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Business, conflict and peace, a quick Q&A with Andrea Iff at swisspeace

Andrea Iff

I recently met Andrea Iff, head of business and peace at swisspeace, at a conference in London.

I was intrigued by her job title, and the work her outfit does with business.

So I sent her a few questions and she sent some brief responses.

This Q&A is shorter than the usual but definitely worth a read.

As I mentioned in a previous recent post, community issues, licence to operate, climate change, they are all connected and effected by human relationships. Peace building, peace making and stability are all part of the mix. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

TW: What does swisspeace do?

AI: The Swiss Peace Foundation swisspeace is a practice-oriented peace research institute.

We analyse the causes of violent conflicts and develop strategies for their peaceful transformation.

TW: I have never met anyone whose job title is head of business and peace. What has business to do with peace? 

AI: After conflict, all sectors of a society need to engage in re-establishing sustainable peace, not only development agencies and governments, but also the private sector.

Due to the inherently political nature of the distribution of revenues, jobs, services – as well as benefits and associated costs – the private sector interacts strongly with peace and conflict dynamics.

TW: Lots of companies do business in fragile states. Where do they start if they want to think harder about making a positive impact in those countries?

AI: Most of them do not yet think about positive impact but are still concerned with trying not to have a negative impact, meaning not to trigger or worsen latent conflicts.

One area which can have significant impacts on key drivers of peace and conflict (i.e. poverty and economic disparities) is job creation.

TW: Should companies deliberately do business in countries run by dictatorships or in undemocratic states, on the basis that good, operations, policies, processes, lobbying and partnerships can make a positive difference?

AI: This is a case to case decision which depends also on the political economy of a particular sector or the kind of business in a given country.

If companies do, it is important to do their ‘enhanced’ due diligence and ask questions like: What kind of spill-over effects and linkages can be created with the local economy?

Who are the suppliers and local partners and how are they selected?

And finally, how do we work with government agencies?

TW: Which companies would you say take the most progressive positions on how business is connected with peace, or in fragile states?

AI: Businesses have yet no interest to be connected to neither conflict nor peace. While the extractive industries are the ones that are most often confronted with these issues and have developed guidelines on conflict-sensitivity, there are no studies to what extent these are known, understood or implemented.

Often, companies do not need to do more, but do things differently.


Here’s a few relevant upcoming meetings for readers interested in the above:

How to effectively engage stakeholders in frontier markets (emerging markets)
An exclusive two-day executive training workshop, certified by the CSR Training Institute
30-31 October, 2014, London. More details here.

Business and human rights
How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships
10 November, 2014, London. More details here.

How business can tackle deforestation

Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends (sponsored by Robertsbridge
28th-29th October, 2014, London. More details here.