LSE IDEAS is LSE’s foreign policy think tank. We connect academic knowledge of diplomacy and strategy with the people who use it through our projects, publications, events, and executive education.
Follow us on Twitter: @lseideas
The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and not LSE IDEAS.
Recognising the value of the human security approach for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in 2017 the United Nations Human Security Unit (HSU) invited LSE IDEAS to develop a programme to promote and elaborate the application of human security to enable more effective engagement of the global private sector, particularly transnational companies, with sustainable development. Through this novel and innovative application of human security, the programme aims to enhance collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnership between private sector actors, governments, and civil society to build resilient societies, improve social cohesion, and mitigate vulnerability in the spirit of the 2030 Agenda and towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The programme, which is supported by the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS), builds on the Fund’s work since 1999 in translating the human security approach into practical actions to provide concrete and sustainable benefits to improve the lives and livelihoods of people faced with complex and multidimensional situations of insecurity. The UN Business and Human Security Initiative applies the ideas and methodology of the human security approach for the first time to the private sector. To this end, the programme will build on the experience of the HSU in encouraging and managing creative, collaborative, and people-centred programmes across the globe. It will complement and add value to existing norms and frameworks on private sector participation in development and peacebuilding, while adding a significant dimension in terms of developing a contextually relevant and results-based framework for the advancement of the SDGs. And it will provide a forum to engage business, policymakers, academics, and civil society in considering partnership strategies to achieve the long-term success of the SDGs that leave no one behind.
The proposals in this report for a Framework of Human Security Business Partnership (HSBP) represent the first step in forging the practical connection between human security and business. Building on the principles that underpin the human security approach, the report provides an important launching pad for developing constructive engagement between the private sector, national and local government, and other development and peacebuilding actors to promote comprehensive and coordinated efforts that emphasise the protection and empowerment of local communities. This first instalment focuses on fragile and conflict-affected contexts, with further editions to explore the HSBP’s application to a range of complex situations of vulnerability, including environmental degradation and forced displacement. Together with LSE IDEAS, we hope that this report will inspire continuing discussions and result in practical options for business and community engagement towards the 2030 Agenda, which are both realistic and transformative.
Business has a unique role to play as employer, investor, or contractor in societies facing challenges of development and transition from various forms of complex challenges. States, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have traditionally taken the lead in initiatives to achieve sustainable development with security. Yet it is increasingly recognised that companies can bring not only capital, but also skills, standards, logistics, and innovation, with the potential for positive impacts on economic opportunity and social equality, improved governance, and the sustainable use of the natural environment. Nowhere are the opportunities for business to shape change more critical than at the local level, helping individuals, families, and communities to improve their lives and their futures on a daily basis and gain trust in the critical contributions of the private sector.
This report is aimed at encouraging the private sector to realise this positive potential and to pursue an agenda which builds on but also goes beyond human rights due diligence and existing practices of corporate social responsibility, in order to engage more effectively and profitably at the local level. It calls on policymakers and civil society to work with business in novel ways to complement existing dialogues on business and human rights and achieve the ambitions of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report presents proposals for a new model of collaborative partnering, based on increasing mutual understandings and implementing shared goals, commitments, and responsibilities between international companies and local people.
This model which we call the Human Security Business Partnership (HSBP) Framework is a practical proposal on how to reset often problematic and confrontational relationships between the private sector, local communities, government, and civil society. The approach is based on better partnering and use of the concept and methodology of human security. The HSBP Framework recognises that companies, communities, and governments have common interests in mitigating threats which affect them, but that translating this commonality into concrete benefits requires changes in attitudes, understanding, and practices of cooperation. The aim of the Framework is to enable these stakeholders to identify and achieve mutual gains and sustainable impacts, and undertake collective actions which can deliver effective and tangible improvements to the local environment in which they live and work.
The value-added of human security is in highlighting the comprehensive nature of threats to everyday life, and how different forms of risk and vulnerability, including business risk, are interconnected. By providing a lens for understanding local context, and a methodology for developing integrated and inclusive responses to local challenges, human security offers the private sector a new way of responding to complex situations, and for working alongside other local stakeholders. The approach is at the heart of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the SDGs. The HSBP Framework seeks to complement and strengthen existing norms and frameworks on business and human rights, corporate responsibility, and social investment. It is a practical contribution to the challenges of bridging between investment and commerce on the one hand, and development, empowerment, and stability on the other. It seeks to ensure that business is part of not only global initiatives, but also local efforts to bring about positive change towards people, profits and peace as anchored in the promise of the SDGs.
Ten years ago, two events occurred which shifted public attitudes to the increasing power of private companies in the global economy. The collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008 triggered a financial meltdown across the western world, a debt crisis, and a recession regarded as the worst since the 1930s. Bailouts and emergency action by central banks attempted to offset the peril to the global economy. The near collapse of the international financial system was blamed on market excesses; a combination of too much borrowing and risky investments with failures of regulation, corporate governance, and ethics. Corporate greed ran like a toxic thread through the landscape of bank collapses, fuelling public resentment at managers who caused public turmoil yet often walked away materially unscathed themselves.
Critics of global governance look back not just on the 2008 crisis, but also on a decade of austerity, financial engineering, and political upheavals which followed it, and claim that nothing has changed in the basic workings of the neoliberal model. The suggestion is that the seismic shifts now occurring in western democratic politics, from Brexit to the tide of populist movements across the globe, are reactions to the inequality perpetrated by an economic system which rewards the few, and yet fails to hold them to account (Lanchester 2018). Bankers at the heart of the 2008 financial storm and corporate giants embroiled in today’s scandals around personal data or corporate taxes rank high on the register of public hostility, and are a source of friction at the heart of political economies.
The second event of 2008 occurred three months earlier when Harvard academic John Ruggie presented a plan to the UN for addressing human rights abuses by transnational corporations (TNCs) operating beyond the territorial jurisdiction of any one state. Ruggie had been asked by the UN Secretary-General to propose ways of managing these global non-state actors. The UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights were subsequently unanimously adopted by members of the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. Ruggie’s plan was a Framework based on the principles of ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’, that defined the responsibility of companies, alongside that of states and the involvement of civil society for ensuring that individuals would not be harmed by business operations. The ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework animated a public debate about corporate responsibility, and forced a re-examination of the consequences of transnational investment and commerce, which continues today. The vigour of this debate challenges the assumption that nothing has changed in a decade since the financial crash. The UNGPs identified a governance gap surrounding global companies and seek to address it through a set of international norms and mechanisms for global civil society to hold companies to account for their actions. The Principles are not legislation, but form a basis for voluntary action, which may eventually provide the cornerstone for a binding treaty (UNHRC 2018). They have drawn private entities into an ongoing discussion about ethical behaviour and corporate practices to avoid the kind of careless impunity which was part of the culture behind the banking crisis.
In the decade since the publication of the Ruggie Framework and the hardening of public attitudes to corporate behaviour as a result of the financial crisis, many TNCs, whether in banking or other sectors, have paid more attention to their social and environmental impacts. Some have taken steps to improve transparency and accountability, galvanised by global, regional, and national initiatives such as Publish What You Pay and Transparency directives. Among industry leaders, corporate governance is directed towards working more closely with the societies in which they operate. New business models have been pioneered which aim for more sustainable development impact and less environmental damage. Business is aware that it needs to meet public expectations on human rights and ethical behaviour in order to retain customers, investors, employees, and its licence to operate, even in fragile, conflict-affected, and underdeveloped countries.
The 2030 Agenda consisting of seventeen SDGs, ranging from actions on poverty, clean water, health, education, and environment to gender equality, peace, security, and justice, is another driver of change. It has provided an opportunity to direct business resources to addressing global social problems. It is an invitation to companies to help deliver a broad set of global public goods, in the areas covered by the seventeen goals. Nineteen global companies signed a ‘manifesto’ in 2014 endorsing the 2030 Agenda and urging more businesses to get behind the SDGs, with problem-solving, partnership, and trust-building initiatives (Sustainable Development Goals 2014).
In 2017, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, established at the World Economic Forum in Davos, set out a business case for supporting the SDGs in terms of investment and employment gains. At the same time, the UN has made no secret of the need for private sector support, to have a chance of meeting an estimated $24 trillion bill for achieving the 2030 Agenda.
While the tide of efforts and attitudes is flowing towards encouraging a role for the private sector in development and security, areas where it has been reluctant to engage, and where states and international public organisations have traditionally held sway, significant challenges remain in engaging companies on these public agendas. The governance gap articulated by John Ruggie (2011) persists, and its contours are now more visible. The lack of political and legal arrangements for managing TNC impacts extends in two directions: firstly from top to bottom, between the international and local level, and secondly in a horizontal sense between different dimensions of corporate responsibility. These gaps are particularly acute in environments of extreme fragility, of people and economies. Weak governance institutions, including rule of law, and the effects of crisis and conflict on productive capacities and the social fabric pose particular barriers for companies. At the same time, foreign investment creates expectations among recipient countries that companies will deliver more than just compliance with international rules. Thus companies are thrust into positions of power and authority that can have unintended consequences. Ruggie observed that these frequently constituted a “negative symbiotic relationship between company involvement in human rights abuses and conflict zones” in conflict-affected situations (Connor 2011).
The first type of gap is vertical: between an architecture of norms and standards, which has developed rapidly at the global level in the past decade, and what happens at the operational level. At the grass roots where TNC impacts are felt by individuals and communities, management of these effects is ad hoc and uneven. The UNGPs and other forms of soft law and institutions, codes of conduct, and practice guidance rely on the support of a global network of senior executives, civil society organisations, and governments to design and promote a vision of responsible corporate behaviour. The gap arises where this vision fails to translate effectively into what middle and junior managements and supply chains do on the ground. The blockages which prevent a trickledown effect can be numerous and complex, but they usually reflect a ‘weakest link’ syndrome whereby it only takes one manager to ignore or fail to understand the operational changes required for the architecture of business responsibility norms to be undermined.
The second type of gap is between reactive and pro-active company strategies. Many, although by no means all, large companies subscribe to a version of corporate responsibility that seeks to ‘do no harm’, works with local communities, follows good practice on labour and other human rights issues, and tries to avoid adverse social and environmental impacts. Encouraged by pressure from media and institutional investors, home states, and sometimes host governments, companies undertake impact assessments and human rights due diligence (HRDD). Compliance with these requirements has become more accepted, if not yet fully embedded in corporate behaviour. Non-financial or non-commercial risks are now recognised as significant and that in order to be profitable, companies must take on board both formal and informal requirements for responsible and accountable behaviour. A changing global climate of public attitudes towards business, and management awareness of the risks inherent in failing to deal sensitively with local communities, governments, and civil society provide incentives for TNCs to act differently from the past and seek to mitigate adverse impacts.
