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Corporate responsibility in conflict areas

Businesses and investors are increasingly expanding operations in new countries as the globalisation evolves and integrates new markets – often in conflict-affected areas. Investments in these regions could be a vital stimulus for growth and development, helping pave the way for democratic development in the long term. However, when decisions are based on insufficient or inaccurate information, businesses can also have a negative impact and fuel conflict.

The Ruggie principles

One of the challenges that the business community is facing arises from growing expectations over corporate responsibility, and the complexity of relevant international standards and tools. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘the Ruggie principles’) from 2011 provide much-needed clarity on the scope of corporate responsibility in relation to human rights, including in conflict-affected and high-risk areas.

Tools are needed to assess entire processes

To address the issue of how this can be translated into corporate decisions and practice, many tools are developed by multilateral organizations, non-governmental, governmental organizations and corporations. Despite their differences, most tools aim to assist corporations in identifying, preventing and mitigating potential human rights risks. Tools need to be selected and adapted to each sector, country and unique set of stakeholders. They should be used at various points, both in early stages of start-up and planning as well as merger and acquisition and expansion.

Commercial Conflict Dependent Actors (CCDA)

During 2012-2013 Diakonia (lead agency), the Church of Sweden, the School of Global Studies and the School of Business, Economics and Law of Gothenburg University collaborated on a joint project to develop concepts aa well as to promote methods and tools to support and encourage the corporate sector to avoid reinforcing negative impact on conflict but rather strengthen positive impact. The project was called the CCDA project (Commercial Conflict Dependent Actors) and culminated with a conference where actors from civil society, corporations and investment companies gathered to discuss the results of the project and the issue regarding conflict dependent actors.

Involvement of partner organizations, corporations, states and development actors

A steering group (partner organizations) and a reference group, gathering expertise from a variety of different perspectives from the private sector, development organizations and academia, supported the project to ensure the overall focus and outputs remained relevant. The primary target group was the Swedish corporate sector, but other national and international corporations, states and development actors were also part of the target group. The project was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and ended in December 2013. The project website (www.ccda.se) will remain available for public viewing until 2015.