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The role of business in armed violence reduction and prevention

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 June 2013


This article looks at business activities in violent and fragile environments through an armed violence lens and explores the role of business in armed violence reduction and prevention (AVRP) strategies. The article argues that the transformation of armed violence patterns over the last decade requires a new optic on a subject that has traditionally been discussed in the context of ‘business and peace’ or ‘business and conflict’, and of armed violence related to inter- or intra-state armed conflict. The article sets out to better understand how different constituencies have dealt with the role of the private sector in reducing armed violence, and to connect the dots between various scholarly and practice communities to identify entry points for AVRP strategies across sectors and institutions. The article suggests that such entry points exist in relation to the costing of armed violence and civic observatories.

Business meets conflict: only risks or also opportunities?
Copyright © International Committee of the Red Cross 2013 

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1 Geneva Declaration Secretariat (GDS), Global Burden of Armed Violence, GDS, Geneva, 2008Google Scholar. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Armed Violence Reduction: Enabling Development, OECD, Paris, 2011Google Scholar.

2 UN Doc. A/HRC/17/31, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, 21 March 2011, unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011.

3 Available at: (last visited 14 December 2012).

4 ‘Violent and fragile contexts’ are understood to exist where ‘political, social, security and economic risks correlate with organised violence’. These occur particularly in ‘periods when states or institutions lack the capacity, accountability, or legitimacy to mediate relations between citizen groups and between citizens and the state, making them vulnerable to violence’. See World Bank, World Development Report 2011: Conflict Security and Development, World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2011, pp. xvxviGoogle Scholar.

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6 GDS, Global Burden of Armed Violence: Lethal Encounters, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, p. 1Google Scholar.

7 GDS, above note 1, p. 2.

note 1

8 OECD, Armed Violence Reduction, above note 1, p. 49.

note 1

9 Ibid., pp. 49–50.


10 ‘SALW’ refers to ‘small arms and light weapons’; ‘ERW’ refers to ‘explosive remnants of war’.


12 GDS, above note 1, p. 18.

note 1

13 World Health Organization (WHO), World Report on Violence and Health, WHO, Geneva, 2002, pp. 1215Google Scholar.

14 OECD, above note 1, p. 17.

note 1

15 Eavis, Paul, Working Against Violence: Promising Practices in Armed Violence Reduction and Prevention, GDS, Geneva, 2011, pp. 5758Google Scholar.

16 Ibid., pp. 22–23.


17 P. Eavis, above note 15, pp. 9, 57.

note 15

18 Banfield, Jessica, Gündüz, Canan and Killick, Nick (eds), Local Business, Local Peace: The Peacebuilding Potential of the Domestic Private Sector, International Alert, London, 2006Google Scholar.

19 For a review, see Peschka, Mary Porter, The Role of the Private Sector in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States, World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2011CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 See for instance, Berdal, Mats and Malone, David M. (eds), Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars, Lynne Rienner, Boulder, 2000Google Scholar; Ballentine, Karen and Sherman, Jake (eds), The Political Economy of Armed Conflict: Beyond Greed and Grievance, Lynne Rienner, Boulder, 2003Google Scholar.

21 For a review, see Capobianco, Laura, Sharpening the Lens: Private Sector Involvement in Crime Prevention, International Centre for the Prevention of Crime, Montreal, 2005, pp. 1314Google Scholar.

22 Ibid., p. 13.


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24 L. Capobianco, above note 21, p. 13.

note 21

25 International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC), the World Bank, Bogota Chamber of Commerce (BCC), and Instituto Sou da Paz (ISP), Public-Private Partnerships and Community Safety: Guide to Action, ICPC, World Bank, BCC, ISP, Montreal, Washington, D.C., Bogota, São Paolo, 2011.

26 FDI and remittance flows are very different in nature, with the former having a significant concentration in the extractive and infrastructure sectors, and the latter capturing money sent by workers or the diaspora directly to family members in the home country. Remittances can increase the resilience of households and can also represent investments in micro or small family enterprises.

27 Figures for armed violence based on data from the Geneva Declaration Secretariat. The table includes the nineteen most violent countries measured by the violent death rate per 100,000 population. GDS, above note 1, p. 53. Figures for FDI and remittances are based on World Bank Data ( for the annual averages in the period 2004–2009 for the indicators ‘Foreign direct investment, net inflows (BoP, current US$)’ and ‘Workers’ remittances and compensation of employees, received (current US$)’.

note 1

28 Ghani, Ashraf and Lockhart, Claire, Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008, p. 133Google Scholar. Bray, John, Foreign Direct Investment in Conflict-Affected Contexts, International Alert, London, 2010, p. 2Google Scholar.

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31 L. Capobianco, above note 21, p. 15.

note 21

32 This finding is based on research using longitudinal data on business behaviour in five large US cities between 1987 and 1994. Greenbaum, Robert and Tita, George, ‘The impact of violence surges on neighbourhood business activity’, in Urban Studies, Vol. 41, No. 13, 2004, pp. 24952514CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33 This analysis draws on the options for development actors in conflict-sensitive development engagement. See Goodhand, Jonathan, Violent Conflict, Poverty and Chronic Poverty, Chronic Poverty Research Centre Working Paper No. 6, University of Manchester, Manchester, 2001, pp. 3031Google Scholar.

