Local Solutions to Global Problems

Article excerpt

Sustainable development and the role of local nationals

ESTABLISHING mutually beneficial relationships with local national populations is often critical to private companies' operational success in conflict and post-conflict areas - PAE credits much of its success to developing strong relationships with local nationals. Whether building peacekeeper base camps in Darfur or helping to train the new national army in post-conflict Liberia, our practice of hiring local labor has evolved into a strategy for developing capacity within the host country population. This strategy, which has been implemented successfully in Liberia, Djibouti and Afghanistan, among other countries, combines three key aspects of employee development and is implemented with the support of management teams.

Technical Training

Technical training is a common element among many stabilization missions and one of the most immediate methods with which companies can develop local capacity in host country populations. Whether the authence is a professional military group, such as the Armed Forces of Liberia, Sudanese People's Liberation Army or Afghan National Army, or a group of civilian laborers, we have found that the first step in building local capacity is to provide technical training and mentoring sessions. Gaining skills through technical training programs increases the local workforce's confidence and empowers the group to take ownership of projects once the contractor's mission has concluded.

There are also significant benefits for the individual: once trained to meet one project's standards, a local national's professional marketability increases dramatically, making them better prepared to pursue additional opportunities to advance their professional standing. In Afghanistan, our program management teams have noted that several local national employees have pursued an entrepreneurial path after employment with companies such as PAE. After gaining technical training in vehicle maintenance and repair through our program, they were subsequendy able to open their own vehicle repair shops in Kabul and the surrounding areas. Companies in the stability operations industry must think from a local perspective, and therefore show that their management teams are always striving to expand and develop their international workforce and provide opportunities for locals to make meaningful contributions to projects that will impact their country.

Our program management team in Djibouti recendy created a local national internship program through which students at a nearby vocational school were able to refine their professional skills under the instruction of annex managers in various professional arenas, including carpentry, electrical work, vehicle maintenance and power generation. The vocational school was extremely pleased with the program and reported that the majority of students who had participated in the internship were able to find jobs soon after graduation. Offering free, hands-on training to select members of the local community was not only an important step towards addressing the gap in technical skills, it also strengthened the company's relationship with the vocational school, making a favorable impression on the program customer and building a sense of corporate partnership with the local community.

Ethical Business Training

In addition to the obvious need for a technically adept workforce, companies should recognize the significant value of providing their workforce, including local national employees, ethical business training. Our Ethics and Business Conduct program is comprised of a series of interactive educational modules that explain the ethical and legal requirements of government contracting and how those requirements shape company policies and our expectations of all employees. The ethics booklet is translated into over 13 languages, and ethics awareness posters, which encourage employees to call the toll-free and anonymous ethics phone line should they have any questions or concerns, are visible at all sites. …