitical uncertainties, geopolitical risk, instability, business, corporate, risk management, political risk, client, strategic planning, wargeographical variables…” (Evans and Newnham, The Dictionary of World Politics, 1992). Then, specialists would tend actually to have in mind what is part of their field, mainly international relations – or international politics – and the study of escalation to war or out of war (in a nutshell, the discipline started by Alfred Zimmern right after World War I in Aberystwyth). To accommodate with historical developments, scholars then, in terms of issues, would look at what could impact security, understood as the security of human societies organised as polities. If we use Buzan’s pioneering work, we thus have five main sectors: military, political, economic, societal and environmental, “all woven together in a strong web of linkages” (Buzan, People, States and Fear, 1991: 20).

We thus have quite a strong disconnect between the perception of businesses and the communication of understanding and accumulated knowledge generated by “geopolitical experts”.** When the latter talk about war, be it civil war or interstate ones, at best they directly address, from a business perspective, only “supply chain disruption” (one of the risks deemed as least important, save for the manufacturing industry) and part of “political and social disruption”.

Yet, political and geopolitical scholars could also explain and contribute to monitor, for example, that high levels of public debts (a geopolitical risk which is not deemed as very important for businesses , see above) could have, at second and third order effect a much higher impact on businesses’ operations than thought. Indeed, the capability of a state to maintain a secure enough environment to allow businesses to operate depends also on the level of public debt or more exactly on the resources available to the state (see Seeking SecurityBudget Deficit and LiquidityPublic Resources and Lenders in The Chronicles of Everstate, RTAS January/Feb 2012): without resources the state cannot ensure its fundamental missions, and thus essential functions such as police cannot be fulfilled successfully. Infrastructures – if they have not been liberalised (note that their privatisation also faces its own challenges, e.g. water, “Learning from water privatization” in The Chronicles of Everstate, RTAS July 2012) – cannot be maintained. Also public debt and state budgets may imply institutional deadlocks – as has been the case in the U.S. (e.g. Clinton T. Brass, “Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects“, Congressional Research Service, 2011 ) – with also impacts on businesses’ main concern, regulations. It is thus crucial that political and geopolitical experts make the effort to help executives deciphering their geopolitical environment.

The gap between the two perspectives is not a fatality and only needs to be bridged, while a common vocabulary is developed. Yet, the bridge must be built if hundred of years of efforts are not to be wasted when it could be used by businesses, and if businesses are to improve their odds when facing and dealing with “geopolitical and domestic instabilities”.

A need to change perspective to go beyond negative impacts

Then, businesses estimate the impact of the geopolitical and domestic instabilities to be largely negative: 57% (for geopolitical scenario, geopolitics, geopolitical uncertainties, geopolitical risk, instability, business, corporate, risk management, political risk, client, strategic planninginstabilities) and 58% (for domestic instabilities) (McKinsey, Ibid., exhibit 2).

Yet, and this time placing ourselves from the point of view of strategic foresight and warning, risk management (in its 2009 approach)  or more broadly, anticipation, we know that what has a negative impact is not so much “instabilities” but the inability to foresee them properly and thus to answer in a timely way these coming changes. To use the wealth of military and intelligence understanding existing on the topic (see J. Ransom Clark, The Literature of Intelligence: A Bibliography…, “Strategic Warning: Surprise, Intelligence Failures, and Indications and Warning Intelligence“), what must be prevented is surprise.

This was well expressed by Guenter Taus, the head of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, faced with the rapidly changing situation in the Philippines under the impulse of President Duterte (e.g. Reuters, “China confirms Duterte visit amid strained U.S.-Philippine ties“, 12 October 2016):

“We can all deal with risks. We can put measures in place to provide for risks… But uncertainty is a factor that we do not like in business, and that is exactly what we’re experiencing right now because we don’t know where we are heading.” (Guenter Taus in Associated Press, “Uncertainty over Philippine president alarms investors“, Asahi Shimbun, Oct 3 2016)

scenario, geopolitics, geopolitical uncertainties, geopolitical risk, instability, business, corporate, risk management, political risk, client, strategic planning

By focusing mainly on instabilities, or risks (i.e. most of the time pre-identified probability x impact, which is still how most people understand a risk, despite the new ISO 2009 definition – see H Lavoix, “When Risk Management Meets Strategic Foresight and Warning“, RTAS, 5 May 2014, updated June 2016 ), the corporate sector deprives itself from the capability to, potentially, turn instability into an opportunity, as well as to answer an often inescapable instability better than its competitors, which would then provide a specific company with a definitive advantage.

Moving out of fatality?

Finally, McKinsey’s study stresses that, even though, executives have developed a new awareness of “geopolitical and political risks”, even though they point out the potential negative impact to their businesses, they have not started addressing properly these risks: only 13% have taken steps to address both risks of geopolitical and domestic instabilities (exhibit 4).

