UAE Government encouraged to make national resilience a strategic imperative
The growing number of natural and man-made disasters around the world–from earthquakes and floods to recent cyberattacks against organisations–highlights the need for GCC countries to adopt a National Resilience framework, according to a Booz Allen Hamilton report titled Building National Resilience.
The report explains how national resilience is a nation’s ability to survive crises, seize existing market opportunities, and prevent and manage risks in a changing world.
According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the negative consequences from a major disruptive event can reach up to 20 per cent of a country’s GDP. The 2014 Ebola outbreak provided the starkest contrast of how building resilience can affect catastrophic events. Sierra Leone experienced the highest rate of infection in Africa with 8,706 reported cases, along with the second highest death rate, whereas Nigeria successfully contained the outbreak, suffering just 20 cases and eight deaths. How is it that these two West African states had such markedly different outcomes? The answer lies in resilience.
“The risks faced by GCC countries are diverse, ranging from natural events such as flooding and sand storms, to human-related accidents. We encourage GCC governments to make national resilience an integral part of their strategic agendas in the next few years to address such possible disruptions, which are concerns for all mature economies,” said Nabih Maroun, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA.
In the GCC, cyber attacks are costing the government an estimated $1 billion annually, according to the ICS Cyber Security Forum. The multiple Shamoon attacks on Saudi government agencies and the Gauss virus attack on Lebanese banks in 2012 are just two examples of how such disruptions threaten the ecosystem of organisations and nations not just in the GCC but even across the wider MENA region.
The UAE for example, is investing USD7 billion in infrastructure development for Expo 2020 to prepare for an influx of 25 million international visitors. An effective national resilience strategy would help authorities implement integration between sectors such as transportation, telecommunications, and hospitality, fortify the security measures of existing systems, establish infrastructure redundancies to purposely create spare capacity to accommodate disruptions, and transform the 280,000 employment opportunities created by the event into a blueprint for sustainable economic growth.
Booz Allen Hamilton indicates that the best way to tailor resilience strategy is to adopt and implement a comprehensive framework. As a starting point, the World Bank and the OECD have published resilience guidelines that are widely recognised in the international community.
Booz Allen Hamilton states that to develop truly holistic, fit-for-purpose resilience frameworks in the GCC, there are three areas that need special attention:
Determine sectors critical to national security: It is important to recognise that “security” is not merely military or law enforcement related, but rather multi-faceted to include dimensions such as the security of water, food, the environment and information.
Establish governance capacity: National governance capacity begins with a clear strategy towards a more resilient future. This means that by coordinating policies and operations, as well as instituting communication protocols along with analytics, reporting and monitoring systems, a nation can adapt dynamically to shifting conditions.
Build functional capabilities: Increased resilience cannot be accomplished by enhanced governance capabilities alone; it also requires long-term shifts in integrated functional capabilities. This could include continuity of government and operations, continuous risk-management, emergency management, crisis communication, infrastructure protection systems and intelligence gathering and sharing methods.
“Once designed, implementing the resilience framework is a long-term process, however, setting visible, short term milestones allows progress to be measured. Several countries across the GCC are at the cusp of great change – with national transformation policies outlining key areas for growth in the next few years. A resilience roadmap provides governments with practical steps to begin the resilience journey, and, just as importantly, the motivation to continue it,” said Rosa Donno, Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA.
Booz Allen advises GCC countries to bear in mind those resilience strategies cannot be compressed into a single law or a single government policy; rather legislation and institutional arrangements will infuse the resilience vision and principles into all relevant laws and routine functions of the government. To succeed in their aims, GCC governments are encouraged to develop bespoke resilience roadmaps and agree upon a vision that is aligned with their national priorities and which includes the participation of central government, local authorities, private-sector stakeholders, and in certain instances society at large.