HUMAN RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF BUSINESS OVERLOOKED IN PEACEBUILDING

REPORT | 26 November 2019

More than a billion people are affected by violent conflict around the world each year but the vital role of business in fuelling conflict and sustaining peace is often overlooked in international peacebuilding efforts, argues a new Swedwatch policy paper.

The policy paper Business, Human Rights, Environment and Sustaining Peace – Experiences from Liberia and Sierra Leone highlights the need to integrate responsible business practices and sustainable natural resource management into the United Nations’ peacebuilding agenda to prevent armed conflicts from reigniting and promote peaceful and inclusive societies. The paper was launched this week to coincide with opening of the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.

Based on consultations with communities in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the paper argues that ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts have not fully addressed environmental and human rights impacts of business – notably natural resource concessions and large-scale agro­-industrial business – and the risks of undermining a hard-earned peace.

The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone have prioritised a rapid expansion of foreign direct investment and economic growth in these sectors with little consultation with affected communities or accountability for environmental or social costs.

Research has found that armed conflicts associated with natural resources are up to twice as likely to relapse into conflict in the first five years after a peace agreement has been signed. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, business interests have a history of fuelling violent conflict, as natural resource extraction and illicit commodity trade provided revenue and logistics to warring parties, as well as aggravating overall instability in the region.

The United Nations Peace Building Commission (PBC) seeks to address the root causes of conflict in cooperation with states and civil society actors in post-conflict settings. It could offer an alternative development model. Swedwatch’s policy paper argues that responsible business conduct should be integrated into the PBC, given its crucial role in sustaining peace and facilitating economic recovery.