However, comments like this leave an underexplored terrain of positive action by the private sector towards under-development and insecurity, and exactly how to deliver positive social contributions. While some companies engage, either alone or in partnership with NGOs and international organisations, to address wider social problems, and ‘do-good’ rather than ‘do no harm’, many remain wary of what this implies. They resist being held liable for service delivery, or being sucked into long-term commitments which stretch their expertise, and may ultimately compromise their ability to make profits. Few businesses want to be seen as development agents. Still less are prepared to shoulder the responsibility for ‘security’ as it is traditionally understood. There is a reticence to develop strategies for peacebuilding and conflict prevention, particularly where these are bound up with partisan, local, and national politics. Yet between compliance and actively providing public goods for local societies, companies need to know where to position themselves and what sort of activities to undertake in order to engage positively.
In this report we confront these two gaps: between global norms and local practice, and between a minimalist and a maximalist vision of corporate responsibility. We do so by entering the debate at the grass roots, and in terms of practice guidance, by setting out a people-centred, context-driven approach to how the private sector can operate among, alongside, and with local societies. The approach is grounded in the idea of human security and the belief that the impact of the private sector on global security and development needs to be tackled in the places where companies operate and in everyday experiences.
Human security comprises both an idea of goals – what is needed to bring about material and physical security in all its guises, as well as dignity and empowerment of vulnerable people. Human security is also about methods – a particular way of ‘doing’ security that respects the views and capacities of those who are insecure. It recognises the validity of their personal experiences and seeks to enable them to decide their own future. The proposition in this report is that human security offers a way to address two concerns at the core of the last decade’s public and policy debate about corporate power and responsibility: how to achieve constructive relationships between international business and local societies particularly under conditions of crisis and fragility, and how to harness the power of the private sector to address human security needs and achieve the SDGs to build stable and prosperous societies.
The cornerstone of the emerging relationship between business and society is partnership and sustained collaboration between multiple actors from the private, public, and civil society sectors. The aim is to bring about better partnering that creates mutual trust and durable outcomes. In this report we set out the model of an HSBP with the twin aim of resetting the relationship between companies and communities, and of directing their combined efforts to improve development, peace, and human dignity from the ground up. The HSBP Framework offers operational guidance to implement this new kind of partnership. It is aimed at companies to help rethink terms of engagement with local stakeholders, but also to governments and civil society, as participants with business in achieving the vision of the SDGs, and effective transitions from crisis and instability.
What are the benefits of a new approach for all these stakeholders given there are already numerous government, business, and NGO initiatives, and consultants offering advice on corporate responsibility? In this report we make the case for a perspective using human security to frame goals and methods – the ‘what and the how’ of private sector engagement with people and communities. We propose that a human security approach can strengthen companies’ ability to operate not just in reactive ways in complex and difficult environment, but also to take proactive and preventative initiatives to improve these environments to the benefit of both business and local people. The promise of the Framework is that it can build on and add a new dimension to the necessity of human rights, and the ‘Do no harm’ principle enshrined in global norms which have been developed in the past decade, and help fulfil the promise of the SDGs.
In the first part of the report we look at the challenges of going beyond traditional models of corporate social responsibility and business and human rights. We also look at ideas and experiences of public-private partnerships to highlight how companies can transform outcomes on the ground through better partnering and a different attitude to multi-stakeholder collaboration. This is the backdrop to the HSBP Framework. In the second half of the report we set out three key pillars of the Framework: a set of core principles, some central processes to structure partnerships, and some suggestions of tools, which can help implement a human security, better partnering approach. Finally we look at the HSBP Framework within the landscape of existing practices on sustainable development, business and human rights, and social investment. Here the aim is not to overlook what is already being done by companies themselves, governments, and international organisations as well as NGOs. The premise of this report is that the HSBP Framework can fill an operational and governance gap. To succeed, it can and should work alongside and complement many existing mechanisms and instruments, not least the significant architecture on business and human rights. By setting out some preliminary examples of how the Framework can be applied to create human security partnerships between business and other stakeholders, our hope is that the ideas and analysis in this report will inspire companies, governments, and others to work together in a new way.
Business plays a unique role as employer, investor, or contractor, bringing capital, new skills, standards, and logistics to bear on intractable problems of under-development, shaping the outcomes sought by the SDG agenda. Although the influence of the private sector has traditionally been measured in terms of the benefits to national economies of foreign direct investment (FDI) and capital flows, it is at the local level that the most profound and complex effects of company operations are felt. These can be both positive and negative. In societies suffering systemic shock as a result of conflict, natural disaster, or pandemic, corporate impacts are likely to be greater than in stable societies, and may aggravate personal vulnerabilities and social tensions. Against a backdrop of weak state and civil society institutions, companies enter contexts where the key parameters of political, economic, and social life are uncertain and fluid. Their presence creates heightened expectations as well as dependency and fears among local populations (Martin & Bojicic-Dzelilovic 2017). They are sources of social and cultural, as well as financial capital, becoming part of dense networks of relationships, involving states, civil society actors, international agencies, and individuals. They can exercise power and leverage over other actors, and therefore are able to act as convenors, bringing together diverse capacities and perspectives among local, national, and global stakeholders. At the same time this entangles them in navigating tensions between international markets, consumers, investors and the local context, which often pull in all different directions.
This interaction between business and communities is complex, unique, and far reaching. Companies are everyday points of contact with individuals, providing jobs and public goods. They are also focal points for hopes and grievances of local populations. Companies are frequently the ‘force on the ground’ and how they engage at the local level is an integral part to not only promoting sustainable development, but also influencing social cohesion and supporting good governance, particularly where there is an absence of state rule or organised civil society presence. TNCs in particular are also transmission belts which can connect public policy to facts on the ground. They can be mechanisms to deliver government and international policy agendas, with the potential to advance the SDGs in an integrated way, recognising that individuals and communities need a combination of physical safety, material welfare, and psychological wellbeing. It is for these reasons and the privileged position that companies occupy in the midst of communities, that the HSBP Framework is aimed at improving interactions at the local level between business, government, and local people.
Why do we advocate a new approach when many companies already pursue strategies for human rights, as well as managing their social and environmental impacts? The Framework recognises that most companies already have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or social investment policies. Core norms of protection and respect for rights which are at the heart of the UNGPs on Business and Human Rights, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Principles for Responsible Investment among others, represent minimum standards for corporate behaviour and management action. Notwithstanding, situations of fragility require additional sensitivity to local context and the importance of generating good business-community relations. While businesses have recognised the need for developing management policies and deploying dedicated staff in these areas, many are also aware that even with resources and planning in place, they may struggle to address complex and dynamic situations on the ground. The evidence for this is the continuing tensions between foreign investors and host communities, on topics from land use to environmental protection, job insecurity, and minority rights. This may culminate in verbal and physical clashes around the sites of mines, plantations, factories, and port areas, particularly in fragile environments.
As set out in the introduction to this report, tensions arise because of gaps – between ethical commitments at the boardroom level to observe global norms, and what actually happens on the ground – and between a compliance approach where companies often react defensively, after the fact, to community needs instead of proactively contributing to improve living conditions in the areas they invest and operate in. Moreover, the complexity of local situations can leave all key stakeholders, from the private, public, and civil society sector, confused and frustrated.
CSR is usually understood as obligations that a company willingly accept, which reflect the demands and expectations of its stakeholders, who include not only investors, employees, and customers, but societies at large, including governments (Vargas 2014, p. 27). However, the idea of CSR is notoriously wide-ranging and slippery. It is often unclear what it means in practice, and questions, such as, how much responsibility, for what and to whom confuse companies’ general intentions to become involved in social issues or ensure a social licence to operate. There is growing dissatisfaction that CSR as a management tool (distinct from a general notion of corporate responsibility) has failed to mitigate the adverse impacts of corporate activities on communities (including employees), to provide an adequate mechanism for effective accountability, and/or generate support among local people.
Against such backdrops of complex fragility, we set out the dilemma facing companies seeking to operate efficiently and responsibly in terms of four challenges: the contribution challenge, the practice challenge, the cooperation challenge, and the capacity challenge. Each type of challenge raises questions about existing approaches and policies. The sum of these challenges makes the case for companies and public actors from communities, local groups, and government to consider working together in a new way.
The contribution challenge is about defining an appropriate role for companies in tackling problems which go beyond their traditional commercial and financial remits. In making CSR commitments, companies take account of national or international legislation, and enter agreements with other actors, as they seek to mitigate adverse consequences of operations. Beyond doing no harm and respecting national and international laws, companies face increasing pressures to do more than just avoid bad behaviour. Pressure comes from civil society, the global media, investors, and customers. Agenda 2030 and the SDGs are an example of increased expectations on the private sector to help deliver development outcomes, and shoulder the burden of providing global public goods from clean water to education, healthcare, and even, in the case of ‘SDG 16’, peace, justice, and security. Many TNCs recognise that there are gains from being able to demonstrate their responsibility credentials with employees, in order to retain and hire the best of a new generation which is more ethically conscious and socially aware. The incentives to do more arise from a combination of financial and reputational motives. Sometimes they simply reflect the need to deal with non-commercial risks.
Despite public pressure to engage in broad social initiatives, and a changing risk-reward calculus in doing so, many companies feel uncomfortable with higher levels of commitment, particularly in areas which are the traditional responsibility of the state. Development involves delivery of services which may be problematic, may stretch a company’s core competences, and may increase liability and risk levels. How should companies determine which focus to adopt within the SDG agenda and how can they balance the often competing needs of multiple internal and external stakeholders?
The practice challenge is about adapting knowledge and processes, so that business can respond to challenges by working more effectively with local stakeholders. This is about tackling the gap between the ethical commitments made by TNCs at global or national level, and what actually happens on the ground. Companies who took part in the discussions which have informed the design of the HSBP Framework frequently recounted experiences where successful collaborations with local communities depended on the commitment and personal values of one or two individuals on the ground – whether from within the company or a local official. This suggests that even where companies have human rights policies and responsibility strategies, implementation problems may still occur. Policies made in headquarters do not necessarily trickle down or translate satisfactorily to the grass roots. Although commitments at the senior level to mainstream human rights or responsibility within the organisation as a whole are important, the critical challenge is to gain acceptance at the local level and empower individuals to make projects their own. This requires operational guidance to connect respect for global norms and standards with actions that reflects local circumstances.
