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Post-conflict in Colombia (2). Beyond the money

Both Colombian and international experiences show that, beyond increased revenue, the economic initiatives effectively contributing to peace bring about real change in the dynamics and narratives surrounding the conflict. Español. Português.

Angela Rivas Gamboa
23 December 2015
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March in Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain. Flickr. Some rights reserved.

It is often thought that the contribution that companies can make to peace-building is limited to their economic capacity. Accordingly, efforts to find out how they can link to peace initiatives tend to focus on their financial contribution to cover the costs of post-conflict, developing income generation opportunities for veterans and victims, or even financing initiatives developed by third parties. However, there is a world of possibilities for companies to contribute to lasting peace that go far beyond monetary contributions. In many cases, in fact, the most significant contribution companies can make to sustainable peace is not monetary.

There is no doubt that companies will play a leading role in the post-conflict and peace economy. I would like to draw attention to this role both in the political economy of peace and the transformation of the local realities closely linked to the conflict, and in the reconstruction of community ties and social capital. In this sense, the Foundation Ideas for Peace - FIP has been working on the definition of a business agenda which takes into consideration the following six dimensions:

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FIP, Opportunity for Peace 2015 p. 49

These dimensions and the lines below are a call to reflect on the role of business in peace-building from the perspective of transforming realities, contexts, relationships, skills and narratives. Since it is not possible to go into much detail about them here, we shall focus on what we have called ventures for peace. The reason being that this is the dimension that may be more often associated with purely monetary issues and that to delve into it helps to understand our proposal to think of companies and peace beyond money - or, even, in spite of it.

There are several examples of initiatives involving companies that create employment or business opportunities aimed at contributing to peace-building. It is important to note first that many of these initiatives have focused on providing veterans with legal income generation opportunities – which means that, in fact, these initiatives belong more to a peace-keeping rather than a peace-building strategy.  Their contribution is geared more to preventing the triggering of new cycles of violence, rather than to transforming the dynamics that have fueled the conflict. A second observation is that several of these initiatives have focused on purely economic aspects, ignoring the potential impact of productive projects in transforming local realities beyond income generation for the affected population. It is precisely to overcome these aspects that we have chosen to discuss venture projects for peace.

What qualifies as a venture for peace? Is it enough for it to include employment opportunities for vulnerable groups resulting from the conflict? Is it enough for it to develop a productive project involving these groups or located in a context affected by the armed conflict? A venture for peace is not limited to the population group or the context, though these two elements are certainly important. Another key element is needed:  its transformative capacity in terms of dynamics, conditions and realities that have resulted from the conflict or have made it possible.

A number of experiences in the world exhibit this kind of commitment. One example is the productive projects promoted by several organizations in former Yugoslavia which, in addition to creating economic opportunities, were able to generate inter-ethnic reconciliation processes. [1] Although less known, some experiences in Colombia show how local dynamics can be transformed through social investment schemes and productive projects that go beyond the concern for income generation or the search for economic opportunities. Examples of this can be found in areas such as the Department of Antioquia, which was the epicenter of a massive population displacement, and is witnessing today their return under precarious social capital conditions and cracked community ties.[2]

Both Colombian and international experiences show that, in effect, beyond the quantifying of increased revenue, the economic initiatives that effectively contribute to peace bring about real change in the dynamics and narratives surrounding the conflict.


[1] Ver entre otros Banfield Jessica et.al (ed.)  Local Business Local Peace. The peacebuilding potential of the domestic private sector International Alert 2006

[2] Ver entre otros Tiendas de paz: un proyecto que incentiva el retorno de desplazados a sus tierras Revista Semana  26 de abril de 2012 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/tiendas-paz-proyecto-incentiva-retorno-desplazados-tierras/257068-3 

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