Skip to main content

The business–peace nexus: ‘business for peace’ and the reconfiguration of the public/private divide in global governance

Abstract

This article explores the implications of ‘business for peace’ (B4P), a new global governance paradigm that aims to put international businesses at the frontline of peace, stability and development efforts in fragile and conflict-affected states. This article argues that B4P entails a shift in the balance between public and private authority across what we coin the ‘business–peace nexus’ and which comprises corporate peacebuilding activities across different spatial scales and institutional settings. We explore B4P’s agency across two distinct nodes in this nexus—in global peacebuilding and development architectures, and in local peacebuilding settings in the Democratic Republic of Congo—to articulate the B4P paradigm’s multiple and contradictory effects on the balance between public and private authority in contemporary peacebuilding. On the one hand, B4P tips institutional scales towards the public by embedding corporations within public accountability structures. On the other hand, by legitimising businesses as peace actors, the B4P framework risks institutionalising asymmetrical encounters between firms and people affected by their operations. We deploy the term ‘asymmetrical governance’ to explain how the amalgamation of global and national, public and private into the operational presence of corporations skews the balance of power in their encounters with local populations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. Source: UNGC B4P website, available at https://www.unglobalcompact.org/library/381 [last accessed on 23 October 2017].

  2. The UN initiative aside, Norway launched a Business for Peace Foundation in 2007, European business leaders formulated the Ypres Manifesto on Business for Peace in 2014, and Sri Lanka has had a Business for Peace Alliance since 2002. Regional and national businesses as well as small and medium enterprises also participate in the UNGC B4P project, but we exclude them from discussion as MNCs are the primary focus and driver of B4P, and MNCs are typically more engaged with the global governance aspects of peacebuilding than national firms, which give MNCs outsize importance. B4P can thus be seen in this article as representative of a broader set of business ventures in peacebuilding.

  3. There is, of course, significant variation in MNCs within sectors, between sectors, and even within departments of specific firms, thus making any generalisation about ‘what MNCs believe’ or ‘what MNCs do’ inherently problematic and potentially leading towards over-generalisation. To better inform our theoretical development, we thus use examples wherever possible to show the trends of MNC action, using relevant literature to illustrate how peace issues are reflective of broader changes in corporate culture.

  4. We prefer the notion of the ‘nexus’ over the equally productive concepts of ‘network’ (Callaghy et al. 2001) and ‘assemblage’ (Abrahamsen and Williams 2009) as we aim to single out the interface between corporate and peacebuilding actors among the many associations that make up the tangled web of peacekeeping worlds. The notion of business and peace forming a nexus was first coined—but not developed further—in Ford (2015, p. 21).

  5. United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, Peacebuilding FAQ, available at http://www.un.org/en/peacebuilding/pbso/faq.shtml [last visited on 23 October 2017].

  6. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2001/mar/30/guardianletters2 [last accessed on 23 October 2017].

  7. Western-owned MNCs are of course not the only MNCs operating in such areas, and Chinese and Indian MNCs in particular have operational philosophies and action in conflict zones that are worthy of significant forward study. However, as they have had historically less engagement with international NGOs and the UN than their Western counterparts, we exclude these promising actors of study (and national/regional private sector actors as well) from the argument at hand for space and coherency reasons.

  8. Ibid.

  9. https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/participants [last accessed on 23 October 2017].

  10. Source: interviews at UN B4P inaugural meeting, Istanbul 2014. Also see Gilboa et al. (2016).

  11. The yawning gap between the number of signatories in the UNGC and B4P may be seen as a result of the B4P platform’s overlap with the UNGC (and company belief that UNGC participation is enough for peace and development), or there may be larger structural risk issues that influence such choices. The topic is unfortunately beyond the scope of this paper but future empirical research on firm choices to participate in such ventures may prove insightful. Thanks to anonymous reviewer for this point.

  12. Miklian (2018); also see Carroll (2015).

  13. https://3blmedia.com/News/CSR/Business-Peace-Platform-Unveiled-UN-Global-Compact-Leaders-Summit [last accessed on 23 October 2017].

