There are a number of contemporary international responses to business and conflict in fragile states. But are there alternatives to the dominant international approaches that could perhaps better address destructive conflicts related to large-scale business operations in fragile states? This Adelphi explores these alternatives, showing how even acute conflict can be manageable, and providing analysis and conclusions that will interest business leaders, policymakers and community advocates alike.

Large-scale investments in fragile states – in Latin America, Africa, the former Soviet Union and Asia – become magnets for conflict, which undermines business, development and security. International policy responds with regulation, state-building and institutional reform, with poor and often perverse results. Caught up in old ways of thinking about conflict and fragility, and an age-old fight over whether multinational corporations are good or bad for peaceful development, it leaves business-related conflicts in fragile states to multiply and fester. Surveying a new strategic landscape of business and conflict, Brian Ganson and Achim Wennmann conclude that neither company shareholders nor advocates for peaceful development need, or should, accept the growing cost of business-related conflict in fragile states. Drawing on decades of experience from mainstream conflict prevention and violence reduction efforts, as well as promising company practice, they show that even acute conflict is manageable when dealt with pragmatically, locally and on its own terms. The analysis and conclusions of this Adelphi book will interest policymakers, business leaders and community advocates alike – all those hoping to mitigate today’s conflicts while helping to reduce fragility and build a firmer foundation for inclusive development.

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  • Introduction: Business and conflict in fragile states

    In October 2006, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni announced the confirmation of commercial-quality oil reserves in Uganda’s Albertine Graben region, attracting the immediate attention of international companies who by 2009 had invested over US$700 million in exploration. Commercial production of recoverable reserves estimated to be well above the one billion barrel mark is anticipated to begin by 2017 or 2018. With oil operations a potentially important source of government revenues, jobs and...
  • Chapter One: Predatory companies in fragile states

    The Dutch East India Company is generally regarded as the world’s first modern multinational corporation. Having executed its initial public offering – a global first – in 1602, it grew to operate a diversified portfolio of commercial interests including agribusiness, transport, manufacturing and brewing. The company was also a brutally violent enterprise. In 1621 Jan Pieterszoon Coen, an accountant who became the company’s governor-general, used Japanese mercenaries to behead and quarter...
  • Chapter Two: Business and peaceful development in fragile states

    The Chamber of Mines in the Union of South Africa supported the Natives Land Act of 1913, which introduced territorial segregation to the country shortly after its founding in 1910. Reserves for the black population were created that represented only about 10% of the country’s land area. The president of the Chamber was of the opinion that the Act would ensure that ‘the surplus of young men, instead of squatting...
  • Chapter Three: The changing landscape of business and conflict in fragile states

    Myanmar provides examples that can be claimed both by those telling the story of the predatory multinational company at the root of violence, and by those telling the story of the private sector as a foundation for peaceful development. Those attracted to the former discourse highlight the findings of the US federal tribunal, summarised in Chapter One, that found Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) complicit in gross human rights abuses...
  • Chapter Four: The limits of state-building

    Since 1987, the Norwegian government has provided assistance to Angola – the second-largest oil producer in Africa after Nigeria – ‘to improve the government’s capabilities to develop, direct and control petroleum activity’. Aid is now consolidated under Norway’s flagship Oil for Development programme, launched in 2005, which brings together Norway’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Petroleum and Energy, Finance, and the Environment with its Agency for Development Cooperation. The programme in...
  • Chapter Five: Responses to conflict that work

    In the late 2000s, gang violence and heavy-handed security measures in response to it made El Salvador the most violent country in the world; by late 2011 and early 2012, it still had higher levels of violent death than most countries that were at war. Yet in April 2012, the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs agreed to a truce, addressing years of violence between them. The decision to hold a...
  • Conclusion: The case for pragmatic solutions

    ‘Because I’m the head of the state oil company, every morning I go to work and look for oil. But because I love my country, every night I go home and pray we don’t find it.’ The executive’s sentiments reflect the reality of his small nation. Although it will soon be counted among the world’s middle-income countries, its population is largely impoverished. In an ideal world, the country could make...

Achim Wennmann Senior Researcher at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, and Executive Coordinator of the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform

Brian Ganson Head, Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement and Extraordinary Associate Professor, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Cape Town, South Africa

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