Secretary Kerry Listens to Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh Speak During UN Security Council Meeting About Iraq U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, serving as President of the United Nations Security Council, listens to Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh speak during a session focused on Iraq in New York City on September 19, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain] Secretary Kerry Listens to Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh Speak During UN Security Council Meeting About Iraq U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, serving as President of the United Nations Security Council, listens to Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh speak during a session focused on Iraq in New York City on September 19, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Towards a UN Security Council Resolution on Including Business in Peace: Is it time?


April 2022



Calls for businesses or the private sector to be included in conflict prevention and peacebuilding remain very much on the margins of United Nations (UN) discourse and have yet to penetrate the narrower, more political and politicised – and, indeed, practical – realm of peace mediation. This blog explores the steps required to enable the UN peace and security architecture to engage more meaningfully with business actors in countries in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.



The role of business actors has made front-page news in recent weeks following the Russia-led invasion of Ukraine. There has been elaborate discussions on whether Russia-based businesses should stay or go, with majors from the aviation, automobile, tech, energy, finance and consulting sectors pulling out;  the UK, the EU and the US have imposed far-reaching financial and economic sanctions on oligarchs, businesses, investments and trade, calling them “unprecedented”; and, many CEOs have lamented the suffering in Ukraine and many have come together to advocate for peace.

These events have underscored the fact that business actors have the potential to play an important role in conflict management, and the majority have an interest in peace. And yet, engaging with business actors in peace, security and stability is an under-explored area for the international community as a whole, and for the UN in particular. The lack of engagement with business actors is not only a missed opportunity but may be actively undermining prospects for sustainable peace.


The absence of business actors from the UN Peace & Security Architecture

Key stakeholders engaged in UN Peace Operations, regardless of whether they sit in HQ or in the field, tend to exhibit a blind-spot when it comes to business actors – irrespective of whether the business actor in question is public/private, licit/illicit, formal/informal, local/international. Consequently, whether business actors play negative or positive roles with regards to peace, they are not taken into consideration, leveraged, marginalised, engaged or supported appropriately in the prevention of conflict and the pursuit of peace.

For example: whilst the discourse on inclusion – which ‘took off’ following UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in 2000 but has been applied to other actors – is based on the recognition that all ‘relevant’ actors must be included in efforts to foster sustainable political settlements, this has not translated into the inclusion of business actors in the mandates, policies or practices of the UN Peace Operations.

The imperative to ‘include’ civil society actors, women, youth, spoilers, non-state armed groups (NSAGs) and, in some circumstances, terrorist groups, has given rise to a plethora of policy guidance and an ‘industry’ of non-UN peace-related actors on hand to provide support to reach these objectives. And, even if such engagement remains challenging, problematic and, in some cases, superficial in nature, the aspiration is there: recognised, acknowledged, codified, a work in progress.

Business actors, on the other hand, do not feature in the discourse on inclusion. There are no academic articles linking the inclusion of business actors to the sustainability of peace agreements; there are no protocols, conventions or declarations that advocate as such; there are no Security Council resolutions on business, peace and security1; no Oslo forums dedicated to the topic; no UN guidance notes or internal briefings or protocols, no UN Staff college trainings or leaders advocating for business actors to be ‘included’ in any peace-related processes.

Interestingly, the business case for peace is relatively strong: there are diverse frameworks, policy guidelines and trainings that seek to support the notion that business actors operating in countries in conflict should not only ‘do no harm’ and, where possible, also ‘do good’. The peace case for business, however, is comparatively weak and has yet to translate into any meaningful change on the ground.

As a result, whilst business actors are increasingly expected to incorporate ‘peace’ into their operations (albeit with varying degrees of success), actors from the peace and security architecture are not required to incorporate business actors into theirs – even though business actors may be actively hampering, or may be well positioned to ameliorate, the achievement of peace-related mandates2.

Indeed, while the normative framework for business and human rights is relatively comprehensive – including the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – which focus on the responsibilities of business in conflict-affected regions – the absence of business actors from the work of the peace and security architecture is both glaring, and a huge missed opportunity for peace.


Towards a UN Security Council Resolution on including business in peace?

It is becoming increasingly urgent to put these ideas into practice following a simple set of action lines:

  1. Comprehensive: Any efforts to create a normative framework must involve key parts of the UN System, including the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the UN Department of Peace Operations, the UN Peacebuilding Commission, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Development Programme, as well as other more specialised Departments, Agencies, Funds and Programmes as and where relevant. Only this more comprehensive approach which engages the whole System is likely to be effective.
  1. Bottom-up: Given the lack of experience of the UN System of including business in peace, any efforts to foster such capacity must be ‘bottom up’ i.e. they should start with providing support to UN Missions and in non-mission settings in a diversity of contexts – through support to Special Envoys and Representatives, UN Resident Coordinators, Humanitarian Coordinators and key focal points such as Peace and Development Advisors (PDAs) and Human Rights Advisors (HRAs). By providing support to these entities on the ground, it will be possible for the UN System to ‘learn by doing’ – thereby creating a body of knowledge that comes directly from the country level, rather than imposing from ‘above’ in the form of policies that may appear, at first sight, distant from the country realities.
  1. Beyond human rights: Any efforts to include business in peace must include but also move beyond human rights-related issues to include the full spectrum of peace and conflict-related matters. This means acknowledging and grappling with the fact that business actors have both negative and potential positive impacts on both people and on conflict contexts. Business engagements are never neutral: they can both exacerbate existing conflict fault-lines or create new conflicts, but they can also serve as vectors for peace and provide a vital lifeline for communities in conflict contexts.
  1. Based on a business actors as businesses: ‘Including business in peace’ must move beyond the simplistic notion that business actors must have a ‘seat at the table’ or serve as mediators; that said, it goes without saying that these opportunities should be exploited when they arise and make sense. But, more importantly, UN peace operations must be designed in a manner that considers the roles that business actors play – through their operations, their supply and value chains – in the elaboration of peace-related strategies at national and local levels.
  1. Based on political economy analysis: The work of UN peace operations must be grounded in a political economy analysis which includes the role of business actors – licit and illicit – as an integral and vital part of that analysis. Understanding the relationship between business actors and their operations, supply and value chains with the conflict actors, the conflict drivers as well as the potential for peace must be the driving force of the analysis.
  1. Integrate a business lens into pre-existing frameworks: The UN would benefit from an internal policy framework or protocol on including business in peace, to be adopted and followed by all entities operating in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. When it comes to operational matters, however, rather than creating new frameworks specific to business actors (which may increase rather than reduce the ‘fragmented’ ways in which business actors are addressed – to the extent that they are addressed at all) it would be more fruitful to revise existing frameworks and tools to include a business lens.
  1. UN Security Council Resolution on including business in peace: The lack of a normative framework on business and peace is leading to sub-optimal outcomes: a UN Security Council Resolution on including business in peace would greatly assist with providing that normative framework. Such a resolution would help ensure that future UN discussions and mandates are more likely to reference the need to include business actors in efforts to secure and sustain peace. An Arria formula meeting would be a useful entry-point, with a view to raising awareness about the importance of this topic.