A new publication by Oxfam Novib and SOMO brings together the current knowledge on the role of the private sector in fragile and conflict-affected settings, as well as practical guidance on what civil society’s engagement with the private sector might look like. The report highlights two major contemporary discourses: business as a foundation for peaceful development versus business as a cause of conflict and violence in fragile states.
Contribute to peace
As Mark van Dorp, expert on business, conflict & peace, explains, “It is important to increase civil society’s engagement with companies, to ensure that businesses’ presence is not exacerbating conflict, but instead is doing no harm and potentially even contributes to peace and stability. This starts with a better understanding of the role of the private sector in fragile and conflict-affected settings. This knowledge can provide an entry point of engagement and can facilitate constructive private sector engagement. After reading this report, civil society leaders will be able to capture the essence of the debate on business, conflict and peace that has been ongoing for the last two decades.”
The paper is written specifically for members of the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, of which Oxfam Novib is a member. As Floortje Klijn, project leader at Oxfam Novib, explains, “Our local partners in conflict-affected countries are struggling with many different challenges, ranging from violent conflict, weak governance, sexual and gender based violence, humanitarian crisis and climate change. Businesses are increasingly expected to show their corporate responsibility, especially in areas where the state is largely absent. The goal of the report is to enter the debate on the role that the private sector can play in these settings. Civil society’s local knowledge, the interlocutor role they can potentially play between communities and companies, as well as their watchdog role, makes civil society a critical actor in ensuring businesses are conflict-sensitive and promoting a more peace-promoting role for private sector actors in FCAS.”
Build a bridge
The report is launched at a special event during the Annual Meeting of the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to Peter van Sluijs, Coordinator of CSPPS, “Supporting a peace-promoting private sector is one of the priority themes of the Peace Vision for 2019 – 2021 of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS). The Platform’s membership will reflect on the implementation of this important theme and discuss possible ways to operationalize the IDPS Peace Vision by seeking ways to constructively engage with the private sector. We believe that this report will be useful to many other stakeholders as well, and see it as an important tool to build a bridge between civil society and the business community.”