Every conflict is unique. There is no universal recipe to avoid stepping into the “conflict-poverty trap”. Ultimately, peace and successful development depend on societal will and effective governance. Both must come from within. We may not have the knowledge or means to predict exactly how business can contribute to sustainable peace in a particular environment.
But we do know that a wider application of conflict-sensitive business practices and a greater awareness among investors who use their leverage in a positive way can go a long way. We also know that supporting like-minded actors on the ground, building capacities, and providing tools and resources are our best chances to ensure that business is equipped to address the impacts of its activities in conflict environments. The findings and conclusions presented in Enabling Economies of Peace, which was first published in April 2005, summarize several years of pioneering work in this area. They remain relevant today, as the scourge of conflict continues to ravage countries around the globe. But there have been important developments. A number of practical approaches, such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), have matured in recent years and a renewed focus on how the private sector can make a positive contribution to peace may help these voluntary instruments achieve greater impact. Moreover, as the UN Global Compact has gone global–with now over 6,500 participants supported by 90 country networks–opportunities for making a difference on the ground have multiplied. Finally, new actors, especially investors, have entered the new state, willing to give further momentum to this agenda, as they have begun paying more attention to the materiality of environmental and social risks to long-term performance.
The basic realities have not changed. Private actions cannot substitute for effective governance and bi- or multilateral cooperation. However, responsible investment decisions and responsible business operations and transactions can reinforce positive trends, build trust and stimulate peaceful and sustainable growth. Conversely, turning a blind eye on the potential impacts of business in conflict can easily make a bad situation worse. The business case for peace is strong. The experiences made so far are encouraging. What we need now is a fresh start and a redoubling of our efforts.