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The Business Contribution to Peace and the Global Compact’s Engagement in Sudan

(New York, 4 February 2009)As a voluntary initiative using dialogue and learning to help improve companies' environmental, social and governance performance, the United Nations Global Compact has a long record of advocacy and engagement on the role of business in conflict resolution and peace-building. This workstream has always been rooted in the assumption that the private sector can be a potentially valuable partner in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Raising awareness and mobilizing the private sector around universal values can thus help mitigate negative impacts and make a meaningful contribution to sustainable peace.

Beginning in 2001, the UN Global Compact has been leading efforts to foster constructive dialogue between business and other stakeholders on these issues and has developed a number of practical resources to support participating companies in adopting and implementing conflict-sensitive business practices. One example of this work is the 2005 publication Enabling Economies of Peace , which assesses the achievements and limitations of private sector initiatives and makes detailed public-policy recommendations on how to maximize the business contribution to peace. At the same, the UN Global Compact Office has been supporting efforts by several of its Local Networks to take this work forward.

Concerning recent efforts in Sudan, there is much reason to be cautiously optimistic. After two years of active local awareness-raising, a Global Compact Local Network was officially launched on 1 December 2008 in Khartoum. The launch brought together more than 150 senior representatives of business, the United Nations, government and civil society organizations – a remarkable turnout which included several companies that had been subject to much public criticism for their business activities in the country.

The new Network provides a much-needed forum for businesses – domestic and international – operating in Sudan to discuss the challenges and seek practical solutions. Already, several opportunities for engagement have been identified – ranging from business action to support vulnerable populations to sustainable environmental management. A comprehensive plan of activities has been adopted for 2009, and a Steering Committee, working with the Local Network Secretariat and the UN Global Compact Office, will seek to further increase awareness, recruit new participants, stimulate collective action and advance implementation of the ten principles.

As engagement on the ground is progressing, the UN Global Compact Office is embarking on a process that will make a contribution to the ongoing investment-divestment debate. Working with a wide network of experts from the investment community, business, civil society, academia, the public policy community, governments, and the UN System, the objective is to develop policy guidance to clarify what constitutes Responsible Investment in Conflict-Affected Countries. A new publication will outline ways of better identifying and mitigating investor risks and help companies from different sectors to better understand the expectations, risks and rewards of responsible business practices in conflict-affected countries around the world. It will also explore the conditions under which private investment may lead to economic development and peace.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the UN Global Compact welcomes efforts by others to seek clarifications on the role of businesses operating in specific conflict scenarios. There is no silver bullet to resolve the complex challenges related to these issues, and the UN Global Compact has consistently stressed that its work is a complement to a mix of other possible courses of action, including regulatory frameworks.

Further Information:

Launch of the Global Compact Network Sudan: Meeting Report (pdf), Agenda (pdf), Participant List (pdf), Background Note (pdf)
2009 Network Activity Plan and Terms of Reference (pdf)

Project Concept Note: Responsible Investment in Conflict-Affected Countries (pdf)

Fore more information, visit the Business and Peace section on this site.

Contact

Melissa Powell
Head, Strategy and Partnerships
UN Global Compact
powell1@un.org
+1-212-963-0566

Media Contact:

Matthias Stausberg 
Spokesperson
UN Global Compact
stausberg@un.org
+1-917-367-3423