Furthermore, and strangely enough, although 58% deemed that “comprehensive scenario methodologies, integrated into a strategic planning process” – of the type we are promoting and doing here at The Red (Team) Analysis Society –  are the most efficient way to address these risks, only 18% of executives and their companies use “scenarios”. Meanwhile, the large majority tend to use internal analyses (ad hoc or not) and external think tank resources, such as specialised reports, ad hoc analyses, consultancy and dialogue with external experts, yet executives consider these ways to face geopolitical and domestic risks as less efficient (exhibit 5).

maze, scenario, geopolitics, geopolitical uncertainties, geopolitical risk, instability, business, corporate, risk management, political risk, client, strategic planning

The reason for the lack of efficiency of internal analysis, on the one hand, and of the use of external think tanks and consultants – probably specialised in international relations, on the other hand, lies in what we uncovered in the first part: the difference and discrepancy between languages, center of interests and education, somehow between supply and demand. If two sets of actors do not understand each other, and live on different planets – not to say in different universes – then it is most likely that unsatisfactory relationships will follow.

The more frequent use, nonetheless, of these two “inefficient approaches” most probably comes from the fact that these approaches are what is mainly available.

Furthermore, the absence of training of most international relations specialists in anticipation methodologies, and of “business-related anticipation experts” in international relations, most probably also participate in the generalised use of an expertise considered as inadequate.

Finally, developing scenarios, assuming the right expertise is available, if it is well done is also a relatively long, resource-intensive and thus more expensive and demanding process than buying a generalist subscription to one think-tank or another. This supplementary cost, fundamentally allows for more profit and less losses, but may also be perceived as just a new supplementary cost by companies. As a result, this perception might also be an element in the current lack of use of the methodology deemed most efficient.

Meanwhile, a timeframe issue may also emerge. If a business needs scenarios in the next hours – actually for yesterday because the crisis is now evident, when one month or a couple of months, according to the scope of the issue and level of details, would necessary to obtain proper actionable scenarios, then it may just give up and think it is too late to use scenarios. There are ways to overcome this challenge, including because it is never too late to make scenarios, accepting and taking hold of unfolding crises, within the bounds of possibility and quality.

If businesses are unsure of the way to address geopolitical and political uncertainties, and tend to believe that what is mainly on offer is inefficient for their needs and purpose, then it is not that surprising that they fail to take practical steps forward, and remain caught up in the geopolitical whirlwinds.

This is not, however, a fatality. Using the McKinsey study, we have identified a few crucial yet still general elements that shape the way businesses address  – or not – geopolitical and political uncertainties and started thus envisioning ways forward. With the forthcoming articles, using specific cases, we shall look at the way geopolitical and political uncertainties (and crises) impact businesses, so as to refine our understanding of what could be done better.


*Initially, we planned to also use the part of the Global Risk Report 2016 (GRR), published yearly by the World Economic Forum,  which is dedicated to businesses and global risks (part 4 for the GRR 2016, pp. 69-78). However, the differences between the McKinsey study and the WEF approaches are so important that comparison and even complementarity, for our specific purpose, are impossible.

The McKinsey’s study concerns risks that will impact “global business and your own business” in the coming years, and more specifically (see exhibit 3) “risks that will most affect organizations in countries where they operate over the next 5 years”. Meanwhile the GRR questions are about “the five global risks that they [business executives] were most concerned about for doing business in their country within the next 10 years” (p.69, see also appendix C, p.90). The way the question is asked (at least as portrayed in the report) tends to rule out foreign operations as well as international trade – surprisingly considering the World Economic Forum outlook.

The GRR survey is thus less relevant to our purpose and will not bring us further insight into the relationship between businesses and “geopolitics”.

Furthermore,  the period when the survey were conducted is different too. The McKinsey survey was done between 3 and 13 November 2015, while the GRR was conducted between February and June 2015. Considering the evolution of the war against the Islamic State and its impact notably in Europe, to have a better understanding of the GRR results, we would need to wait for the forthcoming results, corresponding to a survey conducted around Spring 2016.

**Note that the discrepancy most probably comes from the fact that, initially, international relations – and foreign policy – belonged mainly to the state and that it was meant to serve the state and governments by training diplomats, analysts and policy-makers. The discipline thus covers and deals with issues and categories that are relatively congruent with the organisation of the modern state. With the withering away of the state (at least in the liberal world), businesses must face, in a novel way new tasks for which they are not prepared, while “geopolitical specialists” must work with new types of decision-makers, with very different concerns… and education.

About the author: Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues.

Featured image by Solomon_Barroa, CC0 Public Domain, via Pixabay.

Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear – 2nd edition: An agenda for international security studies in the post-Cold War era, (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1st edition 1983, 2nd edition 1991)

Behind-the-Scenes Summer-Autumn 2016

The summer and early autumn have been particularly interesting times for the Red (Team) Analysis Society. We notably participated in crucial “behind-the-scenes” meetings and activities, which shape how the field of risk management, strategic foresight and warning, crisis prevention or more broadly strategic anticipation evolves, from practice, processes, and methodologies, to major issues, specific risks and uncertainties.

About global risks, threats and uncertainties, process and methodology

At The World Economic Forum for The Global Risk Report 2017 and the 4th Industrial Revolution

Helene Lavoix was part of the October 2016 preparatory workshop for the forthcoming Global Risks Report 2017 of The World Economic Forum (WEF), held at the WEF beautiful headquarters in Geneva, Cologny.

