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Colombia Workshop Explores Role of Business in Creating Peace

2004-09-10 

On 27/28 May 2004, the Global Compact Office convened a regional policy dialogue on “The Role of the Private Sector in Zones of Conflict - Colombia” in Bogotá. The meeting’s final report is now available in both English and Spanish.
 
The policy dialogue, with a national rather than a regional focus, was instrumental in 

  • encouraging companies to go beyond social investment/philanthropy and contribute to conflict prevention through their core business operations;
  • developing practical recommendations relevant to the local context regarding options for companies to go beyond compliance and contribute to the promotion of peace and stability; 
  • and laying the ground for a future GC network in Colombia. 

Given the context of deep social and ideological polarization, exacerbated by war, the meeting was a significant trust-building exercise and provided a neutral forum for a candid dialogue on the challenges posed by local conflict dynamics. 

“The Role of the Private Sector in Zones of Conflict” is one of the global issues the Global Compact has been promoting since its inception. Three international-level meetings took place in 2001 and 2002, resulting in a range of policy recommendations and guidelines on critical issues concerning business practice in unstable environments.  These were further discussed and elaborated in the context of two regional workshops (Sub-Saharan Africa, November 2002; Central Asia, November 2003) and, most recently, a national-level workshop in Colombia (April 2004).


The three-year multi-stakeholder dialogue process has 

  • led to the creation of a network of likeminded actors from across different sectors (companies, NGOs, labor, Governments, and the UN);
  • produced recommendations on improving management practices (e.g. revenue-sharing schemes, case studies on multi-stakeholder initiatives);
  • resulted in the development of conflict-sensitive management tools (Business Guide to Conflict Impact Assessment and Risk Management in Zones of Conflict);
  • and stimulated further research into the linkages between business and conflict.

Overall, research in this field has demonstrated that the way in which business operates in zones of conflict and/or low governance can shape the local socio-political dynamics --for good or for ill. Important practical recommendations on how companies can better manage risks and avoid negative impact have been produced by various initiatives. However, much of the work has tended to focus on a few “flashpoint” areas, such as human rights violations and control of resource-related revenues, or on particular industry sectors (extractive industries). Little attention has been paid to exploring the potential for business to contribute to peace building. In order to stimulate the development of more comprehensive and legitimate guidance, and to motivate its adoption by firms, increased engagement of another actor - the public sector - is urgently needed.

The April 2004 Security Council debate focusing on the economic dimensions of armed conflict, as well as current efforts at the UN’s interagency level to improve the organization’s response to the economic incentives and disincentives that underlie armed conflicts, indicate awareness of the role that business can play in conflict-related situations. Consequently, the Global Compact Office is preparing to consolidate the outcomes stemming from the three-year-dialogue process and feed them into existing initiatives at the UN level. Over the next six months and with the participation of a wide range of experts, the Global Compact Office will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the current thinking regarding (a) business practices in conflict-related situations and (b) the possibilities for contributions by the private sector to peace and stability. Given the need for increased public sector engagement, the Global Compact Office will make a point of engaging interested Governments in this final stage of the policy dialogue.

References:

Meeting reports of international-level policy dialogues

March 2001
September 2001
April 2002

Meeting reports of regional-level workshops

Sub-Saharan Africa, November 2002
Central Asia, November 2003
Colombia, May 2004 [Spanish]

Dialogue Network

Guidelines/Tools

Conflict Impact Assessment
Revenue-sharing Regimes
Multi-stakeholder Initiatives