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Foreword by Kofi Annan
“Conflict-Sensitive Business Practice: Guidance for Extractive Industries," an International Alert publication
Businesses operate in conflict zones and conflict-prone countries around the world. If they make the wrong decisions on investment, employment, community relations, environmental protection and security arrangements, they can exacerbate the tensions that produce conflict. But if they make the right decisions, they can help a country turn its back on conflict, and move towards lasting peace.
Companies in the extractive industries are on the front lines. Time and again in recent years, the exploitation of natural resources such as oil, timber and diamonds has fuelled conflict and generated corruption, exacting a heavy toll in lives and undermining faith in public administration. All too often, local populations have been excluded from discussions about the control of natural resources, and have seen few or no tangible benefits from activities carried out in their communities. This leads to resentment, social discord and even violence.
Enlightened self-interest should steer businesses towards playing an active role in promoting transparency and accountability in managing the extraction and sale of natural resources. Increasingly, a company's reputation depends not only on what product or service it provides, but also on how it does so. By adopting a proactive approach, companies can reduce operational risks, promote stability, and improve relations with the communities in which they operate. Indeed, a company's ‘bottom-line' can no longer be separated from peace, development and the other goals of the United Nations.
This publication offers practical suggestions for companies in the extractive industries seeking to adopt a conflict-sensitive approach to their operations. It provides ideas for fostering better relationships with stakeholders. And it gives examples of good practices that I hope will serve as an inspiration to companies operating in violent or volatile environments. I welcome this contribution to the efforts of the United Nations to promote responsible corporate citizenship and universal principles, and I hope it reaches the wide global audience it deserves.