CDA’s work on Responsible Business began in 2000 with the launch of the Corporate Engagement Project (CEP). CEP performed 16 asset-level field assessments around the world between 2000-2009, primarily with extractive industries companies. These included over 2000 individual and group consultations with company managers and staff, local community members and leaders, opposition groups, NGOs, government officials, religious groups and other stakeholders, culminating in the publication of the book Getting It Right: Making Corporate-Community Relations Work. CDA was involved in the mandate of the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights and participates in the development of guidance through various multi-stakeholder initiatives. CDA also works with industry associations such as the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and IPIECA to develop stakeholder engagement and risk mitigation guidance.
CDA is currently engaged in a learning project about the impacts of private sector companies and business associations on peace, in partnership with the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at the University of Stellenbosch and the Peace Research Institute Oslo.
Jobs, jobs, jobs – according to the 2011 World Bank/UN report “Pathways to Peace” and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ “Sustaining Peace” Agenda – are central in responding to the needs of war-torn societies and fragile contexts. As the thinking goes: job creation through economic development and corporate investment has an important stabilizing impact in fragile and conflict settings and therefore the private sector has a key role to play in peacebuilding.
But is it really that simple? Do we just have to create jobs, boost economic development and facilitate investment to enable divided communities and conflict actors to live better and more peacefully as neighbors? Of course, it is not that simple: we have known for decades that business activity can drive conflict, and that, in some cases, some businesses profit from conflict.
The relationship between business and peace poses a range of questions: What gaps exist in company practice and standards of responsible business?? How much responsibility do investors and banks bear as financiers of private sector development and company projects? How should aid funding best be allocated to ensure that business does not drive conflict? This newly edited paper aims to raise awareness of the opportunities and prospects but also the risks and challenges associated with the business and peacebuilding nexus.