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businesses 'can help to end conflict'

May 2000

Large companies operating in countries where wars are taking place can – and should – make every effort to foster peace, a forthcoming report will claim.

The study will say they should help resolve conflict by training their staff on the causes of violent disputes and the impacts on business, by keeping up a strong dialogue with stakeholders, and by co-operating with other companies to draw up anti-corruption strategies.

The study, by the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, International Alert and the Council on Economic Priorities, stresses that company initiatives in this area will only bear fruit if chief executives and boards give strong ethical leadership and put in place policies and standards that specifically mention human rights and conflict.

The study will highlight the high cost to a company of failing to help resolve conflict in countries where it works or invests, particularly in terms of damage to its global reputation.

Using case studies from more than 30 countries and several industry sectors, the report, Business of peace, will warn that ‘in most conflict-prone or war-ridden situations easy answers simply don’t exist.’ However, it will argue that companies can counter the effects of conflict by building up a strong social investment strategy that supports health and housing and promotes civic education.

Partnerships with civil organizations and government bodies can also help.

It will add that when reviewing a business opportunity in a conflict zone, companies should carry out ‘pre-investment conflict impact assessments’ to estimate what effect their presence might have. If they decide to move in, they should hire local people where practical and help spread the wealth they create. They should also talk to governments about supporting human rights and reducing inequalities, where this is appropriate.

If companies find themselves in a conflict-ridden country that was previously calm, the report proposes that senior executives might provide emergency humanitarian relief and put pressure on local politicians to start peace talks.

Once the conflict is over they should help rebuild the infrastructure using local workers and play a role in truth and reconciliation commissions.

The Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum is an international development organization that specialises in socially responsible business practice. International Alert is a conflict resolution pressure group, and the Council on Economic Priorities is the US-based sponsor of the SA8000 ethical trading standard.




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