The practice challenge is also about creating opportunities for multiple stakeholders, from public, private, and civil society sectors, to share experiences and learn from each other. Good projects and effective practices which work in one place need to be replicated and scaled elsewhere. Global agreements and frameworks may need reinforcing with guidance which explicitly takes account of the local factors that are critical in achieving successful and transformative multi-actor collaborations, and in navigating local development issues.
The final two challenges are about how actors with different backgrounds, orientations, cultures, and agendas, attempt to work together.
While the private sector is integral to addressing human security and achieving the SDGs, it cannot do so alone. There is an ongoing need for constructive engagement with other actors. The cooperation challenge is that business-community engagement can sometimes result in a hardening of positions, rather than diverse interests being reconciled:
Whatever the reasons for the failure of engagements, whether in the mistrust between companies and communities or the difficulty of organising meaningful dialogues, such examples suggest that attempts to engage can sometimes make things worse not better. The problem is not simply aligning different, and often conflicting, aims and agendas. It is also that the default mode of interaction between companies and communities is to bargain from opposing positions. The result may be awkward compromises. To approach interactions as negotiations risks achieving zero sum outcomes in which there are only winners and losers. A culture of confrontation develops which makes it difficult to build trust and confidence between the different parties, or to find common ground between them. In such a situation it becomes difficult for the actors involved to understand each other, and to arrive at mutually acceptable arrangements and processes, and pursue common goals. Interaction is further aggravated by a lack of shared language, fuelled by differences in perceptions and expectations. As noted by the MSP Institute (2017), all collaborations start with conversation, so that a lack of common vocabulary and unwillingness to start the conversation in the first place can foil cooperation from the outset. An opportunistic and instrumental view of the motives for cooperation has as its corollary failure to take account of the importance of expectations and perceptions in initiating and sustaining cooperation among actors with diverse identities.
One of the major barriers to constructive cooperation is the imbalance in power relations between companies and other actors. Companies and governments are often seen as complicit, further disadvantaging the position of local actors. Power asymmetry not only generates mistrust, it can spur competition for resources and influence, as well as skew the distribution of risks, costs, and benefits of cooperation, and ultimately undermine actors’ commitment to working together (UNRISD 2016). Processes and tools are therefore needed to ensure meaningful and equitable involvement of all stakeholders. The cooperation challenge is about building new type of relationships that can redress the power imbalance between companies and other actors to enable them to take joint action, and which can also build the independence of the business sector to ensure that its collaborations with local society are autonomous of government power.
This kind of cooperation requires appropriate capacity, but in practice multi-stakeholder arrangements include actors whose resource endowment, expertise, and strengths differ. The constraints posed by variable capacities, both in absolute and relative terms, are context-specific. Differences in material, organisational, and innovation resources, access to information, knowledge, as well as problem-solving and decision-making capacities are important in determining the scope and effectiveness of cooperation between a company and other actors. A more serious constraint than different resource endowments is that most actors, including companies, are institutionally under-equipped for the types of governance arrangements required to work jointly towards shared outcomes using different strengths and competencies. This requires synchronisation across different levels and fields of action, and appropriate procedures and resources. There is a pronounced deficit in skills, resources, and infrastructure for systematic and long-term collaboration which involves local communities. This deficit is particularly noticeable among companies which do not have routine interactions with civil society (Gray & Purdy 2018). In that sense, all actors engaged in cooperation are subject to a learning process to enable them to effectively participate in collective action for sustainable development and comprehensive security. Local communities are particularly disadvantaged because of a general lack of capacity as well as voice, with marginalised groups being the most affected. While developing new skills and improving existing ones is a sine qua non of effective cooperation, it is important to recognise that even the most deprived and marginalised communities and individuals possess a unique set of resources, such as local knowledge and adaptation skills which are often overlooked and underappreciated by companies. As pointed out by Kantor (1994, p. 105) “all parties bring something valuable to the relationships and deserve to be heard”. These latent capacities can often decisively shape the parameters within which companies conduct their operations locally and their ability to forge relationships. Mobilising discrete capacities and deploying them creatively and constructively is a necessary dimension for any form of business partnership with other non-state actors, governments, and multilateral institutions.
The purpose of the HSBP Framework is to encourage new forms of association and cooperation between companies, communities, and other stakeholders, recognising the types of challenges that arise in day to day operations. For companies, the Framework is a way to reconfigure what are often fraught relations with local communities and to make interaction constructive rather than problematic. For all stakeholders, the Framework is a way to apply collective action for tackling underlying vulnerabilities and needs on the ground, seeing them as shared concerns of both communities and companies. It is applicable in all fragile settings where a deficit of human security requires reactive and preventative action towards the achievement of the SDGs.
The idea of business collaborating with other actors through different forms of partnerships has been prominent in public policy in the last 30 years. Numerous transnational partnerships have emerged to address some of the most urgent contemporary problems of development. Prominent examples are the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the Global Alliance for Water, the Forest Carbon Partnership, and a range of UN-spearheaded partnership initiatives such as Every Women, Every Child, and Sustainable Energy for All. Despite growing awareness and participation of companies, public actors lead almost 60% of the development partnerships that have emerged from the Johannesburg process in the aftermath of the UN World Summit in 2002, compared to only 3% where business takes the lead (Glasbergen et al. 2007). This reflects the inherent resistance of the private sector in taking a more proactive role. Despite the expansion in the number and variety, collaborative arrangements have an ambiguous record in terms of effectiveness. This stems from a lack of understanding of what effective partnering involves and reflects practical challenges especially in the case of multi-dimensional alliances in organising partnerships to deliver expected outcomes. Concretely, the concept of partnership applied ubiquitously to a myriad of actually existing collaborative arrangements evokes equity, mutuality, common purpose, shared responsibilities, and shared risks as salient qualities which in reality very few partnerships have been able to achieve, and hence result in changing business practices to deliver on partnership commitments (Pattberg & Widerberg 2016; Reid et al. 2014).
Instead, both in practice and in the partnership discourse, forms of collaboration informed by a transactional logic whereby business follows its self-interest and seeks minimisation of risk and complementary resources through partnership, have featured prominently (Jamali & Kishishian 2009, p. 289). This reflects the enduring legacy of the traditional model of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) first rolled out as a public policy innovation predominantly in large infrastructure projects in the 1980s. Traditional PPPs are conceived foremost as discrete projects or programmes at the global and national level, which are supply driven and amenable to quick-win solutions for both parties. They operate as highly institutionalised forms of collaboration in which a lead partner (government; donor; company) selectively and strategically engages with a preferred partner or partners based on certain established criteria, which are usually explicitly formulated in contracts’ terms of reference. Partnership success depends on how partnerships are designed, resourced, and governed. Seen in this way, partnerships are proposed primarily as problem-solving tools, whereby the parties involved pursue efficacy aimed at balancing costs and benefits, while they seek protection from risks through legal and contractual mechanisms. With their focus on specific project objectives, traditional PPPs are less concerned with innovation, scale, and impact (Loveridge & Wilson 2017, p. 47).
The transactional logic of traditional PPPs stands in contrast to the ambition to deliver sustainable development by catalysing behavioural change, and recasting relations between companies and interlocutors on the ground, which are the ambitions of a new generation of partnerships called for by the UN 2030 Agenda. There is a recognition that to tackle the complex and systemic nature of the problems covered by the SDGs, a new way of partnering is needed to forge lasting change and scale up business contributions to development. The main vehicle for delivering on the transformative promise of Agenda 2030 is Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (MSPs). The new breed of MSPs is envisaged as durable open-ended network structures that bring together diverse actors in a variety of institutional and governance arrangements, which are concerned explicitly with achieving social impact and innovation in development, and with possibilities for scalability or multiplier effects.
Hailed as the “collaborative paradigm of the 21st century” (Austin 2000, p. 44), MSPs are credited with the potential to leverage distinct strengths of multiple partners in order to find innovative solutions to development challenges and to do so in a mutually beneficial way for partners and beneficiaries alike. The hope is that new forms of collaboration will make it possible to align diverse commercial and welfare interests, and yield a change in management practice to bring about genuinely transformative results in terms of human wellbeing and sustainable development. Such aspirations respond to the problems with the earlier generation of partnerships for development post-UN 2002 World Summit that were criticised for a lack of accountability, capacity building, and learning. Those shortcomings are believed to have contributed to limited outcomes and the short life span of partnership arrangements.
The new variety of MSPs to support the SDGs puts a premium on inclusiveness, accountability, and transparency and presupposes behavioural change on the part of stakeholders entering into such collaborations. In practice, inclusivity, which in many partnerships is non-binding, is commonly translated as and reduced to a formal invitation to all interested parties to join a MSP scheme. Participation is often a subordinate concern for the companies and engagement activities are often formal and cursory (Ellersiek & Beisheim 2017, p. 18). Accountability and transparency are not understood as essential components that will affect the quality of relationships among stakeholders and are instead typically part of contractual undertaking that regulates how a partnership is conducted. From a company perspective, local communities are foremost treated as (passive) beneficiaries of partnership actions rather than co-producers in the partnering process. There is also an assumption, particularly problematic in fragile institutional contexts, that local community interests are fully represented by local government, and that those interests are protected by the implementation of relevant legal norms and standards and hence no direct and sustained engagement with communities is warranted (Ellersiek & Beisheim ibid). How companies understand and implement engagement with local communities is critical in terms of the partnership being seen as both legitimate and whether it is valued as bringing something new to economic and social development.
Despite the strong endorsement of MSPs as vehicles for the implementation of Agenda 2030, this practice gap reflects conflicting understandings of norms of inclusivity, transparency, and accountability by different types of partners (companies; governments; civil society organisations). To date there has been a failure to imbue these norms with new meanings that are mutually agreed and supported by partners in actual partnership schemes.
