Tag Archives: peace

Profiles in Peace: The Role of Women in Global Peace and Security


Women are essential to peaceful, democratic development of their societies. As the UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka noted in a recent speech on the role of Syrian women in the peace process, “By including the perspectives of half the population, the path is paved for a society built on the principles of inclusion and justice.” In recent years, that fact has become more widely recognized, with many new local and international institutions and initiatives aimed at helping women achieve their full potential and participate on equal footing in the political, economic, and civic lives of their countries.

I was happy to see that Georgetown University, my alma mater, took active leadership in elevating the discussion and research on the importance of women for a more stable, peaceful and just world through the creation of the Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS). The establishment of the Institute was announced by Georgetown’s President John J. DeGioia and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Georgetown on December 19, 2011 when the Secretary unveiled the United States’ National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

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Eat your chocolate and strengthen democracy too

(Photo: Sarah Gerrity/Sweetsonian.com)

Conflict chocolate is nothing new. West African countries produce seventy percent of raw cocoa worldwide, led by conflict-ridden Cote d’Ivoire and its 1.3 million tons of annual production. But new efforts to curb illicit flows of cash could be the first steps toward limiting the ability to support violent conflict with funds from trading in valuable commodities such as cocoa.

A 2007 Global Witness Report illuminated the primary structures used to siphon off cocoa trade revenues to fund violent conflict in Cote d’Ivoire. Besides paying for more guns and bullets, the abuse of these funds also means fewer dollars going to cocoa farmers and less trust in public institutions.

According to that report, the national Cocoa and Financial institutions created under former President Laurent Gbagbo to centralize cocoa sales and exports offered $20.3 million in direct support for war efforts on top of export revenues that Gbagbo’s Government tapped for $38.5 million more in arms purchases between 2004 and 2007; meanwhile the opposition Forces Nouvelles movement simply seized control of cocoa export tax revenues over part of the country’s cocoa producing region, bringing them $30 million between 2004 and 2007.

Plenty of those dollars are just a few degrees of separation from the wallets of consumers in the United States and Europe. But there’s a bigger picture here than the consequences of self-indulgence.

While Global Witness and its supporters aimed to convince the global cocoa industry to be more transparent and to avoid funding conflict through its raw cocoa purchasing, the report did not address the issue of how governments and opposition movements manage to store and exchange such large sums of money for purchasing large volumes of small arms on the black (and gray) market.

As financial systems have become increasingly globalized and the technology to manage them has shrunken to the point where you can fit gigabytes upon gigabytes of data onto servers into a closet with an internet connection, it has never been easier to store and exchange money safely and in large volumes.

Such ease has been a powerful force for extending greater global economic opportunity to an unprecedented percentage of world population. Unfortunately, some of that opportunity has been in illicit trading of small arms – along with drugs, endangered animal species, counterfeit goods, and human beings, all vividly documented in Moises Naim’s Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy.

Washington, D.C.-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has emerged over the past few years as the leading voice on the topic of illicit financial flows – the use of tax havens, legal loopholes, transfer mis-pricing, secret bank accounts and other tools to store and transfer large volumes of money. The vast majority of illicit financial flows comes from multinational corporations trying to reduce or eliminate tax obligations in developing country jurisdictions with typically low tax collection infrastructure. But governments, opposition movements, criminals and violent outfits of all types use many of the same tools to store stolen or siphoned funds and to pay small arms dealers. It’s much safer than carrying briefcases full of cash around war zones.

GFI is the lead member of the Task Force on Financial Integrity & Economic Development, a global coalition of civil society organizations and over 50 governments working together to reduce illicit financial flows and raise awareness of their effects–perpetuating armed conflict, hobbling economies, and eroding democratic governance in places like Cote d’Ivoire, to list a few. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund recently announced their own internal efforts targeting illicit financial flows in one form or another. If successful, these efforts alongside countries coordinating on financial transparency across borders would help to curb or even eliminate the ability to store and transfer funds for destructive purposes.

By promoting financial transparency, you can eat your chocolate and help strengthen peace, prosperity, and democracy too.

