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Biz travel? Most dangerous destinations

By Sophia Banay, Forbes
May 06, 2005 13:48 IST
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Business travel is usually far from glamorous. And sometimes it can be downright deadly.

No, we don't mean the sort of danger that can arise from ingesting too much cholesterol at business dinners or risking deep-vein thrombosis from logging too many air miles. We mean the sort of danger that comes from rocket-propelled grenade attacks, political coups, kidnappings and cholera outbreaks.

Employees of high-profile companies in the security-consulting or defense sectors expect to put their lives at risk on a regular basis. North Carolina-based Blackwater Security Consulting lost four independent contractors in a grisly and well-publicized incident in Fallujah in March of 2004.

Kellogg, Brown & Root, a military contracting company and subsidiary of Houston-based Halliburton, has had at least three employees killed in Iraq since last summer. 

Most Dangerous Destinations *




Cote d'Ivoire


Democratic Republic Of Congo

















* In alphabetical order

The employees of companies like Cigna and Archer Daniels Midland, however, may not consider their jobs to involve anything more precarious than fighting rush-hour traffic. But representatives of these companies--and many more beside--also often find themselves visiting insalubrious destinations in order to get the job done.

"Many types of employees could be sent to unstable or dangerous countries," says Jack Stratton, research director at Control Risks Group, an international risk consulting company based in London. "In many cases, it will be exploration teams or engineers working for oil companies or oil-service companies. Many of these companies use contractors, but a core team often needs to be in-country to oversee the work."

Because of the security risks inherent in sending employees to places like Iraq or Sudan, security support and consulting firms like CRG provide valuable risk-rating services, advising their clients on which countries are most dangerous and how to minimize those dangers once they get there.

Manhattan-based Kroll Worldwide does risk consulting, but more importantly, offers training for international businessmen who are planning to travel to some of the world's less desirable corners.

Jack Stradley is the managing director of The Crucible, the Washington, DC-based Kroll subsidiary which conducts these travel-safety seminars. Stradley has worked with companies including Citigroup, Raytheon and American Standard Companies, and is a retired Marine Corps infantry officer with extensive overseas experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela and Chile, as well as on counter-terror and counter-drug operations.

Starting at The Crucible, Stradley says, "I thought it would be high-level executives I was dealing with. But there are a million auditors and accountants who have to go to overseas plants and offices to check books. I've been to some tough places, but they are going to the deepest, darkest corners of Africa and South America."

So where exactly are these countries, and what makes them so dangerous? Annapolis-based iJet Intelligent Risk Systems ranks dangerous countries on a five-point scale for its corporate clients, including The World Bank and Prudential Financial.

The rating system was developed to include six sub-categories: crime, security services, civil unrest, terrorism, kidnapping and geopolitical factors. Each sub-category is ranked on a scale of one to five (with five being the most severe), and the country is given an overall rating of one to five depending on the cumulative data.

"Our system was developed for clients with a deep concern with these issues," explains John Briley, senior managing editor at iJet.

"A one-number rating for an entire country wasn't putting people at ease in terms of what the problems were. Even in a three-rated country, kidnapping could be a five. This allows you to take a quick glance and see what the problem areas are."

IJet's sources are on the ground in the countries in question--stringers or Regional Security Officers for the US Embassies there. In addition, they rely on statistics and reports from the country itself, though these can often be less reliable. IJet is privately held and doesn't disclose annual financial details, except to say that they've experienced a steady growth rate of over 50% per year since their inception in 1999.

Relying on data compiled from iJet and CRG, has put together our third annual list of the World's Most Dangerous Places. The list includes all eleven five-rated countries from iJet's list, and every country on it has earned risk ratings of extreme or high from CRG (which uses ratings of extreme, high, medium, low and insignificant).

The countries listed have several things in common. War or civil strife has shredded their economies, their police forces are corrupt or non-existent and some even harbor elements of terrorist regimes such as Al Qaeda or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

According to Stratton, "the most dangerous environments are found in failed states where there has been a total or partial breakdown in governance and, therefore, in law and order. Criminals and terrorists can operate with virtual impunity, and the state affords no protection to Western companies and their personnel. Note that terrorism is a serious problem in only two of the countries on the list, Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the direct security risks are posed by banditry, local conflicts and general lawlessness."

The US State Department has issued travel warnings for every country on the list, and urges Americans to avoid these destinations. If you plan to travel despite the warning, the State Department asks that you register with the local US Embassy through their Web site:

Should the Embassy need to contact you in case of emergency, registration facilitates the process. In countries like Somalia, where there is no US Embassy, travelers should register with the closest available US Embassy or consulate.

If you take the State Department's advice and stay home -- assuming your company is okay with that -- check out this slide show to see what you're missing. And feel lucky next time you board that plane to Cincinnati.

Video: Most Dangerous Destinations

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Sophia Banay, Forbes

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