To move away from such shortcomings and develop new practices so that partnerships can fulfil the ambitions envisaged for them in Agenda 2030, the focus has to shift to processes and practices that can change the nature of the relations between a company and its interlocutors, notably individuals and groups, in situations where it operates. The evidence shows that a few transformative partnerships that have emerged tend to involve local level collaboration between companies and non-governmental organisations, usually supported by international donors (Kolk & Lenfant 2015, p. 433). That the most innovative partnerships emerge organically at the local level reflects the fact that here is where the strongest potential exists for frequent, sustained, and face-to-face interaction between companies and other actors, and where the company is most able to use its specific expertise (Börzel & Deitelhoff 2018). An effort to improve the quality of interactions requires practice change to encourage partners to articulate common problems, examine shared opportunities, and create spaces for joint learning, problem-solving, and experimentation. Intensive, innovative, and sustained collaboration which is regarded as the key to successful partnering requires trust and commitment. Those qualities are not readily available in traditional interactions between companies and local actors, but can be created through a process of continuous and equitable engagement. Hence, for partnerships to be transformative and catalyse change at different levels, the challenge is to bring about a conceptual and practice shift from ‘participating’ to ‘building’, and from stakeholders to active partners, that engage with each other from a position of equal access, mutual benefit, and shared responsibilities and risks, addressing issues which are salient to all partners.
This is a big leap, which according to expert views requires “new mind and skill sets on the part of individuals and new capabilities and incentives on the part of institutions” (Nelson 2017, p. 8). To perform this shift, different conceptual and methodological tools are needed that can better capture and reconcile disparate interests, motives, and capacities. Mutuality becomes a key principle for harnessing the synergistic potential of partnership action that can deliver real change.
Human security is a different way of thinking about security, based on the risks and insecurities faced by individuals and groups and seeking to create the conditions for a tolerable life. The classic or traditional view of security involves protecting the state against existential threats and safeguarding borders, including with armed force. Human security starts from the everyday experiences of people facing complex insecurity and deprivation. Threats to human security are rooted in a combination of risks related to physical safety, material scarcity such as not having a house, job, or access to clean water, and the lack of psychological or emotional wellbeing (Commission on Human Security 2003). Human security is not only used to describe a desired condition of being. It is also an approach which seeks to protect people from existential threats, the so-called ‘vital core’ of life, and recognises that to deal effectively with these threats, solutions have to be grounded in popular support, people’s expectations, and their own resources. This idea is summed up in the UN’s phrase: ‘Freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity’. Human security in action is about achieving the social, political, environmental, and economic conditions conducive to a life in freedom and dignity (Hammerstad 2000, p. 395).
In the UN definition, human security advances a comprehensive, people-centred vision that emphasises preventative action, and seeks to address a broad range of threats faced by individuals and communities in an integrated way (UN 2012). While human security is universal, it is also context-specific: what makes people insecure or vulnerable depends on where they live and their community circumstances (UNTFHS 2016).
Threats will vary from one place and time to another, so ensuring human security requires a bottom-up approach which responds to perceptions and real-life dynamics, and is able to integrate different kinds of policies and practices. This means being able to adapt as circumstances shift, in order to be relevant and useful. Human security is not just about giving traditional security policies and strategies a ‘human face’. It means promoting a new approach to protection and resilience, beginning with individuals, and putting forward new methods to mitigate risks and improve daily life.
Human security is concerned with the ‘small things’, because it is not about the classic concerns of traditional security such as armies and weapons or the control of territory. It is about practical concerns such as having a roof over your head, a job, clean water, and your children being able to go to school. Such small things are fundamental for a decent life, establishing durable peace, preventing crises that take a high toll on humanity, and achieving sustainable development. Kofi Annan added a further element to human security, that of social inclusion – or having equal access to political, social, and economic policy-making processes, as well as being able to draw equal benefits from them. The rule of law and an effective justice system are prerequisites to improving human security (Annan 2000).
Human security, human rights, and sustainable development
There can be no human security without human rights, although the two concepts and how they are put into practice are distinct as well as complementary. Human rights are universal and indivisible. Human security focuses on the most fundamental rights – to life, basic needs, and dignity, and it emphasises the importance of local context in which these fundamental rights are exercised. Depending on context, different kinds of rights may be in jeopardy. What is important in human security is addressing the range of challenges present in a given time and location, while providing people with the means to address these challenges in order to make their lives tolerable. This has a strong preventative dimension, which entails more than just guarding against abuse of rights. Prevention is not only about mitigation and ensuring that individuals have access to remedy as victims of abuse. The preventative function in human security is about mobilising efforts to make tangible improvements in everyday life that address fragility and risk and create resilient societies.
Human security emphasises connections – between distinct types of rights and needs, for example: how physical safety is linked to material welfare, or how land rights not only make it possible to earn a living and have food security, but also confer dignity and a sense of stability. Another connection is between human rights and development. Human security acts on the intersections of diverse forces in people’s lives, tackling multiple issues in different domains, between economy, safety and stability, environment, health (physical and mental), and justice (Gasper 2014). In attempting to provide comprehensive and integrated responses to insecurity, human security means ‘having an eye’ for these intersections in any given context. This is consistent with the aims of the seventeen SDGs which encourage action in a variety of areas to build societies’ abilities to combat crisis, underdevelopment, conflict, lack of governance, and climate change. Human security offers the chance to entrench the values of human rights, ground rights, and development in the actual circumstances of daily living and what makes individuals and societies vulnerable. Where human rights emphasise universal rules as a way to protect rights, through benchmarking companies and holding them to account, human security as a practice for the private sector is about identifying the context-specific positive as well as negative potential from business operations, and establishing common goals and mutual gains.
Human security is not codified and there are no universally agreed benchmarks against which to measure or verify it. Infringements of human security carry no particular sanctions, and solutions cannot be easily prescribed or generalised. Thus, in contrast to human rights initiatives, a human security approach by itself is not a means of regulation of corporate behaviour. The aim of a human security approach is to both protect against ‘downside risks’ people face, but also to aim for potential upsides and their multiplying impacts on improvements to welfare and safety when addressed comprehensively.
Human security focuses not only on a baseline of vulnerabilities to protect against, but also a set of goals that partners can work towards. Human security can provide a complementary vision and set of practices for companies to engage with people at the local level, reflecting both an imagined upside to interactions as well as seeking to safeguard against negative outcomes. Thus a human security approach for business builds on the essential prerequisites of respect for human rights, and in practice terms on HRDD as a tool. It can be seen as a way to underpin and complement rights protection. Human security adds an explicit language of empowerment, and the idea of building a better future in which both rights and aspirations are addressed, and therefore it is an essential part of helping business contribute to sustainable development.
More than just an idea of what can be achieved, the human security approach provides a concrete methodology for communities and companies to work together. This methodology includes a language of people-centred protection while it attempts to prioritise empowerment through emphasising bottom-up perspectives, inclusiveness, and participation. The human security approach depends on the integration of multiple contributions and seeks comprehensive solutions that take account of the multi-faceted nature of risk and development challenges.
The HSBP Framework is a practical proposal for the governance of development and security that is based on the core principles of a human security approach. The emphasis is on collaborative action that is grounded in verifiable needs, expectations, and aspirations as well as making use of available capacities and resources at the local level.
HSBPs are intended to be a new form of association and collaboration and a basis for dialogue between communities, business, and other stakeholders. At their core is a partnering process, an agenda for collective action based on a set of agreed objectives, and a participatory process. They represent a mechanism for the private sector to engage constructively with local society, respect fundamental rights, and address the development and security challenges which impact both everyday life and the prospects for investment and growth at the local level.
HSBPs aim to deliver protection and empowerment and generate comprehensive, integrated contributions to improve human security for local populations, while also responding to business objectives and perceptions of risk. They do this through identifying and enlarging areas of overlapping concern and interest between investors, companies, and communities. The model is applicable to a range of contexts in which local people are vulnerable as a result of chronic under-development, social tensions, weak governance and fragility, and where companies have traditionally found it difficult to operate. The need to respect local context in terms of the level of opportunity as well as the risks and deficits present, and to take account of the particular sensitivities within fragile environments is paramount.
At the same time, HSBPs are intended to work within a wider context of national development plans and policy priorities, international norms, particularly on human rights and corporate responsibility, as well as transparency and inclusiveness, agendas such as the SDGs, and principles such as the Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria promoted by financial institutions including the World Bank.
The HSBP Framework is a guidance mechanism to bring about this new type of interaction with local stakeholders. It is intended to help corporate and other actors set up a partnering process and structure actions to address local needs and ambitions. The Framework seeks to help partners reach common understandings about development and security challenges they each face, define collective actions, and utilise relevant tools to make collaboration work more effectively. A core ethos of the Framework is the need to recognise and respect not only the constraints and sensitivities of the local environment, but also to make the most of the relative capacities and resources of different stakeholders and integrate their contributions. This emphasis on actively encouraging a wide and active local participation, rather than seeing local actors as simply passive beneficiaries of corporate and government action, distinguishes HSBPs from many existing modes of engagement between business and communities.
Thus, the Framework represents a new way of working at the local level, so that all partners see it not as development or security as usual, but an innovation in how to approach everyday development and security issues.
A summary of the key characteristics of HSBPs, which the Framework seeks to promote, are:
- Participatory: Partnerships should actively integrate the diverse motives, interests, and capacities of participants. HSBPs should be open and accessible to all in the community, whether or not they are part of formal groups, or simply individuals. This also applies to marginalised groups, such as minorities, indigenous people, women, displaced and crisis-affected individuals, and victims of violence. Young people are another category which is often excluded from formal discussions about development initiatives, even though they may feel the greatest impact from long-term investment projects. Partnerships should involve representatives of government and civil society alongside the private sector, including business associations and individual companies.
- Goal orientated: In contrast to governance arrangements that emphasise the regulation of corporate behaviour and focus on the mitigation of commercial impacts, HSBPs are intended to be platforms for collaboration, based on all the partners defining and implementing shared goals, which reflect not only their vulnerabilities but their future aspirations for change. Partnerships should be pragmatic and problem-solving so that each partner has a clear interest in taking part and feels they have something to gain from the collaboration. Each HSBP scheme – i.e. the programme decided on by the partnership – should be based on agreed economic activities, investment projects, or development initiatives which reflect a merging of interests and capacities, and which can produce benefits for both companies and communities. In settings with a history of abuses, remedy may be the principal concern of community stakeholders. While there may be outstanding issues of mistrust and grievance related to companies’ presence in a community, HSBPs are not primarily mechanisms for addressing or redressing past abuses. While these processes may be essential to meet community concerns or rebuild confidence, they are not the prime function of an HSBP. The Framework is instead designed to help all stakeholders work together on building a common future and achieving mutual benefits. In this case, HSBPs may need to operate in tandem with other mechanisms of engagement that focus explicitly on redress and remedy.
