INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION has turned in recent years towards understanding the economic dynamics of conflict – with a particular emphasis on the ways in which natural resource exploitation can fuel armed violence. Research into these dynamics has emerged from a spectrum of actors – from major multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, to both Northern and Southern based NGOs. Several OECD governments have responded: a) at the international policy level, by supporting efforts to control trade in illicit commodities and promote more equitable distribution of resource revenue; and b) through developing policy frameworks for assistance to conflict-affected regions that include recognition of the relationship between resource exploitation and conflict.1 The twin challenge of strengthening international regulatory mechanisms and promoting equitable natural resource management in conflict-affected governance contexts will continue to loom large on the conflict prevention horizon in the near future.
Increasing attention on economic drivers of violent conflict also raises additional questions for development sector actors. The private sector has for too long been ignored by those concerned with conflict prevention: companies are powerful actors that have a role to play in transforming violent conflict. This relates both to foreign investing companies and local companies that are indigenous to conflict contexts.2 Ensuring that both OECD company activities and development support to local business ‘do no harm’, and that opportunities for actively engaging private sector actors in conflict prevention and peacebuilding are sought out, represent important new areas of development and peacebuilding. Despite their recognition by the OECD DAC in its Guidelines on Helping Prevent Violent Conflict, quoted above, more needs to be done by OECD development actors to move beyond recognition to action.