Updated: The Global Risk Report 2017 is now available, and can be accessed and downloaded on the WEF website (mention of our participation for reference can be found p.70). Continue reading Behind-the-Scenes Summer-Autumn 2016

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2.4 Partition and Spill Over

In our previous article, we detailed a partition scenario where Libya splits into independent states along tribal and provincial lines, as well as a north-south axis, and in the one before, we focused on various possible spill over. This article focuses on a combination of the two cases, partition and spill over scenarios. In the first scenario, the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou tribes outright declare independence and break away from the Libyan state, which leads to significant spill over in Algeria, Niger, and Chad. In the second scenario, Libya is partitioned along provincial lines, which leads to spill over in all directions. In the last scenario, Libya splits apart along a north-south axis located through Sirte, and bordering countries experience similar spill over.

Provincial: Provincial refers to Libya’s three provinces – Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan

Note: Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for those that supported the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives (COR) and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note those that supported the General National Congress (GNC) and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafist will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

Click to access larger image

Sub-scenario 2.4 Partition and Spill Over

Unresolved political grievances, exclusion from political power, tribalism, lack of faith in a unity government, economic insecurity, and the lack of security contribute to Libya’s partition. Libya is partitioned into mini-states that each pursue its own interests and don’t participate in a cohesive security plan, while surrounding countries begin to experience spill over. A combination of partition and spill over significantly alters the region, and draws neighboring countries further into Libya’s conflict and instability.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.4 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The stability level of bordering countries. If bordering countries suffer from instability, they are more susceptible to spillover effects than more stable countries. The lower the stability level of a state, the more likely this scenario will occur. For example, Niger is already plagued by Boko Haram, institutional weakness, lack of development, and a deteriorating political climate, which makes it highly susceptible to experiencing spillover from the Libyan conflict (Jezequel and Cherbib, International Crisis Group, February 19, 2016; Melly and Shepherd, Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, April 19, 2016).
  2. The strength of transnational tribal ties. As discussed in Tribal Dynamics and Civil War I, II, and III, tribalism plays a significant role in Libya. Any conflict involving the Tuareg or Toubou runs the risk of spilling over throughout the region – considering their tribal ties extend across various state borders in North Africa. Conflict between the Tuareg and Toubou over vital smuggling routes, in particular, increases the likelihood of spillover.
  3. The length of the war in Libya. The longer the war in Libya continues, the higher the likelihood that it spills over. The length of war increases the number of refugees, potentially allows Salafist groups the time to expand their capabilities, and creates a demand for transnational arms and militant smuggling.
  4. The level of exhaustion from years of conflict. The longer the conflict continues, the more likely the involved actors succumb to exhaustion. Higher levels of exhaustion from conflict increase the likelihood of the competing sides to settle for partition, rather than full victory.
  5. Willingness to partition Libya into independent states, rather than unite as one people. If the rival governments are more willing to partition the country and Libyan people rather than unite for the sake of Libya’s future, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  6. Indicators 2, 3, 4, and 5 of sub-scenario 2.3 act here in a similar way.
  7. Indicators 2 and 3 of sub-scenario 2.2 act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.4.1 Partition Along Tribal Lines, Spill Over in Bordering Countries

Libyan and Amazigh flags flying side by side

As discussed in our previous article, the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou tribes increasingly see that their involvement in the conflict is helping preserve a Libyan state that fails to include them. With ideas of autonomy progressively escalating to independence, the tribes decide to declare full independence from Libya and establish their own tribal states ruled by tribal councils and courts. As a result, southern Libya is partitioned away, and a small Amazigh state in the north is carved out.

With Libya’s southern trade routes as their only economic base (with the exception of the El Sharara oil field), the Tuareg and Toubou states clash for control. This continued conflict between the two tribes – now independent states – spills over to the Tuareg and Toubou in Niger, Chad, and Algeria. Some of the Tuareg in Algeria cross over to help their tribesmen in Libya, while Toubou fighters from Niger and Chad cross into Libya as well.

Furthermore, economic dependence of the new tribal countries on the trade routes allows spill over of drugs, arms, illicit goods, and jihadists into Chad, Niger, and Algeria. Tensions increase when the bordering countries deploy more forces to secure their sides of Libya’s border. With Tuareg tribes in Algeria and Niger wanting to expand the Tuareg state, as well as Toubou tribes in Chad and Niger wanting to expand the Toubou state in former southern Libya, these bordering countries face growing tribal movements that threaten their country’s stability and borders. Similar to the Northern Mali conflict in 2012, conditions are created in Algeria, Niger, and Chad that lead to open insurgencies by the tribes; however, these are new conflicts and would require new scenarios to fully understand their depth.

