In 2005 the member states of the UN committed to preventing and stopping the mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. This commitment was formally called the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), and it clarified states' obligations under international law to stop and prevent these atrocities. Since the adoption of R2P, the majority of international policy and practice has focused on what state governments can do to operationalize this commitment. This book examines the role of the private sector as a potential ally in the prevention and cessation of mass atrocity crimes. Chapters review both specific cases where private sector actors, especially business associations and groups of businesses acting collectively, have worked to prevent and stop atrocity crimes. These businesses are motivated in some cases by a moral desire to prevent these crimes and in many cases by a strong economic motivation to prevent the disruption and economic impact of atrocity crimes. This book includes contributions by researchers focusing on how businesses can contribute to atrocity crimes and on how private sector actors can support the UN discussion around atrocity prevention.
Private sector actors can be motivated to engage positively and proactively in prevention, harm mitigation, and cessation of atrocity crimes. These actors can be motivated towards positive engagement by a variety of pressures ranging from moral and political opposition to atrocity through a cost-benefit analysis of the impact of atrocity crimes on their bottom line.
Private sector actors can positively engage in the whole spectrum of atrocity crimes, ranging from very early engagement with causes of tension and the identification of early warning signs, through direct diplomacy aimed at prevention of atrocity, to direct engagement with protection of civilians or support for the cessation of ongoing atrocities.
Some key sectors and actors that may be important for atrocity prevention include the telecommunications and extractive sectors, who are frequently associated with both causes of conflict and also contributors to peace or violence; and business associations and collective organizations who can help organize collective action among groups of companies.
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Written byDavid Poplack, Kelsey Coolidgeon May 9, 2016
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This policy brief is based on “The Role of Business in the Responsibility to Protect,” a chapter which appeared in The Responsibility to Protect and the Third Pillar: Legitimacy and Operationalization.