- Impact focused: By resetting the terms of the relationship between companies and local stakeholders, HSBPs should have a clear ambition to create tangible benefits for all partners, combining short-term gains with long-term sustainable development outcomes in order to prevent crises or fragility that could undermine development. HSBPs need to incorporate actions which focus on achieving transition and change, with collectively agreed baselines, timeframes, and end goals. The intention of the Framework is not to do ‘business as usual’, but to enable a commitment to real and verifiable change so that partners perceive an added value from working together in terms of improvements to human security.
- Equitable: As noted in the last section, traditional company-community relationships – whether they take the form of PPPs or MSPs or simply arise out of company stakeholder engagement strategies – reflect a power asymmetry between the private sector and civil society. HSBPs should increase the voice of communities, and increase the possibilities for local populations to influence economic development through open participation, joint decision-making, and accountability. By promoting equity between all partners, the Framework is intended to move away from token consultations of local people and help them to become meaningful partners in sustainable development and security. Recognising the latent capacities within communities to resolve their own problems is part of rebalancing power and influence between business, government, and people. HSBPs should provide roles and commitments for each partner to help ensure this balance.
- Co-constructive: HSBPs are a mechanism for building outcomes together with benefits for all partners. The organisation and process of partnering carries an explicit commitment by all stakeholders to mutualise risks and rewards. HSBPs are not only about creating common understandings of problems and challenges, but about structuring actions which involve all partners and providing follow-through in terms of reciprocal accountability. This dynamic of sharing understandings, learning together, dividing responsibilities, and being mutually accountable is intended to reinforce a long-term culture of collaborative working.
- Context-specific: Partnerships are intended to address local needs and build local capacities. Joint assessments of conditions, capabilities, and the barriers to cooperation are part of the process of partnering to make sure that investment and development projects are fully grounded in the realities and expectations of those on the ground who will implement them and who will be impacted by them, including indirectly. The intention is that using the HSBP Framework will provide a model that can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere, even though the dominant features of each individual HSBP and the schemes it undertakes will be shaped by and reflect a unique combination of local human security challenges.
- Sustainable: HSBPs are intended to move away from the bargaining culture and transactional relationships which characterise many engagements between private companies and local communities. The aim of HSBPs is to transform the quality of interactions between these stakeholders as well as the outcomes they can achieve. This is done by establishing long-term horizons for cooperation. HSBPs should be bottom-up. To be sustainable they must reflect both local and national/regional agendas, so they can be part of wider efforts to advance sustainable development and ensure stability. They can serve as a meeting point between actions at grass roots level, and policy goals set at national, regional, and even international levels.
HSBPs apply the human security approach to add value to existing strategies and initiatives that involve the private sector. This means making social investments more targeted and effective. The Framework can be used as a structuring mechanism to build a human security methodology and approach into current corporate-community engagement strategies, to reinforce commitments to respect human rights, and as an accompanying governance arrangement to help companies support the achievement of SDG targets. As we outline below, this shift towards a different ethos and mindset by companies in dealing with public and community stakeholders may require innovations in key performance indicators, and in the ways that companies manage internally their social investment and corporate responsibility activities.
The Framework consists of three pillars: principles, processes, and tools. Each pillar applies to every type of partner or stakeholder, and is intended to bring them together and provide the basis for effective and durable collaboration.
The principles pillar is important in developing shared understandings between partners and creating a distinct ethos to their collaboration. The principles are where the transformative potential of this type of partnership begins. Participants need to build a common vision that will infuse their relationship. By discussing and agreeing on a set of foundational ideas, the specific objectives and activities of the partnership can be designed together in the light of these basic principles. They are characteristics of the partnership, are intended to summarise its nature, and represent what participants commit to in working together.
We have summarised them in an acronym ‘LIFTS’, because they include:
Locally driven – partnerships should be based on local needs, interests, and expectations, and organised according to local capacities and a recognition of all relevant resources. The Framework’s emphasis on the local includes the principle of conflict-sensitivity in locations where even working with companies and public stakeholders can pose threats and difficulties for certain groups and individuals, particularly if they are already marginalised.
Inclusive – partners should be drawn from every segment of local society, including marginalised groups. HSBPs are a way to counter exclusion and they should actively enable individuals and groups to take part on an equal footing and with the same voice and rights of decision as company or government partners. At the same time, the need to protect vulnerable people means recognising local sensitivities which may inhibit inclusivity and aggravate the risk of participation.
Forward looking – the partnership is about building a common future, doing things differently from the past, and setting goals which will lead to real change and improvement.
Trust – the partnership is about creating conditions for long-term cooperation in which partners have confidence in each other. Trust has to be built through accountability, joint commitments, and transparency. Sustained interaction in a structured way aims to create ‘good partner’ relations rather than just ad hoc transactions.
Sharing – the core of the HSBP is that the partnership offers incentives and benefits which are spread equitably between different types of partners. Benefits of investment should be shared, interests should be mutualised, and partners should each take responsibility for addressing risk and achieving positive outcomes from their collaboration.
The process pillar represents some key types of activities through which the human security approach and the principles of HSBPs can be achieved. Because each partnership will be different, and will be tailored to local needs and capacities, the processes may vary. However, we set out some which are integral to achieving the kind of locally relevant and equitable interaction that the Framework seeks to encourage.
- Mapping of participants: This is a process which should not be undertaken unilaterally, for example by a company alone, but jointly with local civil society groups and government representatives, local and national, as appropriate. The aim is to identify who has an interest in a particular development scheme or an issue or problem which the HSBP is set up to tackle. In order to be as fully inclusive as possible, partners need to build up a granular picture of local society, including what indigenous capacities and customs exist which are relevant to the success of the initiative. Whereas stakeholder engagement sometimes only leads to companies dealing with a restricted group of community leaders, the objective of HSBP mapping is to understand which groups and individuals need to be involved in the collaboration, and how they relate to each other. This needs to be done in a context-sensitive way that takes account of the risk, alluded to above, that participation may entail additional vulnerability for some individuals and groups.
- A second preliminary process is consultation to assess each partner or constituency’s perspective on local development and security challenges. Although some partnerships will begin because one or two of the partners, for example a company, has a particular project or goal in mind, the aim of the consultation process is to identify a broader range of needs and risks as they are perceived by all stakeholders. These perceptions may influence how the initial project is to be implemented. They may also reveal different needs and priorities linked to but not necessarily encapsulated in the original project. The consultation process has to be locally and culturally relevant, and may take various forms in order to ensure wide participation and give a voice to marginalised groups. A key feature of successful consultations observed from practice research is the value of having neutral third-parties facilitating the discussions. This helps to ensure that power asymmetries between corporate, government, and community participants are reduced. The outcomes of the consultation process should be a shared understanding between participants of challenges and a collective sense of the opportunity for reciprocal benefits. Because HSBPs are intended to be transformative, another outcome of the consultative process should be the identification of key capacity or resource gaps so these can be filled.
- Initial consultations need to be followed up by an ongoing communication process, both internal and external, to ensure that information circulates evenly and as accurately as possible among partners. The long-term goal of building good partner relations through the HSBP depends on communication processes being developed which are accessible to all, and which do not aggravate previous power imbalances between the partners.
- HSBPs are not necessarily legal forms of partnership. They are likely to be formal but non-codified types of collaborative mechanisms, based on reciprocal undertakings. This is why shared understandings about the goals of collaboration and the nature of the development and security challenges are important. These understandings should determine the commitments and responsibilities partners share. The management protocols of an HSBP are important to ensure equity and processes of sharing, transparency, and accountability and are built into the functioning of the partnership. They may include entry and leaver rules, how roles are distributed, and how budgets are handled and decisions are taken. Once both the preliminary partners and those identified from the mapping exercise have been brought together, and agree to set up a partnership scheme, they should agree on mutually acceptable rules and processes for organising the collaboration.
- Monitoring and evaluation is important to maintain confidence between the participants and sustain initial commitments to partnership goals and activities. To respect transparency and equity principles, partners should agree how the partnership is to be evaluated, and relevant criteria given their different interests and the kind of outcomes they want to achieve. Evaluation should also be a participatory process undertaken jointly, and capacity building should be carried out if necessary to achieve this. Similarly, reviews throughout the agreed life of the partnership scheme are important occasions for partners to reassess their expectations and commitments, adapt to changing circumstances, maintain the incentives for continuing to work together, and to check targets.
- Each partnership will need processes and protocols to deal with grievance and problems in working with other partners. In some situations, grievances may be pre-existing between partners with a history of confrontation and ill will. It is important to deal with these in forums which are distinct from the HSBP itself to avoid undermining the aims of good partner relationship building and the focus on enlarging areas of mutual interest and benefit. Grievance processes which deal specifically with problems of the partnership and achieving its goals should follow the principles of trust, transparency, and equitable participation.
The tools pillar is intended to provide guidance for deploying relevant resources that partners can use to achieve the principles and processes outlined above. As with processes, relevance will depend on the local context and the tools used should be agreed jointly between partners. They should reflect the capacities and skills as well as material resources which are available. The first tool is a consultation methodology to support the essential process of consulting all partners about their needs, experiences, and expectations which will inform the goals of the partnership, and will outline the contours of an effective and durable collaboration. A consultation methodology refers to the forms of engagement used to encourage different groups to articulate their needs and experiences as part of the planning of the partnership, in setting goals and identifying where there are areas of common ground and interest between them, which can be enlarged to create mutually beneficial outcomes. Methodologies have to be culturally appropriate, attuned to the social organisation of each type of partner, and ensure that the consultation process does not itself have negative consequences for those taking part. In the case of some community actors, particularly among marginalised groups, unaccustomed to being involved in development decisions, the challenges of consultation lie in helping people articulate what may be difficult and sensitive perceptions and experiences, and arrive at a language which can be shared with other partners. There have been successful examples of third-party facilitators such as the UN or civil society groups using arts or sports based techniques to encourage communities and individuals to find their voice and ensure their participation.
An action checklist is a useful tool for ensuring transparency and communications between partners, and for confirming key goals and timelines to underpin ongoing commitments by partners.
Many communication processes can be strengthened by the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools to assist with information sharing and ensure equity between diverse partners. These could include smart phone apps, text messaging, and web-based platforms applied to different aspects of the partnership activities. The use of ICT tools needs to be geared to local conditions and what works, not only technically, but what resonates with the local information eco-system.
