With emerging markets in Asia luring companies to do more business there and an evolving threat environment, the U.S. Department of State has launched a new forum to address the security challenges associated with operating in the region. The Pan-Asia Regional Council (PARC), which was created as a public-private partnership through the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) at the request of the U.S. business community with interests in the region, is tackling issues ranging from counterfeiting to special-event planning.
OSAC Executive Director Todd Brown describes PARC as “an information-sharing forum.” He describes it as a smaller, more regionally targeted version of OSAC. OSAC is a partnership between the department’s law enforcement and security arm and the private sector, which includes U.S. businesses, NGOs, colleges and universities, and faith-based institutions.
“We can bring our heads of security together and we can talk through some of these problems and share the challenges and maybe the solutions,” says Brown, who is also a diplomatic security agent at the State Department.
PARC provides a forum for businesses with interests in the region to discuss their “common challenges, common interests, common goals,” says Tom Seaney, vice president of global security and safety at Visa Inc. That environment “should foster more focused collaboration, benchmarking, and networking,” he says.
“Once you get a number of professionals in the room who actually have that common bond of actual assets in countries, it’s almost that you develop a shorthand method of communicating,” says John McClurg, vice president of global security at Honeywell International. “The relevance of what you’re talking about is resonating so quickly and so you can move quickly in your discussions to relevant strategies.”
Seaney, who is PARC’s private sector co-chair, was instrumental in the creation of the group. He notes that the group was formed not in response to any one event but rather to help companies handle the myriad challenges in the region. These include legal issues, such as intellectual property rights and vetting of staff and business partners, as well as risks, such as terrorism and natural disasters.
“And the challenges are even more daunting when you consider the complexities of coordinating with local security agencies with varying ideologies concerning policing and cultural differences,” says Seaney.
More than one hundred participants attended PARC’s inaugural meeting last October in San Francisco, California, where the council is based. The two-day meeting focused primarily on issues related to China, since most companies do business there, according to Seaney.
The event hosted speakers on trends in intellectual property rights and managing asset protection. Security professionals drew on their experiences at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to discuss the challenges of managing major event security, working with government officials (from both the government and private sector’s perspectives), and medical-response planning. “Future endeavors will be related to benchmarking and best practices specific to a country or topic,” Seaney says.
PARC is not OSAC’s first special-interest council, Brown notes. It is modeled on the Latin America Regional Council (LARC), established in 2005 in Miami. OSAC has also created similar forums for the energy and hotel sectors.
Brown illustrated the potential of PARC with an anecdote about LARC. He recalls an incident involving a closed bridge in Venezuela. “LARC members stepped in and shared ideas of how they came up with new routes to get their wares to and from the airport to the city center,” he says. “So again I think it just demonstrates a network that allows people to tap in for quick answers to maybe particular problems they’re encountering. So it’s a networking opportunity as well.”