Tribal conflict and subsequent insurgencies in northern Niger, southeastern Algeria, and southwestern Libya may temporarily disrupt the migrant flow that goes through Ghat. In that case, migrant flows might shift to smuggling routes through Algeria and Egypt. Even if tribal partition and subsequent conflict temporarily disrupt migrant routes going through southwestern Libya, continuing conflict between the Islamists and nationalists prevent them from fully controlling the masses of migrants already in northern Libya that are poised to cross the Mediterranean.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.4.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of reliance on the southern trade routes. If trade routes offer the sole form of economic sufficiency and prosperity, it is highly likely that spill over will occur as a result – whether in the form of jihadists, drugs, arms, migrants, or illicit goods. According to Global Risk Insights, “the Fezzan region is at the core of this booming lawlessness” (Global Risk Insights, August 28, 2016), which supports our notion that independent tribal states in Fezzan will lead to spill over.
  2. Control of the El Sharara oil field. If one of the new tribal states gains control of the El Sharara oil field and is able to exploit it for economic gain, total reliance on the trade routes may be mitigated – which could decrease the levels of resulting spill over. However, one tribe’s control of the oil field could simultaneously spark tribal conflict over its control, thus leading to tribal spill over. A past indication occurred when Tuareg and Toubou fighters – backed by Misrata and Zintan, respectively – fought for control of the oil field in 2014 (Al Jazeera, December 5, 2014).
  3. The level of conflict that can shift migrant routes. If tribal conflict significantly escalates to a regional level with tribal fighters coming from Algeria, Niger, and Chad, it may cause migrant smugglers to avoid the major routes through Ghat and instead pursue migrant routes through Algeria and Egypt. Pursuing alternative migrant routes increases the likelihood of this scenario occurring.
  4. Indicators 1-6 of sub-scenario 2.3 act here in a similar way.
  5. Indicators 1-4 of sub-scenario 2.3.1 act here in a similar way.
  6. Indicators 1-10 of sub-scenario 2.2.2 act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.4.2 Partition Along Provincial Lines, Spill Over in Bordering Countries

After reaching a military stalemate, but not wanting to submit to a government dominated by the enemy, the Islamists, Misratans, nationalists, and tribes look for an alternative. With faith in their own abilities to fulfill state functions, and having no hope for a unity government, the competing sides partition Libya along provincial lines and declare self-governing states (see Mitchell, “Sc 2.3 Libya’s Partition” for an in-depth narrative on provincial partition). In this case, the Tuareg and Toubou tribes agree to share power if it means having their own state in southern Libya.

Although the Tuareg and Toubou tribes share power in the Fezzan province, they are still economically dependent on the trade routes. This allows jihadists, migrant smugglers, drug smugglers, and arms smugglers to operate freely – crossing the borders of Libya’s neighbors and going into Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The tribal state’s dependence on the trade routes causes smuggling rates to drastically increase. Once smugglers and jihadists cross over into the northern and eastern provinces (now “states”), they spill over into Europe, Egypt, and Tunisia. As the new states of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica prioritize the removal of Salafist threats, jihadists begin to shift their operations to bordering countries. Tunisia – which is already particularly susceptible to Tunisian-born jihadists returning from regional conflicts – begins to see an increase in terrorist attacks as jihadists migrate from northern Libya. Jihadists also begin to spill over to Algeria, Niger, Chad, and Egypt to join with other Al-Qaida or Islamic State groups. Egypt works with the eastern state of Cyrenaica to secure Egypt’s western border (see further details in sub-scenario 2.4.3). With Egypt’s assistance, nationalist forces in Cyrenaica are able to put heavy pressure on Salafist groups, which cause Salafist groups in the Sinai to support their fellow jihadists in Libya by increasing their attacks against Egypt.

With the three states of former Libya focused on building their own states, clashing over natural resources, and attempting to put down rivals, the migrant crisis continues to expand. Not having the ability or not wanting to waste precious funding on migrant masses, the northern and eastern states allow migrants on Libya’s shores to cross over into Europe. Unless Europe provides resources to help the new Libyan states deal with the large numbers of migrants, migrant spill over ensues and further exacerbates Europe’s migrant crisis.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.4.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The ability or desire to care for and contain migrants on Libya’s shore. With security efforts, the rebuilding of critical infrastructure, and the provision of basic social services likely taking priority after a partition, the new states would not have the ability or desire to care for and contain roughly 235,000 refugees and migrants on their shores. The lack of ability or desire to care for migrants can be seen in Libya’s current migrant detention centers, where detained migrants are reportedly “coerced into hard labor, beaten by guards, and cramped into tiny cells with little food or water…” (Alfred, Huffington Post, May 27, 2016). Without European assistance or pressure, it is likely that these conditions for migrants would persist after partition.
  2. The willingness of Europe to provide assistance in containing the migrant flow. If the European Union is willing to provide assistance to the new Libyan states to contain the migrant flows, the likelihood of this scenario decreases. A past indication occurred when the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding to help train Libyan coast guard and naval forces in preventing illegal migration across the Mediterranean (STRATFOR, August 24, 2016).
  3. Indicators 1 and 2 of sub-scenario 2.4.1 act here in a similar way.
  4. Indicators 1-6 of sub-scenario 2.3 act here in a similar way.
  5. Indicators 1 and 2 of sub-scenario 2.3.2 act here in a similar way.
  6. Indicators 1-10 of sub-scenario 2.2.2 act here in a similar way.
  7. Indicators 1-7 of sub-scenario 2.2.3 act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.4.3 Partition Along North-South Axis, Spill Over in Bordering Countries

The primary difference between this scenario and 2.4.2 is that the tribes maintain their alliances with the competing governments and agree to the east-west split, rather than form their own tribal states (see Mitchell, “Sc 2.3 Libya’s Partition” for an in-depth narrative on partition along a north-south axis). Furthermore, smuggling trends will not inflate to levels that would be seen in a 2.4.1 or 2.4.2 scenario where tribal states are reliant on the trade routes for state income. Rather, a partition along a north-south axis would allow the western Libya state to tap into oil resources and commercial trade instead of relying on smuggling.