Training is likely to be a critical tool in any HSBP. Although each partner may have their own skills and resources, application of the Framework is intended to mark a step change in how companies work with communities as well as in how local needs and interests are met, therefore HSBPs will involve an inevitable process of learning and capacity building. Where possible, joint trainings, for example in the human security approach, in the use of ICT tools or specialist functions, such as participatory budgeting, or in technical skills needed to achieve the goals of the partnership, can strengthen the co-operative culture and mutualisation of effort.
As part of the process of shared learning, documentation, and ongoing analysis of the partnership may prove to be a useful tool. Documentation, like other processes and tools, can be undertaken jointly rather than unilaterally. While companies are more likely to record, evaluate, and assess a partnership as part of their routine, organisational activities, and accountability to senior management and investors, the act of documenting collaboration can help to reveal the understandings of each partner and can be part of trust and team building. Documentation, as with consultation methodology, should respect different cultural traditions and practices present on the ground. It can serve to draw key lessons from applying the Framework and will help replicate, scale, and adapt it to multiple locations and circumstances. In some environments, including fragile contexts, documents and the documentation process may itself raise ethical challenges.
In keeping with the participatory and bottom-up nature of the Framework, bespoke metrics which take into account indicators such as inclusivity, equity, and trust-building may need to be developed in discussions among all partners. Agreement on key indicators and buy-in of the evaluation process will be part of strengthening the legitimacy and, ultimately, the sustainability of the partnership.
Some of the processes and tools proposed here may require more resources than others. The introduction of bespoke ICT tools, for example, may require financial support from companies, government, or third parties. However, HSBPs are not intended to be financially burdensome mechanisms. Fundamentally, they are about initiating a new type of dialogue and engagement between companies, communities, and other local stakeholders. What is important is that the identification and application of resources, activities, and tools should be done collectively while recognising the importance of commitment, responsibility, and sharing. Simply bringing or expecting large corporate resources to bear on a development or security challenge is unlikely to improve the long-term relationship between a company and other stakeholders, or build the sense of trust and dignity in working together.
In meeting complex challenges of development and security in a globalised world, a variety of innovative approaches have emerged with associated tools that aim to reshape the parameters of business engagement and responsible behaviour. It is possible to distinguish two broad logics that inform these approaches and tools. One is the logic of reactive response, taking action to address problems that present themselves. In this logic the key element is assessing and limiting a company’s negative impact on its surroundings, principally through designing rules and regulations to mitigate adverse consequences of business operations, and redress damage. The second logic consists of proactive initiatives and transformation, which include preventative action, but also the promotion of SDGs and a positive peace agenda (Institute for Economics & Peace 2018). Initiatives aim to actively shape the broader environment and thus take a more expansive view of the issues and actors involved, going beyond internal management resources and procedures, and implying greater engagement externally. In attempting to actively address challenging environments to advance security and development, there are examples of novel company practice and management strategies which explicitly seek to bring about change. These initiatives, which often include partnering, involve a range of stakeholders as well as expanding the type of social activity that companies are prepared to undertake beyond their core business.
The distinction between reactive and preventative approaches has been made by Blowfield & Dolan (2014) who describe a historical transformation of business moving from being ‘development tools’ to becoming ‘development agents’. As part of this trajectory, companies become increasingly involved in responsible actions, deploy capital for social investments, and pay more attention to marginalised communities, while striving for accountability and inclusivity (Blowfield & Dolan 2014, p. 25-26).
In this section, we highlight some examples of different reactive and proactive approaches and tools that the private sector, civil society, and governments have developed as part of the shift towards improved governance of corporate activities in relation to vulnerable populations, in order to situate the HSBP Framework in the context of current practice. We have drawn on conceptual work by academics to describe what is being done, but our main focus is on understanding practices in the field which have informed the development of the HSBP Framework and which it is intended to complement, including addressing gaps which current state of the art reveals.
The cornerstone for a new era of corporate engagement with society was set by the adoption of the UNGPs on Business and Human Rights in 2011, based on a tripartite framework of ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ set out in 2008. The UNGPs enshrine a shared obligation between governments who have a duty to respect human rights, companies who have a responsibility to respect rights, and the ability of victims of abuse to seek remedy. The ethos of the UNGPs and tools which have been developed to implement them, such as HRDD, represent an essential starting point for mobilising constructive engagement by the private sector whether this engagement takes the form of a predominantly reactive response, or enables preventative action to avoid abuse and create positive impacts from the business presence. From this starting point of the UNGPs and related guidance standards such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, new spaces are opening up which combine not only protection and prevention but a transformational perspective, in which corporate behaviour catalyses real change.
Human Rights Due Diligence
The UNGPs on Business and Human Rights provide the pre-eminent framework for aligning corporate action with protection of individuals and groups, in terms of elaborating business’s responsibility towards the communities where companies operate, but also in stimulating a working relationship between business and other stakeholders, principally states and governments, but also civil society. The UNGPs sought to establish a new channel for compliance. Although neither compulsory nor legally binding, implementation is usually directed as part of government policy in the form of National Action Plans. At the same time, the UNGP Framework also opens up a preventative space and “provides a basis [for businesses] to build constructive and meaningful conversations with their investors, civil society stakeholders and those groups directly affected by their operations” (Shift & Mazars LLP 2015, p. 6).
HRDD is the most widespread tool which reflects emerging standards and expectations of corporate behaviour, and reveals key shifts in governance and management practice. Recent guidance by OECD Watch and Amnesty International on due diligence emphasises the need to avoid negative impacts before they arise, through proposing a sequence of identification and prevention in advance of mitigation and acting upon abuses (OECD Watch & Amnesty International 2018). Best practice HRDD exercises set out to conduct prior assessments of actual and potential human rights impacts, integrate and act on findings, track responses, and communicate how impacts are being addressed. Many organisations have developed guidelines and specified toolkits for companies to track and improve their HRDD performance.
The Coca-Cola Company’s Human Rights Report 2016-2017 is an example of how one leading transnational implements these norms. Assessing its performance against thirteen human rights risks including ‘safety and health of all workers/security’ and ‘land rights’, Coca Cola reports on ‘access to remedy for workers in their supply chain’, ‘follow up on findings from their sugar studies’, and ‘local policies to safeguard workers from exploitation’ to be areas where more work is necessary (Coca Cola 2017, p. 44-45).
The UNGPs recognise that there are particular challenges governing corporate impacts in conflict-affected societies, and in conducting HRDD in the absence of functional state mechanisms for exercising the primary state duty to protect individuals.
Adopting an explicit focus on conflict, understood in broad terms, NGO International Alert’s 2018 report ‘Human Rights Due Diligence in Conflict-Affected Settings’ is a guide to extractive companies to ensure respect for human rights and avoid exacerbating or generating conflict. The guidance provides tools (including both conflict and human rights impact assessment tools) and recommendations for conducting due diligence in conflict-affected settings. A case study methodology demonstrates the value of engaging stakeholders from government to labour unions, the inclusion of local-level actors, and an appreciation of underlying issues in addressing conflicts between business and local populations (International Alert 2018, p. 78-79). Here, HRDD becomes more than just a human rights tool: it serves as the basis for peacebuilding.
The juxtaposition of redress for past grievance with an effort to anticipate and prevent future human rights deficits through collective action and locally informed conflict analysis is an example of how HRDD in conflict-affected settings can be the basis for delivering more than ad hoc solutions and crisis management. Instead, it can serve as a continuous risk management process, which takes into account changing stages of conflict and their specific challenges. Despite this example, most applications of HRDD suggest there are limitations to what this exercise can achieve in terms of transforming local vulnerabilities. Firstly, the HRDD tool needs to be reinforced by appropriate mechanisms for implementation, including formal access to remedies and institutional or governance structures, geared to protection. In the case of conflict and crisis-affected environments, such structures may not exist and the lack of agency among vulnerable people often means HRDD is a unilateral exercise by company managements with a focus on compliance. Secondly, while HRDD can reveal the potential for abuses and opportunities for preventative action against them occurring, it is likely to fall short of achieving wider aims of preventing generalised insecurity, building social resilience, and improving the business and social environment. A further mechanism is required to link the HRDD process more explicitly to opportunities for positive impact by companies, and for productive dialogues and engagement between the private sector and communities. HRDD is indispensable for companies to understand the complexities of the environment they are operating in, thus it can be seen rather as a necessary but insufficient process, and a stepping stone towards companies addressing the kind of critical gaps in practice and policy referred to earlier in this report.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Investment
CSR has become a core concept for international business. It takes a variety of forms from compliance with externally derived norms to more active and proactive strategies to create positive impacts, forge relations including partnerships with non-business actors, and leverage corporate resources for public benefit.
CSR presumes that companies have purposes beyond solely (or narrowly conceived) financial gain, and that imperatives such as social and environmental concerns also shape business decisions, while requiring engagement in issues which were once the sole preserve of state actors (Bondy et al. 2012, p. 283). Yet, understandings of CSR are wide-ranging and slippery, which make its meaning unclear in practice. There is growing dissatisfaction that CSR as a management tool has failed to ameliorate the impacts of corporate activities on communities (including employees) or provide a mechanism either for accountability or for more profound engagements by business to improve development and security. This leads to a critical school of thought on CSR, which believes that while it recognises a generalised norm of responsibility for adverse business impacts, it is inadequate as a management tool to implement this responsibility and expand it to generate positive outcomes from business operations. Most recently, CSR has become seen as a strategy whereby companies can minimise business risk, undertaking actions aimed specifically at avoiding social resistance and generating acceptance of their operations (Baden 2016). A key idea in the business case for CSR is “social licence to operate”, where licence represents the constraints on companies “to meet social expectations and avoid activities that societies deem unacceptable” (Morrison 2014). Moreover, a perception that CSR strategies are largely unidirectional – from the company to local people – so that the interests, views, and expectations of the latter play a subordinate role, adds to the impression that CSR has become a byword for a form of ‘greenwashing’ or token action rather than changing business models to reflect new challenges.
Negative connotations of CSR have led companies to speak rather in terms of social investment which opens possibilities to align business benefits and concerns about social risks, with longer-term gains for society. However, this still leaves a large terrain of operational uncertainty about what kind of roles are appropriate beyond core business activities, how to fulfil them effectively and without creating additional liabilities including legal constraints, and what should be the relationship of corporate interventions to government responsibilities. Debates about the SDG agenda reinforce the sense of a general willingness of companies to work on social goals, but a lack of means to do so. Extractive companies are often at the forefront of attempts to move on from CSR to deeper forms of social engagement. One example (among several) of how social engagement can address a number of simultaneous and interrelated issues is global mining group Rio Tinto’s report ‘Why Agreements Matter’, which highlights its work with Aboriginal communities in Australia, where the company apologised for past wrongdoings, established new agreements to secure economic benefits, and contributed to civic development and the protection of land and culture (Rio Tinto 2016, p. 71). The report identifies the increase in the number of local Aboriginal people working at the mine as evidence of improved relations between the company and local communities, and highlights the importance of continued monitoring and evaluation of the agreement for both the company and the local community.
