Business and Peace in Conflict-Affected Countries

Article excerpt

THE JUNE 9 United States Institute of Peace (USIP) workshop on Promoting Business and Peace in Conflict-Affected Countries offered both a general overview of the role that the private sector has been adopting in conflict and post-conflict areas, as well as specific case studies of corporation-supported development.

According to University of Maryland Professor Virginia Haufler, the increased level of violence and number of civil conflicts in the wake of the Cold War indicated that there was an opening for private-sector solutions where traditional tools, such as diplomacy and sanctions, seemed to have failed. In the decade that followed, two main strands of analysis emerged at the intersection of corporations, conflict, conflict-prevention and human rights, Haufler said. These are "Peace through Commerce," which sees commerce and markets as almost broadly positive for development, and "Business and Conflict," which identifies the negative effects of markets, and seeks to mitigate these while promoting more specific commercial practices and mechanisms.

On the "Peace through Commerce" side was Professor Timothy Fort of the George Washington University Business School, who posited that business promotes peace by creating jobs, reducing poverty and encouraging a more differentiated economy. To this, Professor Haufler, who aligned herself with "Business and Conflict," added some other ways business could promote peace: greater transparency, attention to human rights practices and fighting against corruption, as well as careful management of revenues that can fund violence. …