Urgency and Legitimacy in Post-Conflict Countries

Wade Channell shares great insights on reconstructing legal structures for lasting success in his new essay, “Urgency and Legitimacy: Tensions in Rebuilding the Legal Structure for Business in Post-Conflict Countries.”

“Urgent lawmaking is not the same as urgent building projects…  Normally, laws derive from the surrounding culture and power dynamics, with strong historical underpinnings as well. Unlike a machine in which parts can simply be exchanged, the legal system is dynamic, much more akin to a human body in which parts cannot simply be exchanged because of the complexity of factors involved in the transplant… The primary victim of urgent lawmaking is legitimacy.”

Mr. Channell calls for a voice for business in post-conflict reforms in order to foster legitimate economic reforms that address urgent business priorities while building long-term stability. The essay was published by USAID’s BizCLIR (Business Climate Legal & Institutional Reform).

Peace Through Commerce eConference

This eConference will explore the contribution that responsible business and economic development can make towards building peace. Watch the video presentations–including a presentation by John D. Sullivan, Executive Director of CIPE — and join the world-wide discussion with international experts. The eConference is hosted by the World Bank Institute and the Institute for Corporate Responsibility at George Washington University.

From Monday, April 13, throughout the week I will be moderating a session on “New Research on Development, Freedom, and Peace.” Feel free to dive into the online discussion! Register at www.peace.businessfightspoverty.org.

Read my earlier blog on Peace Through Commerce.  Let me add another item of related interest. The Israeli-Palestinian Business Forum (IPBF) has published a Guide to Investment, Trade, and Cross-Border Business between Israel and Palestine. Written in Hebrew and Arabic, this groundbreaking guide assists Israeli, Palestinian, and international businesspeople, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to overcome the challenges of moving goods and labor both within the Palestinian Territories and into Israel. IPBF is confident that the guide will further peace efforts and promote economic development in the Palestinian Territories by increasing interdependence between the two national economies and strengthening relationships between Israeli and Palestinian business leaders. Learn more in the CIPE Overseas Report (Winter 2009 issue).

Commerce and the power of disco

Communication. Community. Commerce. These words share ancient Latin linguistic roots, and they all indicate some sort of coming together. War has been described variously as a breakdown of one or all of them.  The mainstream media typically portray the Middle East as a desert of war, but scattered here and there is an oasis that defies that portrayal.

The Sinai Peninsula, where the Hebrews fled from Pharaoh and where Bedouin tribes have herded goat for millennia, is one of these oases.

After his encounter with the monks here, he issued an oath of protection for “the Monks of Mount Sinai, and … Christians in general,” a handwritten copy of which [is kept] in the ancient library. Muhammad decreed that “whenever any one of the monks in his travels shall happen to settle upon any mountain, hill, village, or other habitable place, on the sea, or in deserts, or in any convent, church, or house of prayer, I shall be in the midst of them.” (Read the complete article from National Geographic)

Bringing together Christian, Muslim, Jew and Bedouin, the Sinai offers an example of building peace through commerce. It is not perfect. Tensions exist between factions and acts of violence still happen; but here violence is not the rule, it is the exception.

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Peace Through Commerce

Can business and trade contribute to peace? And how? These were the topics of a conference this past week hosted by George Washington University’s Institute for Corporate Responsibility.

The conference explored numerous direct and indirect connections between commerce and peace, including economic development, corporate social responsibility, stakeholder relations, public-private partnerships, and women’s entrepreneurship.

CIPE Executive Director John Sullivan shared how the Kenya Association of Manufacturers helped broker a power-sharing deal to diffuse violence following Kenya’s 2008 election. He also told how property rights and regulatory reforms in Peru expanded opportunities for the poor and undermined support for the violent Shining Path movement.

Michael Strong, CEO of FLOW, commented on the importance of economic freedom for the poor as well as entrepreneurship in promoting peace. He described how greater employment and reduced disparities in Northern Ireland made possible peace among Protestants and Catholics. Learn more about Peace Through Commerce.