Similar to sub-scenario 2.4.2, the competing sides are exhausted by civil war, but are unwilling to unite under one government. With the support of the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou, the rival governments partition Libya along a north-south axis – with the axis starting in Sirte and going through to the southern Libyan border.

Similar to the previous sub-scenario, the two new Libyan states are unwilling or unable to accommodate the large groups of migrants on their northern shores, and thus allow them to spill over to Europe. Furthermore, the two states are focused on destroying Salafist strongholds within their respective borders, which inadvertently causes spill over in all directions. As Salafist strongholds come down, jihadists begin migrating to neighboring countries with Al-Qaida or Islamic State groups – such as Algeria, Niger, Tunisia, and Egypt.

To secure its western border, Egypt invests heavily in the eastern Libyan state’s security forces – likely in the form of training and weapons. As Libya’s Salafist groups come under extreme pressure by the nationalist forces, Wilayat Sinai begins to increasingly attack Egyptian targets in retaliation for Egypt’s assistance to the eastern Libyan state. The cooperation between the eastern Libyan state and Egypt focused against Salafist groups prompts Wilayat Sinai to put out a global call of support for its struggle against Egypt. Unless Egypt withdraws its military support of the nationalist government and its new state, spill over from Libya increases Egypt’s instability.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.4.3 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The ability of the new states to provide alternate economic opportunities to southern tribes. Since the Tuareg and Toubou will be included in the new states, they will be able to benefit from the economic opportunities in the north – at least more so than if they had their own tribal states. If the new states invest in economic development for the tribes, and or include them in the economic benefits of oil exports, the tribes would be less reliant on smuggling routes. As a result, there would be less spill over from the smuggling routes, and the likelihood of this scenario would decrease.
  2. Indicators 1 and 2 of sub-scenario 2.4.2 act here in a similar way.
  3. Indicators 1, 2, 3, and 5 of sub-scenario 2.3 act here in a similar way.
  4. Indicators 1-3 of sub-scenario 2.3.3 act here in a similar way.
  5. Indicators 1-10 of sub-scenario 2.2.2 act here in a similar way.
  6. Indicators 1-7 of sub-scenario 2.2.3 act here in a similar way.


Featured Photo: Photo posted on King Robbo Twitter page, 21 September 2016

“A fierce battle for control in Libya’s desert,” Al Jazeera, December 5, 2014

Charlotte Alfred, “Libya is Saving Migrants at Sea, only to Trap Them in Dire Conditions on Land,” Huffington Post, May 27, 2016

Jean-Herve Jezequel and Hamza Cherbib, “Presidential Elections in Niger: Tense Climate, Uncertain Future,” International Crisis Group, February 19, 2016

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2.3 Libya’s Partition,” The Red Team Analysis Society, September 12, 2016

“Libya, EU come to an Agreement on Migrants,” STRATFOR, August 24, 2016

“Libya’s Collapse is Changing North Africa,” Global Risk Insights, August 28, 2016

Paul Melly and Ben Shepherd, “Stability and vulnerability in the Sahel: the regional roles and internal dynamics of Chad and Niger,” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, April 2016

Alberta Mega Wildfire and the United Arab Emirates Security

In April 2016, some important oil-producing Middle Eastern countries, as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Iran, were present among the representatives of more than 155 countries headed to the U.N. in New York to ratify the international climate accord negotiated during the Paris COP 21 (“UAE vows to make climate deal work”, The National UAE, April 23, 2016).

Less than a month later, from North America to Russia, places especially vulnerable to climate change are shaken by immense wildfires. Prominent among these extreme weather events, is the mega wildfire that devastates the region of Fort Mc Murray, in the Alberta state of Canada (Bryan Alary, “Fort Mc Murray blaze among “most extreme” of wild fires says researcher”, Phys.org, May 9, 2016). This humongous fire happens directly in the heartland of the world-famous tar sands exploitations, which have turned Canada into an oil product exporter (Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar sands: dirty oil and the future of a continent, 2010).


Alberta wildfire has triggered the emergency evacuation of Fort Mc Murray, which went with a de facto weakening of the tar sands’ production. The fire has endangered the people as well as the industrial installations and the numerous related investments that went with it. Meanwhile, future insurance costs could sharply increase. (Maria Galucci, “Fort Mc Murray wildfires: Canada’s oil sands producers cut output as Alberta fires rage”, International Business Time, O5/04/16). In other words, these extreme weather events are demonstrating how much environmental global change is putting at risk modern societies, economies and business models.

This means governments, countries, and companies are jeopardised by climate change, and that this new geophysical threat must also be understood through the multiple ways it harms countries, civil societies and businesses.

Furthermore, this new global and systemic risk must be rethought, through the perspective of a strategic thinking that integrates the new meaning of what The Red (Team) Analysis Society, calls the “global change risk”, i.e. a risk grounded in the interactions between the modern societies complex vulnerabilities and rapidly changing and dangerous geophysics, such as, among others, climate change” (for a definition of global change, see U.S. Global Change Research Program).

In order to understand this new dimension of systemic vulnerability, we shall use the new kind of risks that the Alberta’s wildfire reveals. It will explain how, today, the new process that underlies these risks’ dynamics are not only threatening Canada, but also affects very different – and sometimes far away – places in the world.


To illustrate this new reality, we shall focus here on the way a small and very developed country such as the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), which has been able to transform itself into an influent power, is potentially today in a situation very similar to what Fort Mc Murray is facing.

