In some circles, it has become customary to think of peacebuilding as a task that should be funded by international organisations such as the United Nations. The costs of peacebuilding activities should then be borne by UN Member States or other multilateral organisations, perhaps acting in unison. In this scenario, the roles or contributions of private-sector actors may seem unclear, or even irrelevant.
And yet, the emerging reality of new funding models for peacebuilding activities suggests that the private sector can and does in fact play a significant role in peacebuilding and sustaining peace. Within the business community, philanthropic concepts such as corporate social responsibility, while complex and somewhat difficult to define, present further evidence that the strict separation between the private and public sectors is no longer valid.
How then do businesses operating in international contexts interact with the UN and other multilateral actors? Can we speak of an emerging ecosystem of private-sector actors and activities that plays a role in sustaining peace? What are the social, diplomatic, and economic implications of private-sector involvement for local communities and relations between states, and inter-state conflict in particular?
This paper provides preliminary answers to these questions, and proposes a taxonomy of private-sector actors and principles. Its main focus is on the international (that is, multinational) private sector and its role in funding peacebuilding initiatives. It argues that, despite the business case for peace, guidance on standards and best practices is still required in order to ensure that private actors contribute positively to peace, rather than merely avoiding conflict or causing harm.