  14. Note that of the thousands of UNGC business signatories—including 1200 UN–business partnerships for conflict-affected regions under the ‘Responsible Businesses Advancing Peace’ program (UNGC 2013b)—none have yet been considered to have violated the ‘Guidance on Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected & High-Risk Areas’ framework, indicating the persistence of discrepancies between such discursive politics and on-the-ground practices.

  15. Nonetheless, in foregrounding ‘the West’ as a locus of this agenda, they also overlook that many B4P corporations are non-Western. While B4P might be seen as an archetypical neoliberal (Western) strategy to consolidate corporate footholds in conflict settings, three of China’s largest extractives—China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC), and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)—have participated in B4P since its inception, although they have not been significantly active members. See footnotes 3 and 7.

  16. Author interview, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, B4P chair, Istanbul, September 2014.

  17. First coined in Holman (2004, p. 417), who mentions it once as a (further undefined) umbrella term for the tendency of ‘asymmetrical regulation’, whereby upscaling of economic regulation to the EU level is accompanied by social deregulation at the national level.

  18. Source: interview G4S, Goma, November 2015.

  19. http://www.g4s.com/en/Social%20Responsibility/Our%20commitment%20and%20approach/Case%20Studies/Business%20for%20peace/ [last accessed on 23 October 2017].

  20. Such initiatives may themselves be increasingly vulnerable in the coming years to corporate influence with the USA’s current withdrawal in leadership and participation. A morphing from the current framework is likely regardless, perhaps shifting back to national-level oversight as Canada has recently attempted with its Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) watchdog (guided by John Ruggie).

  21. Source: author interview, Paris, 2015.

References

  • Abrahamsen, Rita. 2004. The Power of Partnerships in Global Governance. Third World Quarterly 25: 1453–1467.

    Google Scholar 

  • Abrahamsen, Rita, and Michael C. Williams. 2014. Publics, Practices, and Power. In The Return of the Public in Global Governance, ed. J. Best, and A. Gheciu, 243–256. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Abrahamsen, Rita, and Michael C. Williams. 2009. Security Beyond the State: Global Security Assemblages in International Politics. International Political Sociology 3: 1–17.

    Google Scholar 

  • Abrahamsen, Rita, and Michael C. Williams. 2011. Security Beyond the State: Private Security in International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aras, Gulen, and David Crowther. 2016. The Durable Corporation: Strategies for Sustainable Development. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Avant, Deborah, and Virginia Haufler. 2012. Transnational Organisations and Security. Global Crime 13: 254–275.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bachmann, J., C. Bell, and C. Holmqvist. 2015. War, Police and Assemblages of Intervention. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Backer, Larry Cata. 2006. Multinational Corporations, Transnational Law: The United Nations’ Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations as Harbinger of Corporate Responsibility in International Law. Columbia Human Rights Law Review 37: 287–390.

    Google Scholar 

  • Banerjee, Subhabrata. 2008. Corporate Social Responsibility: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Critical Sociology 34 (1): 51–79.

    Google Scholar 

  • Banfield, Jessica, Virginia Haufler, and Damien Lilly. 2003. Transnational Corporations in Conflict Prone Zones: Public Policy Responses and a Framework for Action. London: International Alert.

    Google Scholar 

  • Best, Jacqueline, and Alexandra Gheciu (eds.). 2014. The Return of the Public in Global Governance. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brainard, L., D. Chollet, and V. LaFleur. 2007. The Tangled Web: The Poverty-Insecurity Nexus. Washington: Brookings Institution.

    Google Scholar 

  • Braithwaite, Jonathan. 2005. Neoliberalism or Regulatory Capitalism. Canberra: Regulatory Institutions Network (Australian National University).

    Google Scholar 

  • Börzel, Tanja, and Thomas Risse. 2005. Public-Private Partnerships: Effective and Legitimate Tools of Transnational Governance? In Complex Sovereignty: Reconstituting Political Authority in the Twenty-first Century, ed. E. Grande, and L.W. Pauly, 195–216. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Callaghy, Thomas, Ronald Kassimir, and Robert Latham. 2001. Intervention and Transnationalism in Africa: Global-Local Networks of Power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carroll, Archie. 2015. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is on a Sustainable Trajectory. Defense Management 5 (2): 132–133.