First, we shall point out that Alberta wildfire reveals much more on the nature of risk than “simply” the combustion of a large swath of territory. Then we shall move to the way the new understanding of the “global change” risk impacts also a place like the United Arab Emirates, even though it is very far away of and very different from Canada. Finally, we shall stress that the new reality necessitates an awareness of the political, economic and business authorities of the United Arab Emirates about the complexification of risk. Indeed that threat affects the U.A.E national structures as well as the structures of the entire region in which the U.A.E. develops.

When anticipating the cumulative effects of global change, it is important to study cases that are exemplary of the high level of interconnectedness defining our globalised world, while also looking at the interactions with the new geophysical reality.

In this, the U.A.E. are of a particular interest and importance.

A new meaning of “Risk”: “Global Change Risk”

Despite the spectacular aspect of Alberta wildfire, one needs to understand that it is nothing but a symptom of the emerging new dimension of risk – “the global change risk” – expressing the interactions between potential hazards and assets, values or objectives.

Those wildfires, which happen not only in Alberta, but also in British Columbia, in California, and in Russia, in the middle of spring, are revealing a deeper reality than the “simple” risk of exposition to fire (Doyle Rice, “Wildfires charring US at near-record pace“, USA Today, April 18, 2016, and “Wildfires rage in Siberia and Russian Far east”, The Siberian Times, 11 May 2016).

The singularity of Alberta wildfire is defined by its overall geophysical conditions, dominated by the fact that the fire comes after a relatively dry and mild winter, in a country known for the harshness of its cold and snowy winters (Michael Ganley, “Is Alberta heading for another drought?”, Alberta Venture, May 2, 2016).

NRCSCA91001_-_California_(1329)(NRCS_Photo_Gallery)Alberta, as well as the whole American Middle West, is also suffering from the 2015 drought, which severity seems tied to the intensity of this year El Nino event, itself made more powerful than usual by the intensifying global climate change (Tatiana Schlossberg, “2016 Already shows record global temperatures”, The New York Times, April 19, 2016).

Wildfires, even gigantic ones, are not putting natural ecosystems at risk. In effect, the fire can be an immediate danger for the land’s animal and vegetal populations, but it can then boost a sequence of biological regrowth, which can be very healthy for the ecosystem (“Ecological consequences of fire / Yellowstone”, US National Park Service).

If this mega fire becomes an international factor of risk, it is because it threatens physically the industrial exploitation of the Canadian tar sands and thus the international energy market. The wildfire threatens industrial exploitations, which attracted more than 201bn dollars for their development between 1999 and 2013 (Alberta Energy, facts and statistics).

Meanwhile, the tar sands industry had already been fragilised by other factors. Given the fact that tar sands need a lot of energy to be turned into sellable oil products, their exploitation has been greatly impacted by tTar_sands_in_alberta_2008he way the OPEC, Russia and other producers have forced the prices down, from 115 dollars in July 2014 a barrel to more or less 42 dollars nowadays, making tar sands products much less profitable (Ed Crooks, “Investment in Canadian oil and gas to be further slashed”, Financial Times, January 25, 2016 and Jean-Michel Valantin, “Oil Flood (2)- Oil and Politics in a (real) Multipolar World”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, January 12, 2015).

Thus, for the Canadian energy industry, the wildfire, an instance of extreme weather events generated by global climate change, becomes a gigantic danger that “hybridates” the combustion of the ecosystem with pressure stemming from the tensions on the international oil market. This is an example of a “global change risk” at work.

So, what the Fort Mc Murray mega fire reveals is that the current environmental global change triggers an unexpected interaction, not to say collision, between the human, social, infrastructural, energy production and business world, on the one hand, and, on the other, the changing geophysics. Furthermore, in the meantime, the fire’s extension towards the North may heat up large swaths of permafrost, thus supporting the release of land methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, which aggravates climate change (Aviva Rutkin, “Canada’s huge wildfires may release carbon locked in permafrost”, New Scientist, 6 May 2016).

The Alberta wildfire’s example shows the emergence of a new risk created by the hybridation of the environmental global change with the current industrial and business models. This risk does not translate only into a single danger, but also deeply jeopardises these models structurally.

Many scientists qualify this planetary transformation as being the signal of a new geological era: the Anthropocene, so-called because of the new status of humankind, which has become the prevalent geological force on the planet (Jan Zalasiewicz, Anthropocene: a new epoch of geological time?, 2011).

However, paradoxically, this means that the very life conditions out of which the human species emerged, and developed the political, social and economic conditions necessary for human survival are now being rapidly modified. And these conditions will keep on, and on changing during the decades and the centuries to come (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Planetary Crisis Rules (1)”, The Red Team Analysis Society, January 25, 2016).

Alberta mega fire expresses the anthropocene threat: the combination of our alteration of our environment through the exploitation of fossil fuels and resources and, because of this very alteration, our resulting inadaptability – and the inadaptability of our models – for survival and development. (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Planetary Crisis Rules (Part 1)”, The Red Team Analysis Society, January 25, 2016).

“Global change risk” is the result of the interaction between “hybridation” and the anthropocene threat, both reinforcing each other and combining in an ongoing way.

