Why might business contribute to peace?


(Molly M. Melin) #41

Karen, I would love to talk to you more about these programs later- I find the Colombian case fascinating since there is so much corporation with the private sector in the peace process.


karen newman said:

  • Interesting that Molly mentioned one of the places we have a program- Colombia, where long term armed conflict has damaged local production, institutions, food security, and social trust, our private sector partners are contributing to peace building by creating training and job opportunities for disarmed combatants and/or by bringing affordable water services to the regions most impacted by the conflict.

(Paul-Andre Wilton) #42

Peace itself is a very loose concept. In peacebuilding circles, there is the distinction between ‘negative peace’ which like a cease fire, can simply mean the absence of violence. And ‘positive peace’ which suggests the respect of rights and the promotion of security that allows people to flourish. In the short run – negative peace might be all a business would consider as relevant to its commercial model, but actually in the long run – commercial success and civic freedoms are linked. Acemoglu and Robinson’s book Why Nations Fail, pointed to how the absence of inclusive institutions and creative destruction linked with more liberal societies would ultimately constrain the wealth of any society. I think paying attention to the long term is critical for engaging in peace processes whether formal ones, or though contributing to factors that diminish drivers of instability. (Not exactly the model but I’m told NASA have a 10,000 year workstream – pared down to a human scale the point is we need to think beyond the immediate). Looking at how long it has taken to bring about a political solution to the conflict in Colombia, its clear that long time lines and commitment are critical.


(LaVonn Schlegel) #43

I think a challenge for all of us working in this space is to remember that overarching development goals agreed upon as important by the world community most likely wont be what's driving a local business who is just trying to find and contribute to stability and opportunity. There are goals and challenges at all levels here and we must look at our work and expectations through the eyes of those living the situation. I agree with Tim in that this conversation can't just be about the MNEs (although they are a critical player in the arena.) It has to embrace the local small business guy who is just trying to provide for his family and his community.


(Timothy L. Fort) #44

My sense is that there are different contributions businesses can make to peace. Some are economic, some contribute to stability through rule of law and some are aspects of being a good citizen. I think each contribution can look to best business practices of how citizenship, ethics, obeying the law, etc. can be done.

There are also times when businesses might be part of a track-two diplomacy where they help to create peace. I know Angelika Rettberg can't be with us today, hopefully so next week, and I'll bet she has some real insights as to how this might be the case in Columbia.


(karen newman) #45

I think that businesses certainly look at other companies working in this space to determine the risks and rewards of doing business in certain environments. They also want to know that their peers and competitors have made the leap and look to that as well. In many cases, companies invest in regions where their competition or others in their sector has explored so the benefits of sharing best practices are enormous, especially for learning and mobilizing new actors.


(Michelle Breslauer) #46

I agree with Paul-Andre that, for many types of businesses, there is an interest in stability. If we take a step back and look at global levels of peace and stability, the trends are not encouraging. The world is becoming less peaceful, but more importantly, this peace is unequal. So countries experiencing violence and conflict, tend to spiral into larger instability. Economically, this reflects in the fact that 13.3% of world GDP is spent containing violence.


(jimena leiva roesch) #47



LaVonn Schlegel said:

I think a challenge for all of us working in this space is to remember that overarching development goals agreed upon as important by the world community most likely wont be what's driving a local business who is just trying to find and contribute to stability and opportunity. There are goals and challenges at all levels here and we must look at our work and expectations through the eyes of those living the situation. I agree with Tim in that this conversation can't just be about the MNEs (although they are a critical player in the arena.) It has to embrace the local small business guy who is just trying to provide for his family and his community.


(Molly M. Melin) #48

LaVonn, I totally agree with this & think small businesses that are based locally can have an even stronger case for involvement (it's not easy for them to leave!) and greater positive impact (they are local and have local knowledge). At the same time, they might be viewed as more "biased" towards a side of conflict or issue areas. This might be one way that we can learn from findings in political science that show biased actors are more likely to help resolve conflicts (to get at question 2).

LaVonn Schlegel said:

I think a challenge for all of us working in this space is to remember that overarching development goals agreed upon as important by the world community most likely wont be what's driving a local business who is just trying to find and contribute to stability and opportunity. There are goals and challenges at all levels here and we must look at our work and expectations through the eyes of those living the situation. I agree with Tim in that this conversation can't just be about the MNEs (although they are a critical player in the arena.) It has to embrace the local small business guy who is just trying to provide for his family and his community.


(Paul-Andre Wilton) #49

I agree, but I also think that where we can show how the small business fits within a larger market system, there are opportunities for cooperation and coordination within the broader sector. It might be led by larger MNEs but delivered by smaller businesses. I think of the Cocoa sector in West Africa where large multinationals have invested in community programming to try and alleviate some of the tensions that led a few years ago to civil conflict. However engaged in this effort are cooperatives and independent producers.

LaVonn Schlegel said:

I think a challenge for all of us working in this space is to remember that overarching development goals agreed upon as important by the world community most likely wont be what's driving a local business who is just trying to find and contribute to stability and opportunity. There are goals and challenges at all levels here and we must look at our work and expectations through the eyes of those living the situation. I agree with Tim in that this conversation can't just be about the MNEs (although they are a critical player in the arena.) It has to embrace the local small business guy who is just trying to provide for his family and his community.


(Timothy L. Fort) #50

This is a neat point Molly and the political science study might help to shed light on the times and places where businesses concluded that it was more important to make peace with the "other side." I'm thinking, for example, in Northern Ireland a few years ago when many businesses on both sides said that enough was enough.



