The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Private Business Sector and Security in Conflict-Affected and High Risk Areas

Posted in Internal Conflicts and Human Security by NTSblog on October 6, 2010
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The United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s Outcome Document 2010 adopted at the conclusion of a High-Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emphasises the role of the private sector towards development, particularly, towards the MDGs. Similarly, at the RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, multi-level and multilateral approaches are seen as crucial to the mitigation and prevention of non-traditional conflict and violence.

The UN Global Compact is a policy initiative that networks to align businesses with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foundation in 2007 recognised the connection between good corporate social responsibility and social development for Southeast Asia, and the instrumental role of the UN Global Compact. At a Policy Roundtable Discussion on Civilian Protection, organised by the RSIS Centre for NTS  Studies on 9 February 2010, it was observed that corporate social responsibility is accepted within ASEAN’s socio-cultural pillar. It was identified that an extension is needed; the link between business and human rights should be supported by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), to address a regional concern over private security organisations capitalising on conflict situations to provide manpower and arms to the parties in conflict. Overall, introducing accountability of businesses in situations of conflict and violence will fill a significant gap in the protection of civilians.

In June 2010, Global Compact released a guidance note on ‘Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas: A Resource for Companies and Investors.’ The guidance note may be a vital resource for AICHR, but also for Southeast Asian countries experiencing intrastate instabilities, as often business investments in a country are deterred by such situations.

Generally, the guidance note is useful in exposing businesses to complex security situations and their inherent practical challenges, paving suggestions for risk mitigation strategies. It aims to complement the goals of maximising long term financial performance, with minimising risks and negative impacts on both the business and host communities, in four core areas; core business, government relations, local stakeholder engagement and strategic social investments. The guidance note includes an array of case studies, including from Asia, highlighting the issues, approaches taken and the result achieved in each.

It attempts to address the issues that tend to catalyse or sustain situations of violence and conflict; the hiring or consulting one group of local stakeholders whilst ignoring the rest, social investment projects inadvertently undermining the government’s role in providing basic services and the use of poorly trained private security forces which may use force leading to human rights abuses.

It seeks to enhance the role of private business sectors for its propensity to create; job opportunities, sustainable investments in cities and towns, and inclusive hiring policies that contribute to building good relations between ethnicities and communities, in areas with high-levels of, or are transitioning from situations of armed violence, political and social stability to peace, or experiencing abuses of human rights.

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