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Yesterday the news was dominated by the killing of the Hamas Leader Ahmed al-Jabari in the Gaza Strip by an Israeli air strike. This was in response to rising tensions in the area after the Palestinians have fired a number of missiles into Israel. There have been a number of recent changes within the Middle East which make the conflict all the more dangerous. Egypt’s ex-President Mubarak was a great supporter of the status quo and so it was unlikely that Egypt would be drawn into any conflict. The new Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi may change Egypt’s stance. Now that the American presidential election is out of the way Israel may try and destroy Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons facilities. At a conference recently I was talking to a Middle Eastern analyst who thought it was likely that Israel will invade Lebanon to get rid of the threat from Hezbollah.

If we are a business continuity manager in Aberdeen, Des Moines, San Paulo or Manila these conflicts are very far away from us and would surely not affect our business continuity or be a threat to our organisation.

One of the roles of a business continuity manager, I believe, is to be horizon scanning and looking for new incidents and threats which could affect our organisation. This should include going to seminars, reading incident reports and looking at the news. When looking at the news we should also identify threats which could affect our organisations. With the possibility of violence escalating in the Middle East we should look at some of the potential consequences and effects on our organisation even if we are far away from the conflicts.

Some of the effects of conflict in the Middle East could be:-

  1. Effect on your supply chain. This could have two impacts. First of all if your organisation gets goods and supplies from the area these may not be delivered. Secondly any conflict could affect the movement of goods from Asia, Europe and the USA. Goods may have to go via South Africa rather than the Suez Canal which will add extra time to their delivery. If your goods are delivered by air then any conflict may make supply of goods by plane more difficult. In both cases it is likely to add to the costs of the goods.
  2. If there is a sudden escalation in conflict it could lead to your staff being stuck and unable to return home after a holiday. As Dubai and other Middle Eastern countries are becoming more popular holiday destinations this threat is becoming more likely. Perhaps you should review your plans for getting staff back if they are marooned on holiday. Does the organisation have a duty of care to help them or will it be a personal responsibility? Do you know where all your staff are when they travel on business and can you contact them if you need to ascertain that they are safe?
  3. Any conflict could increase the price of fuel which could have a major effect on many organisations. Along with increasing the cost of goods made from oil, there is the increase in the cost of goods as it costs more to move them. These perhaps are business issues rather than business continuity issues but an increase in the price of fuel could lead to rioting or fuel protests such as the ones which took place in UK in 2000 and 2012.

As business continuity people we need to understand our vulnerability to such events, we need to keep horizon scanning and monitor world events to see it they could pose new threats to our organisation.

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