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Scoping private sector engagement in conflict prevention and peacebuilding: Lessons from the literature


Lidet Tadesse Shiferaw, ECDPM paper, 23 November 2020

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There is growing interest in the role of the private sector’s contribution to conflict prevention and peacebuilding (CPPB). Though the private sector’s contributions to economic development, infrastructure development, innovation, and the supply of goods and services are well recognised, there are critical questions around the ‘privatisation’ of development and peacebuilding while the government is the primary duty-bearer for development and security.

This paper analyses the literature on private sector engagement in conflict prevention and peacebuilding to identify when and how the private sector can engage with the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). The study finds that the private sector can contribute to CPBB in three ways: i) ensuring that it is not doing harm or exacerbating conflict; ii) enabling an environment for peace through, for instance, economic and social development, and iii) engaging directly with processes such as mediation and reconciliation. There are, however, questions around whether and how much the private sector should engage in the latter activities.

When considered a legitimate actor, the private sector’s networks, convening power and detachment from diplomatic decorum place it at a unique position to contribute to mediation, reconciliation and similar processes. However, in what ways, when and whether the private sector should be involved in these political processes should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to its legitimacy, value added, and the nature of the conflict at hand. The AU is currently working to engage the private sector in APSA operations, most notably to mobilise funds for the African Peace Fund. This study finds that conflict early warning and response and (post-)conflict recovery and development could also be potential entry points for the private sector to engage in the APSA.

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Security and resilienceDiscussion Papers (series)African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA)Africa