This is why the meaning of what risk entails knows a very deep evolution nowadays, because very different countries as Canada and the United Arab Emirates are put in a state of risk by the emergence of the Anthropocene era.

The U.A.E. and the anticipation of the climate and resources crisis

The U.A.E is certainly one of the countries where the political, economic and business awareness of the complex risks implied by the current planetary crisis is the most rapidly developing. However, the U.A.E. is meeting the same human-planetary hybrid structure of Anthropocene risks as Fort Mc Murray, meaning that the development of the Emirates is confronted to its adaptation to the Anthropocene., and, as such, to changing environmental conditions, which are different from those in which modern societies have so far developed.

This implies that there is a growing inadequacy between the rapidly changing planetary conditions and the modern forms of development.

The U.A.E. is an important oil and gas exporter, and has used its energy revenues to foster its social and economic development (The CIA World Factbook- United Arab Emirates). This has insured a high level of social and infrastructural development, wealth and political cohesion. This political cohesion is of paramount importance, because it confers political, social and military robustness to the U.A.E., given its geopolitical location.

The U.A.E. is installed at the extremity of the Arabian Peninsula, between Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Iran, and Oman, and is spatially close to Qatar, and Bahrain, and, further away, to Kuwait and Iraq to the north, Yemen to the south, while the US military is highly present (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Energy Geopolitics and Climate Politics, A Complicated relationship”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 30 November 2015).

The state of war, and the political, strategic, economic and religious tensions known by many of these countries, to a degree or another, put the Persian Gulf under a lot of political and military pressure, while everyday 17 millions of barrels of oil leave by the Strait of Hormuz and sail through the Gulf (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Persian Gulf, Between power and Collapse”, The Red Team Analysis Society, 9 December 2013).

In this extremely charged geopolitical and economic context, the U.A.E. has devised a very original developmental model, based on oil and gas on the one hand, mainly in Abu Dhabi, and, on the other, real estate, international business and tourism, mostly in Dubai (CIA Factbook, ibid), despite a harsh natural arid environment.

In answer to the Anthropocene challenge, the U.A.E. authorities seem to be taking very seriously the way of thinking that started emerging with The Club of Rome’s famous report “The Limits to Growth”. That report, commissioned to a team of scientists of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Dennis and Donnella Meadows, Jørgen Randers, William W. Behrens III, The Limits to Growth, the 30-Year-Update, 2004) opened the way to allow us questioning the current state of the relationship between humankind and our planet.

Published in 1972 and regularly updated since then, the report (Ibid.) shows how the developing discrepancy between economic and demographic growth on the one hand, and, on the other, the extractable natural resources and the geophysical capability of absorbing pollution was condemning the modern developmental model to fail sometime around 2030, when demographic and economic growth would meet the limits of the carrying capacity of our planet.

In order to be able to keep on developing themselves in an era when the limits of oil reserves are appearing, the U.A.E. has been willing to host the International Renewable Energies Agency (IRENA-Facebook), and went so far as to finance the experimental eco-city of Masdar. This new city is a pilot-project, built from scratch in the desert, which should be carbon and pollution free through the converging use of traditional desert buildings and of the most advanced technologies in renewable energy, especially solar power, smart grid, and intelligent water network, among other projects (Patrick Kingsley, “Masdar: the shifting goalposts of Abu Dhabi’s ambitious eco-city”, WIRED.CO.UK, 17 December 2013).


Masdar and IRENA are strategic political and industrial projects for an adaptation of the U.A.E. to the (near) future of the energy and natural resources markets, and to the emergence of an international market of eco-technologies, which will increasingly be in demand worldwide, as climate change and world depletion of natural resources worsen (James Howard Kunstler, The Long emergency, 2005 and Michael Klare, Rising powers, shrinking planet, 2008, and The Race for What’s Left, 2012).

This strategic project could be the mean to turn the U.A.E. into an international industrial actor of the third industrial revolution defined by Jeremy Rifkin (Jeremy Rifkin, The Third Industrial Revolution, How lateral thinking is transforming energy, the economy and the world, 2011).

According to Rifkin, this new cycle of the industrial economy must be based on the convergence of smart technologies with the global need of addressing the twin challenges of climate change and resource depletion (Ibid.). It is meant to maintain industrial, national, and international economics alive through the emergence of a sustainable industrial model.

Thus, the U.A.E.’s investment in the most advanced energetic and industrial forms of sustainable development could insure a mammoth comparative advantage to the Emirates in the decades to come, while globalisation is taken into “the limits of growth”.

Global Change Risk on the U.A.E.’s development

However, the U.A.E. is located in a region particularly hammered by the different and converging dimensions of the Anthropocene. In effect, rising atmospheric temperatures affect the whole Middle East, which is already an arid and semi-arid region. Rolling_Sand_Dunes_of_Abu_DhabiThe climatic perspective is dire, because, in the years and decades to come, climate change is certainly going to keep on increasing, making the whole region less and less sustainable and livable (Damian Carrington, “Extreme Heat waves could push Gulf climate beyond human endurance, study shows”, The Guardian, 26 October 2016).

Climate change is even more dangerous for the U.A.E. because its geography puts it at the level of the sea, and, as we have seen in “Antarctic versus Dubai”, the level of the ocean is rising higher and quicker than it was anticipated only five years ago.

