The disturbances in the area of Qurna in Basra Province are a timely reminder that the situation in the South cannot be taken for granted and is often unpredictable.
There are major social issues being raised by the populace around the whole area of the oil and gas fields; that are not different from those in similar circumstances in many oil and gas producing parts of the world. The concerns are fundamentally about the perceived benefit to the local community of the activity happening in their ‘back yard’. This can be dealt with as part of CSR, but it can often have more political overtones at both a local and regional level. A further factor is the competitive tribal nature which can sometimes be in evidence. All these are facts of life, that need to be dealt with in a culturally-sensitive way when planning and executing business activities in these ares.
During these disturbances we have seen the security forces opening fire with live ammunition and killing at least one protester. This may indicate that the challenge of effective, and non lethal, public order policing is an issue. Dealing with civil disturbance and unrest requires a culture of de-escalation, backed up by non-lethal force, prior to the use of lethal force, which should only be used as a last resort. There is an opportunity for some support and capacity building here.