A different example is Mexican cement producer Cemex who is testing new models of intervention which change the traditional focus of its CSR programmes. Instead of seeking to mitigate the impacts of its operations, the company decided to leverage the strength of its financial and non-financial resources, particularly its ability to forge alliances with non-corporate partners. Its new projects take a strategic focus to counter poverty, violence, and social exclusion in rural and urban areas over a five year timespan, through building better community relations. What makes the projects notable is that Cemex is present in areas where the company has no commercial operations or investment plans. Acting to catalyse government intervention, Cemex combines both traditional and novel language about social licence to operate, while also creating different types of value for all its stakeholders.
Reporting has become a key tool in enacting and demonstrating CSR. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), for example, assists the private sector and government to better understand and communicate their impact on sustainability issues such as human rights, governance, climate change, and social wellbeing. Multi-stakeholder platforms inform the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards.
An example of a CSR tool that seeks to encompass a wider definition of responsibility is provided in the 2017 Sustainability Report of Anglo American, which documents its company performance according to different parameters. From health and safety to sustainability, the company attributes a positive, negative, or neutral score to every factor, comparing annual targets to actual activities (Anglo American 2017, p. 13).
CSR demonstrates an increased corporate commitment to sustainable development and positive business engagement. At the same time, however, CSR initiatives tend to be overly compliance – and pragmatics – focused while not considering the quality and the methods involved in delivering on CSR commitment. Anglo American’s performance table and Rio Tinto’s assessment of corporate impact focus foremost on measurable economic objectives, such as the number of people working at the mine, without assessing for example the quality of jobs available, how equitable is access to jobs within the Aboriginal community, or how other aspects of everyday life in the community are related to improved access to jobs and to overall company presence.
Conflict Sensitive Business Practice (CSBP)
Conflict sensitivity was developed as an approach to recognise the multifaceted effects of companies’ presence and the particular impacts they can create in conflict-affected surroundings, where there is an increased risk of business resulting in adverse outcomes and the need to plan actively to do no harm (Hoffmann 2014, p. 3). It comprises an analysis and management of political, social, and economic risk (Graf & Iff 2012), conceptualised as a two-way dynamic between the company and its sphere of operation, where business is no longer consigned solely to the economic realm, but can also play a crucial role in “restor[ing] the social underpinnings of a peaceful society and a legitimate state” (Hoffmann 2014, p. 1).
Conflict sensitivity is the ability to:
- Understand the context in which one operates;
- Understand the interaction between one’s intervention and the context;
- Act upon the understanding of this interaction, in order to avoid negative impacts and maximise positive impacts.
Many initiatives following the conflict sensitivity principle were originally developed by governmental and civil society actors. An example of this is ‘The Practice of Conflict Sensitivity – Concept to Impact’, an initiative by the UK Department for International Development, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and a broad consortium of NGOs that aims to further the understanding of what ‘conflict sensitivity’ means in practice for a range of actors, by providing both background information and practice examples (Conflict Sensitivity Consortium 2018). The swisspeace Business Conflict Check (BCC), based on the CSBP approach, is a simple self-assessment tool for companies to minimise the negative impact they have on their environment. It offers self-help to corporate executives, but it does not aim to suggest how to use knowledge to reshape and influence interactions with beneficiaries or victims of corporate impact (Graf & Iff 2012, p. 49).
International Alert’s Conflict-Sensitive Business Practice (CSBP) guidance offers a different type of practice tool (International Alert 2018). It seeks to help companies at the project level in developing an understanding of local needs. It includes a year-long participatory analysis to identify potential impacts of a project. It combines reactive and preventative measures, and contributes to peacebuilding by directing companies to address underlying conflict drivers and interlinked challenges on the ground. An example of applying this analytical approach was a reforestation initiative in Colombia which looked at a range of conflict drivers, such as land rights and resettlement issues (Leonhardt & Orozco 2006, p. 20). As such it contains much of the ethical and normative approach of the HSBP Framework, albeit with specific reference to conflict-affected environments. Where CSBP is aimed at changing corporate behaviour through encouraging managements to consider different kinds of risk analysis and mitigation efforts, HSBP is about addressing local challenges through a more explicit empowerment of local society and using partnering as a device to mobilise collective action between companies and other stakeholders.
Human Security in Action
The ‘Hayat project’ which ran from 2013 until 2017 in the Minya governorate in Egypt, run by UN agencies with the Ministry of Local Development (MoLD), focused on youth employability and skills development, and supporting local NGOs to implement community development projects. Hayat is an example of how the human security approach not only addressed cross-cutting needs of economic community and personal security, to help vulnerable youth, women, and children facing poverty and exclusion. It also used Human Security Forums as a vehicle to enable community participation in decision-making by bringing local authorities, civil society, and the private sector together to agree on local priorities so that responses to the challenges of these different dimensions of insecurity truly reflected their needs and aspirations (UNIDO 2017).
Multilateral, Multi-Stakeholder Action
International organisations and global civil society collaborating with companies have aimed to use MSPs to leverage different competencies to catalyse wide scale changes, in impacts and corporate behaviour, and to generate across the board benefits from private sector operations (Dodds 2015, p. 8). The UN Global Compact (UNGC) is a prominent platform for dialogue, practice exchange, and learning rather than a code of conduct (Graf & Iff 2012, p. 8). Since its foundation in 1999, the UNGC has developed tools through practical initiatives such as the UNGC CEO Water Mandate, which aims to address the acute global water stress. Promoting greater environmental responsibility, it is run by a UNGC secretariat, open to UNGC business signatories, and overseen by the CEO Water Mandate Steering Committee, which includes business, civil society, and other representatives (Dodds 2015, p. 25-26). The mandate has incorporated a compulsory disclosure mechanism, including the expulsion of companies that fail to report on their activities. The tool is still voluntary and aspirational, and as such the level of accountability is still limited.
The NGO Mercy Corps has published guidelines for organisations wishing to partner up with local actors. Its Tripartite Partnership Methodology is a tool which stimulates cross-sector discussion about and action for local development issues, and has been applied in Mongolia. With Mercy Corps’ support, local civil society organisations developed an informal network, including a local newspaper, to inform local actors about governance processes and inquire about their views. Subsequently, the Tripartite Partnership Forum was founded which gathered representatives across society and built awareness of opportunities for collaboration despite initial hesitations amongst public officials. Through this forum, local organisations identified a need for improved health and education, and secured participation of local businesses.
In contrast to global platforms, which primarily engage in knowledge exchange, MSP platforms at country level aim to align companies, governments, civil society, donors, and local communities around specific problems. Here, examples include access to water in South Africa, sanitation in Bolivia, health promotion and reduction of chronic non-communicable diseases in Trinidad and Tobago through the Partners Forum, and the promotion of agribusiness value chains and supporting infrastructure by the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania platform (Faysse 2006; Reid et al. 2014). Successful partnering initiatives attach a range of overlapping commercial and social interests. In Burundi, brewing company Heineken partnered with a local brewery, microfinance organisations, and the government to launch the production of white beer. The initiative addressed a competition threat faced by the TNC, a market demand for what was a regionally popular drink, and created an opportunity to support wheat farmers facing livelihood threats as well as groups which had been marginalised by the war.
MSPs can take many shapes, sizes, and structures with differing positions of corporate actors within them. By embracing this complexity and providing multiple different approaches and tools, MSPs can take a proactive approach which foregrounds social issues as well as corporate interests. In 2002, Chevron launched The Angola Partnership Initiative (API) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the national government to assist Angola’s transition from war to peace. Chevron was concerned that the scale of physical damage, economic fragmentation, and huge vulnerable population required a comprehensive approach, but that a lack of confidence on the part of international community, weak government, and weak civil society presented a risk of the country sliding back to conflict. The programme’s main aim was to assist peace and stability, by building upon Angola’s human capacity. Chevron initially invested $25 million to generate sustainable income from agriculture, fisheries, and small business development. The initiative was subsequently joined by a local NGO which contributed to building the civil society capacity needed to sustain collaboration as a broad-based partnership for peace and development. After a positive evaluation, Chevron made a commitment to fund further programmes through the API until 2012.
Despite the ambition to provide solutions for what are often termed “wicked problems” that “feature multi-layered interdependencies and complex social dynamics” (Gray & Purdy 2018, p. 15), the tendency is for MSPs to remain overwhelmingly concerned with a single issue. Thus, they may be limited in effectively bridging between both different levels of action and in developing integrated and comprehensive responses that acknowledge simultaneous business concerns and local needs.
The HSBP Initiative in Context
The practice landscape within which the HSBP Framework is proposed illustrates gaps in actions to address development and security needs. These gaps are horizontal and vertical, between different types of corporate action, including between reactive and preventative strategies, and spatially, between global, national, and local spheres. The horizontal gap which has opened up between reactive and proactive strategies, or between response and preventative spaces, is characterised by a lack of joined up action and reflects difficulties in integrating diverse contributions to development and security. Reactive approaches fail to protect effectively against future abuses of rights and the wider environment which leads to abuses, conflict, crisis, and under-development. Truly preventative action should not only aim to avoid committing human rights abuses. It should involve a holistic approach that considers how the underlying drivers of fragility need to be addressed through longer-term perspectives of sustainable development. Both reactive and preventative human rights and CSR strategies demonstrate a failure to systematically engage non-corporate stakeholders through sustained interactions that build a culture and structure of collaboration and cooperation, which can begin to reshape the fragile environment. This would not only strengthen the comprehensive and preventative nature of corporate actions and interventions, it would help address the power imbalances and social divisions which persist at local level despite the introduction of norms on business and human rights, transparency, and accountability.
In seeking to rectify the deficits of capacity and participation which affect local communities, a model of better partnering could strengthen efforts to change the behaviour of companies themselves. Partnering can modify the business-focussed logic, which often undermines CSR and increases mistrust of the private sector, because it is seen as there to primarily protect and advance company interests rather than contributing to public good.
