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The business case for promoting peace

In 1986, stakeholders from around the world came together in Ottawa, Canada, for the First International Conference on Health Promotion. Emerging from this conference was a charter for action to achieve Health for All, which identified eight fundamental conditions and resources for health (the ‘prerequisites for health’). Over the next 24 days, we will review these eight prerequisites – and discuss what they mean 28 years later. We begin with Peace.

In our globalised world, where corporations source, sell and operate in every continent, what is the role of responsible business for promoting peace? Some questions to consider…

1. Should an organisation withdraw from areas of conflict? Whilst a simple answer would be that corporations should remove their investment from conflict zones, to reduce economic revenue supporting the conflict and ensure the protection of their employees, this is far from straightforward. Firstly, conflicts can last for decades. Secondly, divesting can remove valuable economic revenue from local people and further impoverish them. Of note is the work of the UN Global Compact’s Business for Peace initiative, which advises companies on how to act responsibly in conflict-affected and high-risk areas. 

2. What is the economic impact of conflict? Data on the economic toll of the loss of peace is difficult to come by. But an analysis by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has estimated that, had the world been completely peaceful in 2011, global GDP would have been roughly $9tn higher — almost equal to the German and Japanese economies combined.

3. What is the role of business in supporting economic development (and reducing the potential for conflict)? To give an example, Sindyanna of Galilee, a female-led fair trade association, is working to encourage understanding between Arabs and Jews in Israel by selling local producers’ olive oil worldwide and investing 100% of the profits in educating women, bridging cultural divides and promoting organic farming.

4. How will resource scarcity impact upon regional stability? Many analysts within the peace-building field predict that future violent conflicts are likely to take the form of resource wars – conflicts which are primarily waged over access to scarce resources such as rare minerals, water, or oil. The underlying reasoning is that, “as the global population continues to rise, and the demand for resources continues to grow, there is significant potential for conflicts over natural resources to intensify” (UNEP, 2009). So there is a rationale that corporations have a duty of responsibility to move towards sustainable resource usage, not just to ensure future economic stability or to protect environmental resources, but ultimately to safeguard world peace.

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