Making business work for peace

This year marks the tenth anniversary of International Alert’s seminal guidance on conflict-sensitive business practice for extractive industries (CSBP).

Over the years we have worked with numerous companies on CSBP, providing strategic input on the importance of adopting and integrating a conflict-sensitive approach into their policies and practices. In the last 10 years we have learned a lot about the challenges faced by companies working in fragile and conflict-affected places and by the communities in the areas in which they work.

This year we will be meeting with companies and organisations that have been involved in our CSBP journey from the beginning, as well as others with an interest in the topic, to review what we have learned and where CSBP is going next. This will include a series of important events and consultations around the development of new materials throughout 2015. In particular, we will be focusing on developing three key components of CSBP guidance:

  • Conflict-sensitivity and human rights: Practical guidance will be developed to further the understanding of how these approaches can build on and complement each other, such as in joint risk and impact assessments. Given that human rights violations are particularly pertinent in fragile environments, practical guidelines can close a gap between the conflict-sensitivity and human rights debates.
  • Company–community conflict: In recent years extractive companies have experienced an increase in protests, complaints and campaigns against their operations, sometimes resulting in the use of force. Together with our partners, we will explore the underlying root causes of company–community conflict, including existing community tensions and conflicts, and complex social structures. In doing so, we aim to address the practical challenges facing operational staff, paying particular attention to trends in company–community conflicts.
  • Positive contributions to peace: Conflict-sensitivity is typically defined as an approach that seeks to ‘minimise risk while maximising positive impacts’. In reality, the focus is often on managing risk rather than creating and enhancing positive impacts. This element of our work will explore innovative approaches to business contributions to peace and stability. For example, we will examine the economic and social reintegration of former combatants into society, and the fostering of economic cooperation between actors in a conflict.

One of the major aims of these updates is to make our experience accessible to a wider audience and advance the principles further, increasing its relevance and use. We believe this will ultimately mean more responsible corporate conduct in fragile environments.

We will keep you informed about all of the latest developments of CSBP in 2015 here on our website.