The Australian Approach
Terrorism can hit anywhere at any time. They do not just strike critical infrastructure, but wherever people travel, congregate, relax, live or attend a major event. The bombings in Bali (2002), Madrid (2004), London (2005) and the latest in Mumbai (2008) are chilling reminders of this. Each of these incidents highlights the turmoil caused by terrorist attacks where the human, financial and other costs are immeasurable for individuals and entire families, businesses, corporations, communities and nations alike.
To date, soft targets, such as major events, have attracted less attention from the international community and national governments compared with critical infrastructure. Many forms of security that are applied to the protection of critical infrastructure may not be appropriate for protecting places where mass gatherings are taking place. Without the proper protection, these events can present terrorists with various potential opportunities for mass casualties, symbolism, and high-impact imagery that come with a major event and this can lead to significant economic loss.
Moreover, governments have a public responsibility and the statutory authority to protect society against terrorism by ensuring the safety and security of their citizens. This means the development and delivery of terrorist prevention, protection, crisis management, and recovery measures.
In order to attract major events, governments must strive to provide an ‘environment conducive to hosting safe and secure events that is internationally recognised’. This encompasses not only the event itself but also the wide variety of interdependent sectors that support and rely on the event industry. Action by governments alone is not enough: private sector input is vital.
While many Member States have policies, programs and structures in place to counter acts of terrorism, few have well developed strategies for incorporating the private sector. Key factors in fostering partnership coalition building between public and private sectors in combating terrorism and, in particular, countering attacks against soft targets include the recognition of the investment value of security as cost-effective for businesses; undertaking new legislations and building counter-terrorism structures; allowing business taxation incentives and insurance leveraging; the promotion of intelligence and information exchange; and the establishment of a public-private sector security consultative framework comprising sectoral advisory groups reporting to a national council.
Recognising the cost, to both businesses and governments, of the consequences of a terrorist attack is important for promoting shared responsibility for the development of counter-terrorism measures. More work needs to be done in the area of quantifying the cost of terrorist attacks particularly in relation to costs resulting from the disruption to commercial business activity or attracting the right to host a major event. Presenting empirical cost data can be a persuasive lever in garnering private sector commitment by demonstrating the investment value of managing security.
An essential instrument in seeking the engagement of the wider community, including business, in the counter terrorism effort is a nation’s legislative governance framework. This, however, requires the political will of governments to enact timely and relevant legislation that will underpin the policy direction and development of appropriate institutional structures to combat terrorism.
In Australia, the private sector is involved in various forums, such as the Australian Business-Government Advisory Group and the Trusted Information Sharing Network, which allow business and government to work together on national security issues. Within these bodies, business is encouraged to consider the possibility of a terrorist attack as part of their respective Business Risk Management Plans.
In an attempt to improve the preparedness and involvement of the private sector, the Federal Government, through Australia’s National Counter-Terrorism Committee, has developed a ‘National Approach for the Protection of Places of Mass Gathering from Terrorism’.
The National Approach provides a basis for:
Identifying places of mass gathering that are vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and devising risk management plans that are based on the roles and responsibilities shared amongst relevant private and public stakeholders that support a major event.
Information sharing underpins any terrorist attack prevention strategy. The value of the information exchanged will depend on the quality of the intelligence shared. In turn, this will depend on the level of trust built up between the parties involved.
Governments across the world are generally structured along sectoral lines. To engage effectively with the public sector, business and industry need to target proactively relevant arms of established government structures. For example, the transport sector will have its greatest leverage engaging directly with the relevant Minister for Transport and his or her administering department.
Sectoral Advisory Groups may comprise, but not necessarily be limited to, representation from: Business; Top industry bodies; Unions; Top community groups; Government, including intelligence collection agencies; Think tanks and institutions; Security professionals and experts, including academics.
To ensure the establishment and maintenance of effective links between sectors, and the achievement of a broad picture of counter-terrorism security planning and preparation between the government and private sectors, a high level of coordinating and national policy-setting body (the National Public-Private Sectoral Partnership Security Advisory Council) is required. This body would be made up of representatives from each sectoral group and their partner government agencies.
Member states’ national councils could be responsible for establishing and maintaining liaison with stakeholders, fostering the regular interchange of security information and intelligence, providing a forum for the identification of best practice and the development of tools required to respond to today’s security challenges.
Such a council might comprise representatives from 10-15 sectoral groups and their counterparts in government. Private sector members would be selected from their respective sectoral constituency bodies. Members might serve for two to four terms and meet quarterly. Council members would provide leadership and direction in the development of policy and programs. Councils would set forward- (say five-) year strategic plans which would be reviewed annually to ensure goals and objectives represented the prevailing interests of the constituency. Councils would monitor and evaluate progress, initiate and assign programs. They would delegate specific projects to secretariat staff committees headed by a Council member. Committees could draw on the expertise of technical advisors and specialist subject-matter experts from the private sector and the government.
The establishment of a structure that supports the development and delivery of terrorist prevention, protection, crisis management, and recovery measures to soft targets such as major events is equally as important to the national psyche as measures applied to the protection of critical infrastructure. Through the establishment of appropriate networks, governments can empower themselves and the private sector to not only ensure the safety and security of their citizens but also to enhance their international reputation in the major event industry and thus attract inwards investment of hosting a major event in times of unpredictability.