Bringing human security to the private sector: how to build better partnerships
The ambition that business will contribute actively to building peaceful and resilient societies has been explicitly articulated in Goals 16 & 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. Multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) between the public sector, business and civil society are seen as the means for companies to engage in achieving durable security and development with equity, and as such are the ‘new norm’ for international development particularly in fragile and conflict settings.
But how do you get diverse groups to work together, particularly when there are legacies of mistrust and confrontation and the different actors do not share a common language for co-operation?
The UN Business and Human Security Initiative works to encourage collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnerships involving the private sector at local level on the basis that such alliances are an essential means to build sustainable development, improve social cohesion, and mitigate vulnerability, in order to counter violence and poverty.
HSBPs work by identifying common ground between partners, by mutualizing the risks that each partner faces, and providing spaces and opportunities to create beneficial outcomes for all.
The programme has developed an innovative model of Human Security Business Partnership (HSBP) to structure engagements between community, business and other key stakeholders and ensure that they sustain over the long-term. The aim is that such partnerships based on inclusivity and participation, in which local people have an equal voice in decisions, will help communities transition from conflict and poverty and ensure that partners assume a shared responsibility for shaping the future of local societies.
The HSBP Framework offers companies, government, civil society and communities guidance on how to work together based on a set of principles, processes and tools that they agree and implement. It brings together an idea of ‘better partnering’ with the ideas and methodology of the human security approach, applied for the first time to the private sector. HSBPs work by identifying common ground between partners, by mutualizing the risks that each partner faces, and providing spaces and opportunities to create beneficial outcomes for all.
Human security partnerships are intended to complement and add value to global norms and frameworks on private sector impacts such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. By focusing explicitly on the challenges that communities and companies encounter locally, the HSBP model adds a new dimension in terms of encouraging contextually relevant and results-based outcomes. HSBPs provide a forum for companies to go beyond Corporate Social Responsibility and traditional stakeholder engagement processes. They can help change the terms of the conversation between business and communities and shape the strategies that will ensure the long-term success of the SDG agenda.
Partnerships can work in different settings, from fragile contexts of development where business and community agendas are frequently at odds, to conflict and crisis-affected societies facing an overwhelming need to rebuild governance, development and security.
The first application of the HSBP Framework is currently taking place in five municipalities in Colombia in a pilot project to support communities’ capacities to dialogue with the private sector as an integral component of the country’s peace process.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Mary Martin, Director of UN Business and Human Security Initiative, LSE Ideas
Mary Martin is a Senior Policy Fellow at the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and
Director of the UN Business and Human Security Initiative at LSE IDEAS, the
LSE’s foreign policy think-tank. The Initiative aims to develop innovative
models of multi-stakeholder partnership between the private sector,
governments and civil society to address resilience and achievement of the
Sustainable Development Goals in post-conflict and post-crisis spaces. She is
currently working with the private sector to contribute to implementation of the 2016 Colombian peace process, and to the post-conflict transition in Liberia. She was previously Director of Communications and Research for Human Security at LSE Global Governance, and from 2006–2010, co-ordinator of the Human Security Study Group, which reports to the High Representative of the European Union. Her forthcoming book is ‘Corporate Peace. How global business shapes a hostile world’. She led the LSE contribution to the EU Horizon 2020 project ‘Whole of Society Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding (WOSCAP) from 2015–2018. Her research interests include the role of corporations in conflict prevention, private security in the international system, local ownership of peacebuilding and changing concepts of security.