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Guidance for Successful Global Operations Planning

As you're planning your 2018 international projects and travel, we’re keeping an eye on several global trends. We're also offering guidance on how to overcome potential challenges in your international work and travel.

Global Trends We're Watching

Changes in the global political landscape

The Trump administration has pledged to re-evaluate many parts of the global political order, including NATO, the U.N., relations with Russia and China, and commitments to trade. These changes, when added to instability in the Middle East, Brexit, and pivotal country elections, may lead to dramatic global policy shifts in 2018.

The U.K.'s transition deal to leave the E.U. should be completed by March 2018. It will be followed by a negotiation period for new trade deals prior to the official departure date one year later in March 2019.

Significant elections to watch this year include Italy, Russia, and Venezuela in March; Iraq in May; Mexico in July; Zimbabwe in September; Brazil in October; and the Democratic Republic of Congo in December. Sometimes, elections can lead to demonstrations beforehand and afterward, and we advise you to avoid protests or leave the area if you find yourself in the vicinity of one.

Sporting events with geo-political subtexts

The Winter Olympic Games (February 9-25) will be held in South Korea. North Korea indicated that they would participate, which may reduce tensions on the peninsula. The International Olympic Committee barred Russia from sending a team participate or having its anthem played at the games as punishment for its systematic doping regime. Russia, however, will host the FIFA Men’s World Cup this summer (June 14-July 15) in several major cities nationwide. Expect tourist numbers to spike dramatically, but perhaps less so from notable nations Italy, the Netherlands, and the U.S., all of whom failed to qualify. If you’re planning to attend these events or similar ones, review our security advice for attending large events.

Tightening international regulations

Countries are increasingly scrutinizing foreign organizations and how they should be taxed, who can work or visit their country (Australia, Brazil, India, China, and the U.S., to name a few), and how money and shipments enter and exit through their borders. Expect countries to mirror or reciprocate any restrictions that the U.S. imposes—like the temporary suspension of visa services between the U.S. and Turkey in 2017.

Additionally, the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect in late May. This new law focuses on personal data of E.U. citizens and requires all organizations—whether located in the E.U. or elsewhere—that collect data on E.U. citizens to adhere to strict data consent, collection, and destruction protocols. Other non-E.U. countries may introduce similar laws. Expect to be required to consent to data collection more frequently (and know your rights at airports and other ports).

Impactful economic decisions

Countries will continue to reform their economic regulations. In 2017 for example, the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia announced new taxes on goods and services, Germany and South Korea increased their minimum wage, and India increased visa fees. Foreign organizations are frequently a target of additional regulation and fees, and failure to adhere to such laws can result in legal and financial penalties. Expect operating costs to increase for international research and study.

Security instability in many regions

In 2017, we saw the security situation change in many parts of the world, with a coup d’état in Zimbabwe, growing tensions with North Korea, U.S. foreign policy shifts in the Middle East, and terrorist attacks on nearly every continent. Unfortunately, it is anticipated that instability will continue in 2018. While it's important to be prepared, keep in mind there is a low likelihood of being involved in a terrorist incident.

How to Prepare for Change

1. Prioritize

You may not be able to accomplish all of your project goals due to circumstances out of your control; determine exactly what needs to be accomplished and what is secondary.

2. Be flexible

With creative thinking and a nimble approach, we can help you find solutions to complex challenges. How can we help programs fully use local gifts if the cash has to remain in-country? What is an alternative solution for a long-term program if Harvard is unable to open a bank account? These are just two examples of questions we enjoy tackling.

3. Plan ahead

If you know changes are looming, start making contingency plans now. For example, we’re already looking for alternative options for E.U. and U.K. employment before the U.K. officially exits.

4. Stay informed

Much like the U.S. may see new laws and regulations enacted in 2018, the same is true abroad. Being aware of current regulations for areas such as employment, taxes, and visas can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Laws can change frequently or without notice. Our office can work with you to track these changes and help you work through them.

If planning travel, be aware of what’s happening locally that could change the nature of the streets and the feelings in the areas you’re frequenting. In particular, be mindful of the election calendar and general political climate for your destination. Review country guides and sign up for alerts through the International SOS member portal or Assistance App to stay informed.

5. Ask for help

Our office leverages the collective wisdom of other Harvard departments and peer institutions. We can accomplish more by working together than by working as one project or program; so the next time you need help, just ask.

How can we help you in 2018? Let us know what you’re working on and contact us if you have any questions.