A Reflection One-Year On From The Start Of The Conflict In Ukraine

By International SOS
Commentary A Reflection One-Year On From The Start Of The Conflict In Ukraine

Mumbai 24 February 2023: The Russia/Ukraine conflict was the defining security issue of 2022, highlighting how geopolitics and the threat of interstate conflict are back on the corporate risk agenda. 24 February 2023 marks one-year since the conflict began and in recognition of this milestone, International SOS shares insight into how it supported clients, key lessons learnt and how this significant geo-political conflict impacts organisations’ risk outlook.

International SOS & Ukraine
International SOS’ support for clients began before the conflict started. On 12 February 2022 International SOS advised clients to fully evacuate Ukraine and several months prior to this a team was deployed to the country to audit resources and gather information. This preparation was critical in preparing for the potential eventuality of conflict. It involved engaging with network of providers on the ground and providing information directly to clients on first-hand basis.

This ‘boots on the ground’ approach also included meeting with local clients, gathering and analysing information which included route, hotel, railway, and airport assessments. With disinformation remaining a constant challenge for many, verifying information was also part of this preparation enabling thorough, effective, and efficient planning for clients. Also ensuring critical lines of communication were fully functioning was key, particularly satellite phones and telecommunications.

Since the conflict broke out International SOS’ support has included conducting complex security and medical evacuations, advising on the security and medical situation on the ground and in the bordering countries, briefing clients’ Crisis Management Teams and providing security advice, emotional & medical support for organisations with employees who remain in Ukraine. International SOS handled over 1,900 cases, supporting over 640 clients. It successfully completed more than 60 secure ground movements from conflict zones, moving over 170 adults, three babies and 10 pets.

Critical lessons learned
Having dealt with the pandemic for several years numerous organisations were not prepared or equipped to navigate such a significant geo-political conflict, with many turning to International SOS for support.

Lessons learned for clients that International SOS supported include:

· The need for stronger and more robust crisis management processes and capabilities

· The ability to verify information and access to trusted, timely facts during times of crisis

· The importance of the systems and processes in place to be able to enable faster, better decision making

The corporate risk agenda
The conflict will certainly continue to have an impact in 2023, so it is beneficial for organisations to learn how to effectively handle the shifting global risk environment. It is likely that geopolitical volatility will spread beyond Russia/Ukraine in the next 12 months, as increasing fissures between Russia and the West will impact other conflicts and exacerbate longstanding geopolitical tensions.

Udit Mehta, Executive Vice President and Director of Operations for International SOS stated “The Russia/Ukraine conflict in addition to its significance from a global geo-political perspective also highlighted the sheer scale of vulnerability for Indian business and citizens with the advent of a new environment witnessing significant mobility and expatriation driven by commercial, scholastics and diplomatic drivers. Pre-emptive tactical intelligence and analysis coupled with instituted capabilities for crisis response and extraction have been reinforced as the anchors of managing risk amidst the continued emergence of vulnerability in the world.”

Mehta added “The initiation of the above by organisations and continuous learning and development initiatives for employees focussed on risk management are critical. Organisations also need to ensure periodic re-assessment of threats and linked mitigation specific to their business.”

Managing crisis management fatigue is key in moving from ‘perma-crisis’ to crisis resilience and organisations that effectively embedded learnings from the events of the last three years, particularly, the conflict in Ukraine, will emerge with more robust capabilities to manage challenges in the future.

Podcast series:
International SOS has released a podcast series to mark the one-year milestone since the conflict in Ukraine started.