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The Insider's Take on Managing in Conflicts

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The Insider's Take on Managing in Conflicts

The Insiders’ Take on Managing in Conflicts

The Insiders’ Take on Managing in Conflicts

 Click play to view a photo slideshow from the July 28th BCUN event.

Aug. 5 -- With battles going on in the Middle East, Afghanistan and across swathes of Africa, conflict management is a hot-button issue. To bring the perspective of the business world to help resolve these problems, the Business Council for the United Nations organized a luncheon on July 28 for industry leaders titled “Conflict Management: Perspectives From the Front Line.” It was held at the UN Delegates Dining Room.

“If you go to the think tanks and academic institutions and international organizations in New York and Washington and elsewhere, conflict management is on everyone’s agenda,” said the panel’s moderator, Tom Miller, the new president of UNA-USA and a former ambassador to Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He added that he hoped the forum would offer new information to everyone who attended.

The off-the-record event was sponsored by the Business Council, which is the corporate arm of UNA-USA. The program brought together leaders from the business world as well as ambassadors who have worked in conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The panel was composed of Jock Covey, a senior vice president of Bechtel Corporation; Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff, the deputy permanent representative of the US to the UN; Fabienne Hara, the vice president of multilateral affairs at the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization; and Ambassador John K. Menzies, the dean of the Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University and a former US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During the two-hour session, the audience of about 60 people heard firsthand details about how important it is for a business to understand the cause of a conflict, to deal with the risks of working in a war zone and to comply with UN regulations.

Miller concluded the panel by saying he was pleased with how the event turned out.
“The whole mission of the UNA is education, policy and advocacy, and this is a perfect example of the blending of the three,” he said.

After the speakers finished, attendees discussed what they learned.

“It was very, very intelligent,” said Emmanuel Tchividjian, a senior vice president of the public relations firm Ruder Finn. He added that he was impressed with the quality of the speakers. “They were very high-level, very eloquent, made you think. It’s very rare that you have a panel where each one was at that level.”

Jo Anne Murphy, the UN program coordinator at Farleigh Dickinson University, said the panel was especially relevant as she has spent a lot of time working in the field in Africa.

“I connected with the reality of the comments,” she said. “We didn’t get a lot of rhetoric here.”

“I was really excited to hear the business perspective,” she added. “It helped us see a different side and what goes on in conflict management.”

Sargent Collier of the investment management company W.P. Carey said he considered the UN a vital asset and enjoyed learning about its relations with the corporate world. “It was fascinating to really get an idea of what's going on and how we could change,” Collier said.

He said it would be important for the UN to try to bridge the gap that has developed between it and today’s young people. “I think that it would be interesting to try to find new ways to spread the message, to make it more relevant.”

Stuart Sundlun, a managing director of BMB Advisors Ltd., liked the comparison of past conflicts to current ones.

“There’s nothing better than history to teach the future.”