    Google Scholar 

  • CBO [United States Congressional Budget Office]. 2008. Contractors’ Support of U.S. Operations in Iraq. Washington: Congress of the United States.

    Google Scholar 

  • Collier, Paul. 2007. Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and Their Implications for Policy. In Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World, ed. C.A. Crocker, F.O. Hampson, and P. Aall. Washington: U.S. Institute of Peace Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dahan, Nicholas, Jonathan Doh, and Terrance Guay. 2006. The Role of Multinational Corporations in Transnational Institution Building: A Policy Network Perspective. Human Relations 59: 1571–1600.

    Google Scholar 

  • DoD [United States Department of Defense]. 2015. Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility. Washington: Department of Defense.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duffield, Mark. 2007. Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples. Cambridge: Polity.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duffield, Mark. 2010. Risk-Management and the Fortified Aid Compound: Everyday Life in Post-Interventionary Society. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 4: 453–474.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap Jr., Charles. 2011. The Military-Industrial Complex. Daedalus 140: 135–147.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ford, Jolyon. 2015. Regulating Business for Peace: The United Nations, the Private Sector, and Post-Conflict Recovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fort, Timothy. 2014. Gentle Commerce. Business, Peace and Sustainable Development 4: 107–111.

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedman, Milton. 1970. The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits. New York Times, 13 September.

  • GAO. 2017. SEC Conflict Minerals Rule: 2017 Review of Company Disclosures in Response to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Rule. Washington: US Government Accountability Office.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ganson, Brian, Jason Miklian, and Peer Schouten. 2016. From Boardrooms to Battlefields: 5 New Ways That Businesses Claim to Build Peace. Harvard International Review 36 (2): 22–28.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gardner, Kathy. 2016. Disconnect Development: Imagining Partnership and Experiencing Detachment in Chevron’s Borderlands. In The Anthropology of Corporate Social Responsibility, ed. C. Dolan, and D. Rajak. Oxford: Berghahn.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garsten, Christina. 2015. Corporate Social Responsibility and Cultural Practices on Globalizing Markets. In A Companion to the Anthropology of Europe, ed. U. Kockel, M. Craith, and J. Frykman. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gereffi, Gary, Ronie Garcia-Johnson, and Erika Sasser. 2001. The NGO-Industrial Complex. Foreign Policy 43: 56–65.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilboa, Eytan, Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert, Jason Miklian, and Piers Robinson. 2016. Moving Media and Conflict Studies Beyond the CNN Effect. Review of International Studies 42 (4): 654–672.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gündüz, Canan, Charlotte Vaillant, and Jessica Banfield. 2006. Addressing the Economic Dimensions of Peacebuilding Through Trade and Support to Private Enterprise. London: International Alert.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, Rodney, and Thomas Biersteker. 2002. The Emergence of Private Authority in Global Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haski-Leventhal, Debbie. 2014. From CSR and CSV to Business and Peace. Business, Peace and Sustainable Development 4: 3–5.

    Google Scholar 

  • Holman, Otto. 2004. Asymmetrical Regulation and Multidimensional Governance in the European Union. Review of International Political Economy 11: 714–735.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hönke, Jana. 2014. Business for peace? The Ambiguous Role of “Ethical” Mining Companies. Peacebuilding 2: 172–187.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ismail, Olawale, and Rabia Nusrat. 2014. Exploring the Potential of the Private Sector to Contribute to Peacebuilding in Pakistan. London: International Alert.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kolk, Ans, and Francois Lenfant. 2015. Cross-Sector Collaboration, Institutional Gaps, and Fragility: The Role of Social Innovation Partnerships in a Conflict-Affected Region. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing 34 (2): 287–303.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kolk, Ans, and Francois Lenfant. 2013. Business–NGO Collaboration in a Conflict Setting Partnership Activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Business and Society 51 (3): 478–511.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leander, Anna. 2005. The Market for Force and Public Security: The Destabilizing Consequences of Private Military Companies. Journal of Peace Research 42 (1): 605–622.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lim, Alwyn, and Kioteru Tsutsui. 2010. The Globalization of Corporate Social Responsibility: Cross-National Analyses on Global CSR Framework Commitment. University of Michigan Working Paper.

