Want to find a growth industry? Look no further than the peace business. Not only has it been enormously successful over the past two decades, but demand may well soon skyrocket. The reason for this explosion is simple – with a burgeoning world population and ever increasing demands for earths’ resources, companies, governments and communities will expend greater efforts negotiating the conditions in which resources are exploited.
Before focusing on the emerging demands for peace work in the resource sector let me address the success of peacebuilding. It is demonstrably true that the number of conflict related fatalities has been declining since the mid 1990’s, that’s even taking into account both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Andrew Mack, of Simon Fraser University, claims in Human Security Report 2009/2010:
The long-term decline in international conflict numbers has been associated with a much greater decline in battle-death tolls. In the new millennium, the average international conflict killed some 90 percent fewer people a year than the average conflict in the 1950s. The overall decline in global battle-death numbers has been driven in large part by the decline in international wars––generally the deadliest form of conflict—but also because extensive involvement by the major powers in civil wars has become less common.
Mack notes a number of reasons explaining this decline, but one notable change popped out at me; increased international activism and associated peacebuilding. One of the reasons why there is less violent conflict today is because people skilled in making peace are increasing in number and practicing their skills around the globe. Gareth Evans, former Australian foreign minister and one time head of the International Crisis Group, said in a recent address at the Preventing Violent Conflict conference held at the United States Institute of Peace:
…to those of us who have been devoting large chunks of our professional and personal lives to preventing and resolving deadly conflict my final message is clear, simple and I hope encouraging: we are not all wasting our time.
While violent conflict – war – is on the decline; other sources of conflict loom ever larger. Paul Gilding’s Great Disruption aptly captures the problem when he writes, “the earth is full.” Unimpeded increases in consumption not just in the developed world, but also in the developing world, mean that there grows an ever widening race to capture and exploit earth’s resources. This brings about more intense competition for land, and a greater threat of people being dispossessed of their homes. In short, it is a recipe for disaster.
It also provides the grounds for an explosion of violent conflict if left unaddressed.
Fortunately, there are people experienced in helping communities negotiate their way through the choppy waters of change. There are already a cadre of people who work in the resources industry and help negotiate the way forward for communities, governments and corporations to share resources. They do not simply smooth the way for businesses to gather resources, rather they help balance the many contending interests and needs.
Moving forward has some difficulties. Main amongst them remains convincing stakeholders –companies, governments and communities – that they need to utilize peacemakers. Increasingly stakeholders can and do prevent the wanton destruction of resources. The days of unfettered resource exploitation may be numbered. On a June 9, 2011 NPR Morning Edition story Luis Mariano Rendon, a Chilean environmentalist put it best: “Pressure on natural resources is only going to increase. And it’s going to require democratic processes that ensure that those natural resources are exploited in a way that’s reasonable and sensible — and benefits local people.”
Involving business in conflict resolution has always been tricky. The need, however, has never been greater. The shared interest of creating value links communities, companies and governments. By value I do not mean the limited dollars and cents version. Rather, by value I mean creating something of more of worth, something desired. Clean water, rich forests, and trust are all things of value.