Insights are in two sections for now: Political Risk Management (ideas and planning considerations) and Risk Issues and Commentary (specific types of challenges). The first section predominates but we will be adding to both. There are no insight papers on current affairs or "the top 10 risks for Year X", since we are not regional experts and in any case such insights are widely available through more information-centric advisories. Rather the insights here are more about providing reference points for readers seeking to refine their own understanding of political risk and related planning and management.
Political Risk Management
Clarifying the Meaning of Political Risk 2023
This brief paper is in part a response to political risk's rushed reentrance back into vogue. While recognised as highly relevant, there has not been much discussion of what exactly people mean by political risk, when indeed conceptual clarity is the foundation of political risk management competence. This does not provide definitive answers, but it is hopefully a step in the right direction.
Book Synopsis - Political Risk Intelligence for Business Operations in Complex Environments 2023
Robert McKellar of Harmattan Risk recently authored the above book, which was published by Routledge in June 2023. This synopsis is intended to help prospective readers to assess its relevance to their interests, and to provide a sense of the book's themes and approach.
Careers in Political Risk and Related Fields - Challenges and Considerations 2022
Harmattan receives a number of requests for advice on political risk careers, and this paper is long overdue. It discusses the more conventional political risk roles, but an important angle herein is prospects and career paths that do not bear the political risk label, but which are related to political risk and potentially very rewarding in their own right. There are already some useful articles on political risk careers, and this tries not to cover exactly the same ground. For that reason, and because this is one individual perspective, readers should ensure that this is only one stop in their wider reading on career options.
An Enabling Concept - "Political Risk" in the Organisation's Context 2022
This paper argues that having a concept of political risk, by whatever label, is fundamental to an ability to recognise when the socio-political variable is relevant, and therefore when to assess and plan for it. Adopting off-the-shelf conceptualisations is problematic, since they will not be sufficiently about any one organisation to be actionable. Therefore, a concept needs to be contextualised. The result is a basic but workable picture of when and how political risk matters, as a foundation for awareness, information-sharing and coordination. Organisational and practice development might still need work, but at least people around the organisation will have a shared notion of the challenge, without which socio-political pressures and change can seem random and unconnected, and therefore unmanageable.
Political Risk Considerations for International NGOs 2019
This is a discussion paper, or nearly a booklet, testing the applicability of political risk concepts and management to international NGOs. Harmattan has worked with several NGOs in the past and political risk management seemed quite relevant, yet the concept seems scant in NGO guidance and literature. It was, after all, born in the corporate domain, and NGOs, like companies, probably conduct a lot of political risk management without using a specific label for it. Nonetheless, our hypothesis here is that NGOs could benefit from a more explicit focus on political risk, especially in the current global risk context which has seen some backlash against global engagement and a resurgence of national political imperatives which increasingly impinge on both business and NGOs. This paper is not a report nor a research piece, rather it is an informed extrapolation of political risk considerations to the NGO context. We hope that this provides some useful insights in itself, but also provides a basis for further discussion and mutual learning.
International NGOs and the Challenge to Civil Society Space 2019
This Insight paper was initially intended as a LinkedIn article but it soon became clear that coherently addressing the issue would take more space than was appropriate for that platform. This paper looks at one of the predominant challenges facing NGOs in the last several years and now, the clampdown on civil society space and its corollaries of genuine democracy, human rights and civil liberties. The paper posits an interpretation of why the restrictive atmosphere arose, poses some interpretive questions for NGOs, and considers options for strategic responses to the clampdown. This is a very complex topic and even this rather long paper cannot do it justice, plus this was not a research paper, rather its aim was to inspire thinking. The main caveat is that while we hope this might be a useful contribution to ongoing analysis, it is only that, and there is much left to understand and do. As usual, we did some homework and have some background knowledge of the problem, but as readers will know, we are not from an NGO background, but one never knows, that might be an advantage in providing a fresh angle.
Why It's Hard to Be a Good Company 2020
This paper examines some of the reasons why companies find it hard to either commit to or follow through on sustainability and social performance. It looks at some of the apparent contradictions between traditional notions of being a good company and new notions of a company's social role, and why trying to become a good company can seem risky. There is a lot of noise around sustainability and companies proudly trumpet their achievements, but on a grand scale these are quite nascent given some of the issues global society is facing and the importance of companies' effects. Thus, a premise here is that things could indeed be better, and that it is important to consider what the obstacles are.