  • Mansfield, Becky. 2004. Rules of Privatization: Contradictions in Neoliberal Regulation of North Pacific Fisheries. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94: 565–584.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miklian, Jason. 2014. The Past, Present and Future of the ‘Liberal Peace’. Strategic Analysis 38 (4): 493–507.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miklian, Jason. 2017a. Contextualizing and Theorizing Economic Development, Local Business and Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar. SSRN Working Paper, available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2925290. Accessed 12 February 2018.

  • Miklian, Jason. 2017b. The Dark Side of New Business. Harvard International Review 38 (4): 19–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miklian, Jason. 2018. Mapping Business-Peace Interactions: Five Assertions for How Businesses Create Peace. Business, Peace and Sustainable Development [forthcoming].

  • Miklian, Jason, and Juan Pablo Medina Bickel. 2018. Theorizing Business and Local Peacebuilding Through the “Footprints of Peace” Coffee Project in Rural Colombia. Business and Society, Online First,. https://doi.org/10.1177/0007650317749441.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miklian, Jason, and Kristian Hoelscher. 2017. A New Research Approach for Peace Innovation. Innovation and Development, Online First,. https://doi.org/10.1080/2157930X.2017.1349580.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miklian, Jason, and Angelika Rettberg. 2017. From War-Torn to Peace-Torn? Mapping Business Strategies in Transition from Conflict to Peace in Colombia. SSRN Working Paper, available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2925244. Accessed 12 February 2018.

  • Miklian, Jason, and Peer Schouten. 2013. Fluid Markets. Foreign Policy 43 (5): 67–73.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moore, David, and Gerald Schmitz (eds.). 2016. Debating Development Discourse: Institutional and Popular Perspectives. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Muchlinski, Peter. 2001. Human Rights and Multinationals: Is There a Problem? International Affairs 77: 31–47.

    Google Scholar 

  • O’Connor, Casey, and Sarah Labowitz. 2017. Measuring Human Rights Performance for Investors. New York: NYU Stern.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oetzel, Jennifer, and Jason Miklian. 2017. Multinational Enterprises, Risk Management and the Business and Economics of Peace. Multinational Business Review 25 (4): 270–286.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oetzel, Jennifer, Michelle Westermann-Behaylo, and Chris Koerber. 2010. Business and Peace: Sketching the Terrain. Journal of Business Ethics 89: 351–373.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oh, C.H., and Jennifer Oetzel. 2016. Once Bitten Twice Shy? Experience Managing Violent Conflict Risk and MNC Subsidiary-Level Investment and Expansion. Strategic Management Journal 38 (3): 714–731.

    Google Scholar 

  • Owens, Patricia. 2008. Distinctions, Distinctions: ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ Force? International Affairs 84: 977–990.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pegram, Tom, and Michelle Acuto. 2015. Introduction: Global Governance in the Interregnum. Millennium—Journal of International Studies 43: 584–597.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peschka, Mary Porter. 2011. The Role of Private Sector in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States. Washington: World Bank (World Development Report Background Paper).

    Google Scholar 

  • Pingeot, Lou. 2012. Dangerous Partnership: Private Military & Security Companies and the UN. New York: Global Policy Forum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ratner, Steven. 2001. Corporations and Human Rights: A Theory of Legal Responsibility. Yale Law Journal 111: 443–545.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reyntjens, Filip. 2005. The Privatisation and Criminalisation of Public Space in the Geopolitics of the Great Lakes region. Journal of Modern African Studies 43: 587–607.

    Google Scholar 

  • Richmond, Oliver. 2006. The Problem of Peace: Understanding the “Liberal Peace”. Conflict, Security & Development 6: 291–314.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruggie, John G. 2014. A UN Business and Human Rights Treaty Update. Harvard: Harvard Kennedy School.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruggie, John G. 2006. Remarks by John G. Ruggie, U.N. Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility, Bamberg, Germany.