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39 For a diverse set of case studies on business engagement in peacebuilding see J. Banfield et al., above note 18; Nelson, Jane, The Business of Peace: The Private Sector as a Partner in Conflict Prevention and Resolution, The Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, International Alert, Council on Economic Priorities, London and New York, 2001, pp. 73140Google Scholar; Sweetman, Derek, Business, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding, Routledge, Abingdon, 2009, pp. 4147Google Scholar.

note 18

40 Tripathi, Salil and Gündüz, Canan, A Role for the Private Sector in Peace Processes? Examples and Implications for Third-Party Mediation, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Geneva, 2008, p. 25Google Scholar.

41 A. Rettberg, above note 38.

note 38

42 Personal communication with the author.

43 Moody-Steward, Mark, ‘Foreword’, in Williams, Oliver F. C.S.C. (ed.), Peace Through Commerce: Responsible Corporate Citizenship and The Ideals of the United Nations Global Compact, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, 2008, p. xiGoogle Scholar.

44 Randal C. Archibold, ‘“Gangs” truce buys El Salvador a tenuous peace’, in The New York Times, 27 August 2012. Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, ‘Salvadoran government accused of negotiating with gangs, after 40% drop in murders’, 20 April 2012, available at: (last visited 24 August 2012).

45 Zandfliet, Luc and Anderson, Mary B., Getting It Right: Making Corporate-Community Relations Work, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, 2009Google Scholar. Brereton, David, Owen, John and Kim, Julie, Good Practice Note: Community Development Agreements, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, University of Queensland, Brisbane, 2011Google Scholar.

46 ICPC et al., above note 25, p. 33.

note 25

47 For a case study on South Africa, see Vogelman, Lloyd, Reducing Violence in South Africa: The Contribution Business Can Make, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Pretoria, 1990Google Scholar.

48 L. Capobianco, above note 21, p. 20.

note 21

49 Ganson, Brian and Wennmann, Achim, Safe Communities, Resilient Systems: Towards a New Action Framework on Business and Peacebuilding, Brief No. 5, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, Geneva, 2012Google Scholar.

50 Ganson, Brian, Business and Conflict Prevention, Towards a Framework for Action, Paper No. 2, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, Geneva, 2011Google Scholar.

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note 18

57 Vines, A., ‘The business of peace: “Tiny” Rowland, financial incentives, and the Mozambican settlement’, in Armon, J., Hendrickson, D. and Vines, A. (eds), The Mozambican Peace Process in Perspective, Conciliation Resources, London, 1998Google Scholar.

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59 NARCO, Recruiting Ex-offenders: The Employers' Perspective, NARCO, London, 2003Google Scholar.

60 L. Capobianco, above note 21, p. 23.

note 21

61 Umaña, Isabel Aguilar and Rossini, D., Youth Violence in Central America: Lessons from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, Brief No. 4, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, Geneva, 2012, p. 3Google Scholar.

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note 18

63 Walton, Oliver, Youth, Armed Violence and Job Creation Programmes: A Rapid Mapping Study, Norwegian Peacebuilding Centre, Oslo, 2010Google Scholar.

64 S. Tripathi and C. Gündüz, above note 40, p. 24.

note 40

65 A. Rettberg, above note 38, p. 1.

note 38

66 ICPC et al., above note 25, p. 9.

note 25

67 Kumar, Chetan and de la Haye, Jos, ‘Hybrid peacemaking: building national infrastructures for peace’, in Global Governance, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2011, p. 13Google Scholar.

68 B. Ganson and A. Wennmann, above note 51, p. 2.

note 51

69 Milliken, Jennifer, What the Peacebuilding Community Can Contribute to Political Transitions in North Africa and Beyond, Paper 4, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, Geneva, 2012, p. 12Google Scholar.

70 Bank, World, World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development, World Bank, Washington, DC, 2011CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

71 United Nations Secretary-General, Peacebuilding in the Aftermath of Conflict, UN Doc. S/2012/746, 8 October 2012, pp. 5 and 7.

72 For a review of costing techniques see GDS, above note 1, pp. 91–97.

note 1

74 WHO, Manual for Estimating the Economic Costs of Injuries due to Interpersonal and Self-directed Violence, WHO, Geneva, 2008Google Scholar.

75 Global Peace Index, The Study of Industries that Prosper in Peace – the ‘Peace Industry’, Global Peace Index, Sydney, 2008, pp. 1418Google Scholar.

76 Gilgen, Elisabeth and Tracey, Lauren, Contributing Evidence to Programming: Armed Violence Monitoring Systems, GDS, Geneva, 2011Google Scholar.

77 Natasha Singer, ‘Mission control, built for cities: IBM takes “smarter cities” concept to Rio de Janeiro’, in The New York Times, 3 March 2012.

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