Political Risk and Consulting Engineers in Emerging Markets 2018
This more substantial paper is based on a combination of learning from related case work and preliminary research on consulting engineering. Its sub-sector focus is mainly civil and infrastructure and in terms of size, mainly small to medium, although much of it is applicable to the broader sector. The paper examines the relevance of political risk to consulting engineering companies when operating in challenging emerging markets, some of the unique issues they could encounter, and the options for smaller firms with fewer specialist departments to create a cost effective political risk management capability.
Some Notions on the Interpretation of Risk 2018
This is a short paper looking at three questions that have arisen in client discussions. First, it looks at the notion of upside risk or risk neutrality, then at risk as "failure to...", and finally some challenges in how to interpret risk likelihood. We are not risk mathematicians by any stretch, but it might be useful. (This paper builds on some issues discussed in the "Clear Thinking" paper from 2016).
Political Risk Management Quiz 2016
This is a brief thought piece that helps readers to test and refine their own understanding of political risk management. There are no "right" answers although some of the multiple choice entries might seem absurd at first glance. Some of the questions herein are intended to get behind technical responses, and to develop a stronger notion of the relationship between an international company and a host state / society.
Political Risk Considerations in Global Planning 2016
While Harmattan's focus is often the operational level, we have some direct experience in and general knowledge of the relevance of political risk in corporate global planning. This paper stays focused on "non-technical / non-financial", and presents several ways in which a consideration of global and regional political dynamics can support and be integrated into planning for a more resilient international presence.
Some Clear-Thinking Problems in Political Risk Analysis 2016
There are emerging standard practices in political analysis at the country and operational level, yet evolution towards best practice is nascent, and the very subject matter, itself rather abstract, can present analytical and logical challenges. This Insight looks into some of the common challenges, including simply an overemphasis on information as opposed to structured thinking, and presents some suggestions for addressing them.
What Political Risk Management Means in Practice 2014
This paper draws on three well known cases of political risk manifesting and derailing projects in fragile or sensitive environments. With due respect for the firms who faced the unknown at the time, we retrospectively extrapolate what could have been done to prevent the issues that manifested. We then draw some lessons from this and suggest how they fit within a political risk management strategy.
Is There a Political Risk Management Function? 2014
This three part paper explores how political risk management has been organised within international companies. It starts with a case from the Iranian Revolution, when the concept of political risk was barely nascent, then moves onto the current period to see how the de facto function has developed. Finally, it considers the options for articulating an explicit political risk management capacity.
Is an International Company a Political Actor? 2010
This is a short paper on the issue of a company's potential positioning as more than just a commercial enterprise. It is adapted from the 2010 book, "A Short Guide..." As of mid-2017, we realised that we had not incorporated all of the original contextual paragraph, so this would have seemed somewhat disjointed. This has been updated to become a coherent standalone piece.
Political Risk Strategy Formulation 2009
This article suggests the possibility of creating a political risk management strategy for a specific overseas initiative, rather than approaching risks in a tactical and perhaps disaggregated fashion. It posits a potential approach to strategy formulation, as well as the benefits of a strategic approach.
Risk Issues and Commentary
Getting Beyond Fake News 2017
At the time of writing, the fake news phenomenon is making news, and also making it harder to trust open sources that many people rely on for both general information and informed choices. This paper proposes 10 ways that we can try to filter out or avoid bias and misinformation in seeking an understanding of socio-political trends.
Kidnapping - Current Issues and Options 2011
This paper provides a non-expert overview of current trends in kidnapping affecting international companies, and the principal challenges and options that pertain to each of three principal types.
Terrorism - Sources and Options 2006
The article explores how terrorist groups form and the drivers of their expansion and capability. It then posits some of the approaches that could be used in reducing terrorist threat. Note that this paper looked at terrorism as a societal threat, and did not take a business-specific perspective. Note too that we have had some feedback on this article from experienced counter-terrorist professionals, and their criticism has focused on the issue of ideological commitment - they assert that terrorists are not just victims of an unfair social structure, but really do live and breathe their ideology and are very committed to their ideals.