Molly M. Melin said:

LaVonn, I totally agree with this & think small businesses that are based locally can have an even stronger case for involvement (it's not easy for them to leave!) and greater positive impact (they are local and have local knowledge). At the same time, they might be viewed as more "biased" towards a side of conflict or issue areas. This might be one way that we can learn from findings in political science that show biased actors are more likely to help resolve conflicts (to get at question 2).

LaVonn Schlegel said:

I think a challenge for all of us working in this space is to remember that overarching development goals agreed upon as important by the world community most likely wont be what's driving a local business who is just trying to find and contribute to stability and opportunity. There are goals and challenges at all levels here and we must look at our work and expectations through the eyes of those living the situation. I agree with Tim in that this conversation can't just be about the MNEs (although they are a critical player in the arena.) It has to embrace the local small business guy who is just trying to provide for his family and his community.


(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #51

Great discussion! Let's move on to your third question:

Q3: As businesses move from a pure focus on shareholder value to “shared” value for all stakeholders, what implications does this have for why and how they can contribute to peace?


(jimena leiva roesch) #52

In Guatemala, we had a similar experience, where business started to support the larger social movement that led to significant political change.


(San Bilal) #53

Evidence from a variety of conflict situations confirms that there is a lot to gain from deploying more conflict sensitive approaches when promoting economic development. Conflict sensitivity is relevant to governments, private sector and international agencies. It needs to be addressed at the very practical level, such as investing in conflict assessments or conflict impact studies, and start already when identifying and designing investments in conflict prone contexts.

There is also a lot to gain in combining pragmatically context-specific institutional reforms and shaping regulatory frameworks for the private sector with a range of bottom-up support approaches to help the social and economic fabric to grow. Stimulating cross-border trade and relationship building between business communities of different origin are other means to promote peace and economic development. There is also evidence that establishing effective business-government platforms for dialogue and advice can support peace and economic growth. Another measure might be the provision of small-scale and gender-sensitive loans to entrepreneurs.

At the international level, conflict sensitive programmes and information provision to increase the awareness of multilateral companies about how to invest in often resource-rich but governance-poor environments are much needed. This also goes for supporting continental policy discourses on fragility, such as the sessions on illicit financing flows held during the 2014 Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa and discussed in this issue.

See articles in our ECDPM GREAT Insights magazine on prosperity for peace (http://ecdpm.org/great-insights/prosperity-for-peace/) and if you have specific insights on how to promote youth employment in fragile countries, contact me now if you want to contribute to our GREAT Insights issue on this early next year.

58-GreatInsightsProsperityPeaceVol5Issue1February2016ECDPM.pdf (2.03 MB)

(jimena leiva roesch) #54

On the other side, business can also be involved in wanting to keep the status quo if that benefits them.

jimena leiva roesch said:

In Guatemala, we had a similar experience, where business started to support the larger social movement that led to significant political change.


(Paul-Andre Wilton) #55

A key concept emerging from groups who are challenging the dominance of ‘hard’ security thinking by governments, is that you cannot seek just to provide for yourself if it creates greater insecurity for others. Instead, peace has to be inclusive and based on principles of solidarity. I'm wondering how this works in the marketplace. Perhaps as we've noted self interest is going to be the starting point for any business to engage with stability and positive peace. What might emerge are alignments with social movements around rights in work, transparency in tax and governance, gender equity and justice which seek to contribute to global public goods as well as further the interests of specific communities and individuals.


(Timothy L. Fort) #56

With respect to Question #3, two things. First, Per Saxegaard, the investment banker who founded the Business for Peace Foundation in Oslo has made the point that because of the rise of social media, there is more opportunity for corporate actions to be scrutinized. Given that, the argument is that some degree of shared values is then important for businesses to at least be seen having with society.

I agree and would go a step further and argue that seeing that values are shared is instrumentally valuable, but the greatest instrumental value occurs when others believe that you sincerely share those values.


(LaVonn Schlegel) #57

Question 3 is an important one. I think this allows the definition of value to move away from a financial one that is primarily transactional to one that is more engaged and intrinsic. I argue back to an earlier comment that a business that is engaged in shared value will ultimately succeed in this less than stable marketplace.


(Paul-Andre Wilton) #58

Right - if one of the factors that is driving business on the 'demand side' to engage with social movements is active civil society then the global trend of a contraction in the space for NGOs and civil society organisations and trade unions to operate in, could see lessening of pressure on the business community to engage in solidarity movements.



jimena leiva roesch said:

On the other side, business can also be involved in wanting to keep the status quo if that benefits them.

jimena leiva roesch said:

In Guatemala, we had a similar experience, where business started to support the larger social movement that led to significant political change.


(Molly M. Melin) #59

I think this question might also push to think more generally about how business can help in creating stable societies. I doubt the US is going to experience another civil war soon, but there is so much unrest and violence- it would be interesting to see how companies here engage (or don't) this challenge. I know Chicago's Mayor released a new budget hoping to deal with youth violence and he plans for the private sector to help pay for these programs...


(Ellen Yui) #60

Business can be a force for good and promote peace by contributing to entrepreneurship and the economic sustenance of local/regional businesses and other institutions. Developing technologies that are easily adaptable to cultures, practices, methods and resources across the globe and that respond to the unique challenges of an area, and then sharing examples of best business and leadership practices that worked elsewhere is key. For instance, the water wars will make oil wars look like a cakewalk. We all need to help cultivate and benefit from the minds, talents, resources, intelligences, and histories of all peoples and cultures...or we all suffer and pay a steep price.

Special hello to Tim Fort!!! Greetings from Takoma Park!