During the Geneva Peace Week in November, we organised a substantive session at the United Nations exploring the importance of business for peace and the minimum conditions required for economic development.
The panel was composed of high level representatives of UNHCR Made51, Waterpreneurs, the International Federation of Asian & Western Pacific Contractors Associations and Corridors for Peace and moderated by myself as the Director of the Geneva Academy for Peace & Mediation. The diverse panelists were representatives from large umbrella organisations to grassroots NGO’s.
Throughout the session we explored the necessary environment to have successful enterprises. We asked ourselves the question of what is needed first, peace to have economic growth – or – economic growth to have peace.
In recent studies the International Peace Institute, especially its research on the 8 pillars of positive peace on which we based the session, came to the conclusion that sustainable peace needs a stable climate that can simultaneously prevent the outbreak of violent conflict and proactively foster peaceful societies.
Entrepreneurship is not only critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 on decent work and economic growth, but also leads toward the twin goals of prosperity and peace.
Vocational training, co-creation, innovation and economic development bring the economic focus to a region. Thus, entrepreneurship is a cornerstone to the development of a vibrant local private sector, which, in addition to creating jobs, economic opportunities and sustainable living conditions, helps to diffuse potential conflict situations. Entrepreneurs, keen to protect their businesses from the instability brought on by violence, can be convincing peace brokers. In case of a post-conflict situation or of a major refugee challenge, entrepreneurship brings a source of income and eventually helps to reconstruct a region giving a ‘raison d’être’ and dignity to people.
What new understandings emerged during our session?
Businesses, especially in its innovative form, is an essential link for peace. One of the basic conditions to succeed as an entrepreneur is political and economic stability. High unemployment can create social unrest and often results in internal and external conflicts that are doomed to escalate. Focusing on best practices in Africa, Middle East and Asia where micro-enterprises lift people out of poverty and grow into Small/Medium Enterprises (SME’s) contributing to overall economic growth in an area, we explored the commonalities of these programmes as vectors of peace.
The conclusions that emerged from our discussion were that both are interlinked and dependent on each other. We came to the understanding that a number of conditions need to be addressed to inspire new economic vitality by providing firms with a suitable environment. A key point identified was the tripartite involvement of beneficiaries to community leaders to government officials to create positive buy-in by all parties. Furthermore, adequate training and education is a high priority as well as combating corruption which is a vector of instability.
The two images (8 pillars of positive peace of IEP and the notes of our discussion) clearly show the need for governance and the environment needed for peace and prosperity.
THE POSITIVE INFLUENCE OF PEACE ON BUSINESS –
THE 8 PILLARS OF POSITIVE PEACE
The panel and the audience came to the clear conclusion that irrespective of the size or the type of business the challenges and conditions the same.
1. Job creation is the best antidote to war and entrepreneurship is a powerful tool for creating jobs
2. Work improves integration and gives dignity to people
3. Micro enterprises have a positive ripple effect in the community
4. Large business should lead by ethical business practices to ensure that money flows back to society to foster prosperity and peace.
Sibylle Rupprecht – Director, Geneva Academy for Peace & Mediation
Session organized by the Geneva Academy for Peace & Mediation on 8 November 2019 at the UN