The possible rise of the sea of 2 to 5 meters between now and 2100 is a potential cataclysm for the Emirates (Eric Holtaus, “James Hansen Bombshell’s climate warning is now part of the Scientific canon”, Slate.com, March 22, 2016), starting with the violent loss of real estate value, which will hamper their corporate, infrastructural, and social development and economy, followed by the water treatment issue, and by the problem of submersion of large tracts of the territory (Vesela Tedorova, “Abu Dhabi 2100: under water?”, The National UAE, January 15, 2010).

In the same time, the Emirates will have to face the geopolitical and strategic pressures resulting from the Anthropocene on their food security, and on the growing tensions in the Middle East. For example, as it happens, Abu Dhabi imports agricultural products from Alberta (“United Arab Emirates – Alberta Agriculture Highlights”, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, January 2015). Thus, if Canada’s and other producers’ agricultural production are hampered by the coming multiplication of extreme weather event – as current Alberta’s wildfire – the Emirates will be facing a dangerous food security situation.

In effect, one must remember that their neighbours or near-neighbours, mainly Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, will be in a similar situation and, as every nation, will compete for food, knowing that modern societies are very sensitive to fluctuations on the international food markets. This will be a particularly sensitive issue because rising temperatures will make even more difficult to maintain the agriculture that exists (Paul Mc Mahon, Feeding Frenzy: the new politics of food, 2014). We have here an instance of  “hybridation”.

Meanwhile, it will have to be seen if the Persian Gulf remains the most important centre of production and exportation of oil and gas in the world as it is today. This implies that the economies and businesses of the region are deeply sensitive to the numerous crises that affect the world energy market and to the related strategic tensions.


All these issues happen together and will converge simultaneously during the years and decades to come, as The Red (Team) Analysis Society has been explaining over the last years.

Building upon the foresight of Masdar and IRENA, the U.A.E. will need to go much further in the way it adapts to the Anthropocene, in order to project itself successfully through the complicated years ahead.

That is what The Red (Team) Analysis Society is for.

Let’s actively adapt and change the game.

About the author: Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) is the Director of Environment and Security Analysis at The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defence sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: 後石油城市:城市未來的歷史 – 展出計畫選圖 02, Masdar Aerial View,  Forgemind ArchiMedia, 20 May 2015, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).


Seminars in Brussels – Autumn-Winter

Designed and developed by leading faculty and experts from government, research, and industry, the seminars will provide you with the research, analytic and methodological skills you need to avoid surprise, foresee crises and thus manage risks.

Jointly organized in Brussels by Vesalius College, the Institute for European Studies (IES) and the Global Governance Institute (GGI), with the participation of The Red (Team) Analysis Society for curriculum design and training of the first part “Risk Analysis and Early Warning”,  modules can be taken individually or as a whole, then leading to the award of an Advanced Certificate in Global Risk Analysis & Crisis Management (10 modules).

The course has been taking place since 2013.

Check out here for the ongoing as well as coming sessions.

As far as the Red (Team) Analysis Society is concerned, the trainer is Dr Helene Lavoix. She will show you how to:

  • Find your way in the maze of anticipatory methodologies;
  • Select and use best processes, methodologies and practice in risk management and strategic foresight and warning;
  • Be summarily presented with the main challenges to anticipation;
  • Improve critical thinking and analytical skills;
  • Gain knowledge for identifying and analyzing national, international and global security risks that matter to you and your organization;
  • Initiation to practical IT tools;
  • Identify crucial indicators to monitor risk and for warning;
  • Develop scenarios for strategic decision-making with likelihood and sets of indicators.

The complete list of modules can be consulted on the Vesalius College website. Note that the online version offered since the 2016-2017 session consists in a recording of the real life sessions and is not the same as the online course we offer here (notably there are no specifically designed exercises for the online course, while the curriculum is specific to Vesalius. RTAS online course was also designed as a further deep-dive into the practice of anticipation) .

To register, and for further information please use the contact details here.

Weekend modules start Fridays between 17.30 – 18.30 with a Welcome Aperitif, followed by the senior policy-maker roundtable and discussion from 18.30 – 20.00.

The Saturday Training Sessions run from 10.00 until 19.00.

Featured image: Dr Strangelove, the War Room, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

When Risk Management Meets Strategic Foresight and Warning

Risk management, codified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), allows since 2009 for an almost perfect correspondence with the ideal-type process of strategic foresight and warning (SF&W), as we use here, even though SF&W was developed mainly out of public service – notably intelligence and defense – practice and experience, and with international and national security issues in mind.

CIA NYSE scThe new risk management process thus lays the foundation for easily incorporating geopolitical and other national and international security issues within risks usually managed by businesses, and should facilitate discussions and exchanges between the corporate world and the public sector, including in terms of data, information, and analysis, according to the specificities and strength of each.

We shall here detail the risk management process, Continue reading When Risk Management Meets Strategic Foresight and Warning

How to Analyze Future Security Threats (4): Scenarios and War

This post is the fourth of a series looking for a methodology that would fulfill the challenging criteria demanded by our time. Having clarified with the last post the approach and mindset for the building of our scenarios, we shall now move to the practical part, how to do it, focusing here, in this post on scenarios for war, before moving to scenarios for situations qualified as non-violent crises with the next post. Continue reading How to Analyze Future Security Threats (4): Scenarios and War