  • Ruggie, John G. 2004. Reconstituting the Global Public Domain—Issues, Actors, and Practices. European Journal of International Relations 10: 499–531.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruggie, John G. 1993. Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations. International Organization 47: 139–174.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruggie, John G. 2003. Taking Embedded Liberalism Global: The Corporate Connection. In Taming Globalization: Frontiers of Governance, ed. David Held, and M. Koenig-Archibugi. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schouten, Peer. 2011. Political Topographies of Private Security in Sub-Saharan Africa. In African Engagements—Africa Negotiating an Emerging Multipolar World, ed. T. Dietz, K. Havnevik, M. Kaag, et al., 56–83. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schouten, Peer. 2014. Private Security Companies and Political Order in Congo: A History of Extraver-Sion. PhD Dissertation, Gothenburg: University of Gothenburg.

  • Schouten, Peer. 2016. Extractive Orders: A Political Geography of Public Authority in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo. London: LSE (JSPR Working Paper #30).

  • Schouten, Peer. 2017. Parapluies politiques: The Everyday Politics of Private Security in the Demo-Cratic Republic of Congo. In Private Security in Africa: From the Global Assemblage to the Everyday, ed. P. Higate, and M. Utas, 142–163. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shamir, Ronen. 2010. Capitalism, Governance, and Authority: The Case of Corporate Social Responsibility. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 6: 531–553.

    Google Scholar 

  • Small, Michelle. 2006. Privatisation of Security and Military Functions and the Demise of the Modern Nation-State in Africa. African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD): Durban.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stepputat, Finn. 2012. Knowledge Production in the Security-Development Nexus: An Ethnographic Reflection. Security Dialogue 43: 439–455.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stern, Maria, and Joakim Öjendal. 2010. Mapping the Security—Development Nexus: Conflict, Complexity, Cacophony, Convergence? Security Dialogue 41: 5–29.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thérien, Jean-Pierre, and Vincent Pouliot. 2006. The Global Compact: Shifting the Politics of International Development? Global Governance 12: 55–75.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thomson, Janice. 1995. State Sovereignty in International Relations: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Empirical Research. International Studies Quarterly 39: 213–233.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tsing, Anna. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in the Ruins of Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • UNGC [United Nations Global Compact]. 2013. Leaders Summit 2013: Architects of a Better World. New York: United Nations Global Compact.

    Google Scholar 

  • UNGC. 2013. Responsible Business, Advancing Peace: Examples from Companies, Investors & Global Compact Networks. New York: United Nations Global Compact.

    Google Scholar 

  • UNHCR [United Nations Human Rights Council]. 2016. Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights, October 2016 meeting.

  • UNJIU. 1997. The Challenge of Outsourcing for the United Nations System. New York: UN Joint Inspection Unit.

    Google Scholar 

  • UNSEGLR [UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region]. 2016. Report of the Private Sector Investment Conference for the Great Lakes Region. Kinshasa: UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region.

    Google Scholar 

  • Welker, Marina. 2014. Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-authoritarian Indonesia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whitman, Jim. 2002. Global Governance as the Friendly Face of Unaccountable Power. Security Dialogue 33: 45–57.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolfensohn, James D. 2001. Private Sector Development, Social Cohesion and Peace. Washington: World Bank Group.

    Google Scholar 

  • World Bank. 2016. Fragility, Conflict and Violence. Overview, available at http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/fragilityconflictviolence/overview#1. Accessed 4 February 2018.

  • Ziai, Ajai. 2013. The Discourse of “Development” and Why the Concept Should be Abandoned. Development in Practice 23 (1): 123–136.

    Google Scholar 

Interviews

  • Interviews with business leaders at UN B4P inaugural meeting, Istanbul, September 2014.

  • Interview, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, B4P chair, Istanbul, September 2014.

  • Interview with mining executive, OECD supply chain meeting, Paris, April 2015.

  • Interview G4S, Goma, November 2015.

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Cindy Horst, Jennifer Oetzel, Oystein Rolandsen, Greg Reichberg, Brian Ganson and the anonymous reviewers for their insights and comments. Any errors remain ours alone. We also thank the Research Council of Norway for funding through the NORGLOBAL programme.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jason Miklian.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Schouten, P., Miklian, J. The business–peace nexus: ‘business for peace’ and the reconfiguration of the public/private divide in global governance. J Int Relat Dev 23, 414–435 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-018-0144-2

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-018-0144-2

Keywords

  • Asymmetrical governance
  • Business for peace (B4P)
  • Business–peace nexus
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Peacebuilding