The potential of foreign and domestic companies to contribute to peacebuilding in contexts of fragility and conflict has taken centre stage in international development thinking.
By becoming conflict-sensitive, the argument goes, companies will be able to run their operations more smoothly and to the greater benefit of societies transitioning from crisis to peace. However, an analysis of the underlying assumptions of this narrative and an exploration of its practical implications reveal that whether a business can avoid harm and help foster peace depends on much more than the company alone.
From narrative to practice
It will also hinge on the commitment of the international development community to systematically engage with the private sector: to jointly build up a sound business case for conflict-sensitivity and to supplement the wealth of existing guidelines with practical support and concrete entry points for cross-sector cooperation. Ultimately, for the private sector to move from ‘business as usual’ to ‘business for peace’, governments’ responsibility for peace and their commitment to create an enabling environment for a diverse range of market players will remain critical.
In the policy brief From ‘business as usual’ to ‘business for peace’? Unpacking the conflict-sensitivity narrative researcher Anette Hoffmann analyses the trends and assumptions underpinning the conflict-sensitive business discourse, explores its practical implications and proposes three sets of considerations for translating the narrative into practice.