The UNGPs and the emerging discourse of business and human rights, coupled with context- and conflict-sensitive approaches have provided essential blueprints for shifts in attitude and practice. The opportunity now is to add to these building blocks in terms of practice innovations, which respond to the increased expectations of business evident in the SDGs and the business and peace agendas. Connecting universal standards and national action plans with operational strategies at grass roots level remains a challenge. In expanding the field of practice around tools such as HRDD, there is potential for more creative interventions by the private sector, which entrench the values of human rights and equitable development, but which can also advance the inclusion and active agency of local populations.
Here, the reality and the difficulties of power asymmetries, information disjunctures, and clashing cultures on the ground can inhibit transformative effects of applying human rights norms. New approaches need to identify types of ongoing and productive interaction between those who are insecure and those able to address their insecurity (LSE IDEAS 2018, p. 3). This is where the HSBP framework’s participatory bottom-up model of engagement can provide added value. Through dialogue, the HSBP Framework provides a systematic mechanism to allow local partners to formulate their needs, and hence addresses the challenges of real representation and “meaningful” rather than token consultation (Wilson et al. 2016, p. 2). By fostering a more equal exchange between stakeholders from the start, the Framework enables participants to hold each other accountable for the agreements entered into, as well as the spirit and purpose of cooperation. In this way, the HSBP Framework aims to force a definitive shift from company-centric forms of ethical behaviour. Instead, it introduces an approach that promotes mutually beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders involved, and enables configuring responsibility and commitments as something that each and every partner can exercise.
In this final section, we suggest ways in which the HSBP Framework might operate, and how it can be applied to tackle the gaps we have identified both conceptually and from actual experiences of business engagement. We also reflect on some of the operational challenges that this Framework poses and where further work is required to advance a human security approach to private sector contributions.
The key elements of the Framework offer a way to reset relations between companies and other stakeholders from government, civil society, and, most of all, between companies, communities, and individuals. The Framework is a mechanism to mobilise corporate engagement, by suggesting ways of rethinking and implementing cooperation with other stakeholders, and to make engagements more effective in terms of delivering mutual benefits and improved outcomes for both business and communities, particularly in complex and challenging environments.
This is not to suggest that the HSBP Framework should replace the kinds of initiatives that already exist, whether driven by companies, governments, civil society, or international organisations such as the UN or the European Union (EU), or simply substitute the language and practice norms of human rights with human security. Our proposition is that the HSBP Framework can work alongside and either modify or add a valuable dimension to these efforts. One objective is to use the Framework to entrench values which companies may subscribe to in writing at headquarters level, but which they struggle to apply in practice. As an operational guidance, the Framework can strengthen human rights based societal development, by suggesting key processes of participation and inclusivity, combined with a comprehensive and integrated vision of how to protect and prevent against deficits in rights and security. Building on practice precedents, the attention to context can enhance the local appropriateness of corporate responsibility strategies. The emphasis on partnering and collective action provides a basis for long-term and equitable cooperation between diverse types of actors. As a model of sustained associative governance between different agents, interests, and capacities at the local level, it can replace ad-hoc actions and token compliance measures with a way to support long-term investment and development projects, building capacities and a culture which can underpin these economic initiatives. At stake here is the potential for the private sector to contribute to lasting change in ways which ameliorate problematic business environments and the life chances of local people. This is a potential which requires guidance to advance on the steps taken by HRDD, conflict sensitivity, and social impact advice.
The Framework has been developed as a result of extensive conversations and formal consultations with TNCs, policymakers, and civil society groups as well as communities in vulnerable situations. It is particularly aimed at international companies. Many of them are already aware of the need to work with local people; many are already focused on the challenges of the SDGs, HRDD, and other initiatives on transparency, accountability, and peacebuilding. The Framework targets TNCs because they can be change multipliers, operating at local, national, regional, and international level. It provides a way of connecting the global discourse on corporate responsibility and business engagement with what happens at ground level. By addressing TNCs, the Framework is a conduit for both top-down change and bottom-up perspectives. TNCs operate at the intersection of public policy and business, and have connections to smaller companies and local businesses through supply and value chains. They therefore have the capacity to close the vertical gap identified in this report. However, the Framework’s principles, processes, and tools are applicable to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or any business that needs to work within the fabric of society to ground investment and business activity in a particular socio-economic and political ecosystem.
We have also focused on the relevance of the Framework for fragile contexts, where there are deficits of formal governance, even rule of law, and situations where political, economic, and environmental transition create a particular climate of uncertainty and complexity. The Framework should be applicable to any context where multiple and diverse actors are present and where each is important in delivering integrated and comprehensive solutions which draw on a range of resources and capacities. We have highlighted the particular salience of the private sector in stepping up to challenges which government or civil society alone cannot address, and these may simply be more visible or more acute in societies undergoing a form of crisis or upheaval.
To take just a few examples of where the Framework might be applied to create a step change in private sector mobilisation, the first is in Colombia in the aftermath of 50 years of armed conflict. Historically, private sector presence has often generated high levels of distrust, while state institutional presence in remote rural areas has been weak as a result of the conflict. New economic activity coupled with rebuilding governance to support reconciliation, rule of law, and protection of human rights, is needed to help the peace process succeed. The Framework can be used to support private investment and public-private initiatives in targeted areas which are at the heart of national post-conflict planning. By structuring local collaborations and recognising issues that arise as a result of new economic activities, such as the need to rehabilitate marginalised groups including women, indigenous communities, displaced, and victims of conflict, the Framework can help companies, government, and communities work together to strengthen the viability and acceptance of territorial development plans .
In potential applications of the Framework in African countries and South-eastern Europe, economic and investment opportunities are often dominated by international companies in sectors such as extractives and natural resources. Here, the challenge goes beyond ensuring respect for human rights, to one of distributing commercial benefits more evenly between companies and local people. What is required is a mechanism that can help companies mitigate against a variety of economic and social risks such as cyclical downturns in commodity markets, budget pressures which limit social investments, and tense social relations, while ensuring communities have a greater voice in managing the impacts of the corporate presence. Here, the Framework can be used to identify mutual gains for companies and communities from supplementing or modifying core operations, accompanied by a structured dialogue to address related concerns about environmental impacts and the security of employment. The potential of the Framework is to change the relationship between producers and communities from one of benefit dependency and corporate handouts to active partnership in new types of commercial and social venture.
The HSBP Framework will be applied in trial schemes in Colombia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of these initial applications with partners including the UN, local and international companies, and civil society groups, is to test the Framework’s proposition that a human security approach offers added value in mobilising corporate engagement and delivering positive outcomes for development, security, and human rights, and in fulfilling the SDG agenda. By documenting and analysing the experience of this kind of collaborative model, and sharing the results with policymakers, companies, and other practitioners locally and globally, we hope to contribute to both scholarly and policy/practice advances on the role of business in promoting development, peace, and security.
How the Framework can operate alongside and reinforce initiatives such as MSPs, HRDD and SDG programmes is one area where further conceptual analysis and interrogation of an evidence base are required. One proposition to test is whether a company’s prior knowledge of its impact on human rights can prepare it for moving further into societal development using the HSBP Framework. How HRDD and HSBPs can be sequenced is an intriguing question. Another is how to conduct qualitatively different kinds of interactions, such as the forward looking, goal-orientated dialogues proposed by the HSBP Framework, alongside remedy and grievance dialogues which are so salient in certain contexts. Do they help or hinder each other? Further work is also required to substantiate the ambitions of ‘better partnering’ at the heart of the HSBP model. Partnership poses multiple challenges, many of which will only emerge clearly through practice and lessons learned of applying this kind of model. Existing MSPs are a response to complex environments, through bringing together diverse actors and fields of expertise, but as observed from MSP experience, cooperation between groups may require additional steps and safeguards not yet provided for in the Framework pillars. Companies often have to navigate historically difficult relationships with other local actors, in addition to different ways of organising, deliberating, and evaluating activities. In crisis-affected environments, companies have to balance between maintaining neutrality in the face of an evolving domestic political context, and working alongside key government actors in the Framework of an HSBP. Moreover, the call for proactive behaviour by companies will involve them in decisions and choices which do not readily fit within conventional business models, which means that the preparedness of business to drive forward HSBPs might easily be overestimated.
Anglo American (2017) Annual Report 2017: Building on Firm Foundations – Delivering a Sustainable Future, available at: https://www.angloamerican.com/~/media/Files/A/Anglo-American-PLC-V2/documents/annual-updates-2018/aa-annual-report-2017.pdf
Annan, K. (2000) ‘Secretary-General Salutes International Workshop on Human Security in Mongolia’ Press Release SG/SM/7382, 8 May 2000, available at: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2000/20000508.sgsm7382.doc.html
Austin, J. E. (2000) The collaboration challenge: How nonprofits and businesses succeed through strategic alliances (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers)
Baden, D. (2016) ‘A Reconstruction of Carroll’s Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility for the 21st Century
Century’ International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility (Vol. 1, No. 8, pp. 1-15)
BlackRock (2018) Larry Fink’s Annual Letter to CEOs: A Sense of Purpose, available at: https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-relations/larry-fink-ceo-letter?cid=twitter%3Alarryslettertoceos%3A%3Ablackrock
Blowfield, M. & Dolan, C. S. (2014) ‘Business as a development agent: evidence of possibility and improbability’ Third World Quarterly (Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 22-42)
Bondy, K., Moon, J. & Matten, D. (2012) ‘An Institution of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Multi-National Corporations: Form and Implications’ Journal of Business Ethics (Vol. 111, No. 281-299, pp. 281)
Börzel, T.A. & Deitelhoff, N. (2018) ‘Business’ in Risse, T., Börzel, T.A. & Draude, A. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Governance and Limited Statehood (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 250-272
Business & Sustainable Development Commission (2017) Better Business Better World: The report of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission, available at: http://report.businesscommission.org/uploads/BetterBiz-BetterWorld_170215_012417.pdf
Cemex (2017) Cemex 2017 Integrated Report: Leading our Industry’s Digital Transformation, available at: https://www.cemex.com/documents/20143/0/IntegratedReport2017.pdf/ca7c946f-a7ee-3d73-e574-c8f6e89cd698
Coca Cola (2017) The Coca-Cola Company’s Human Rights Report 2016-2017, available at: https://www.coca-colasrbija.rs/content/dam/journey/rs/sr/private/pdfs/Human-Rights-Report-2016-2017-TCCC.pdf
Commission on Human Security (2003) Human Security Now, available at: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/91BAEEDBA50C6907C1256D19006A9353-chs-security-may03.pdf
Conflict Sensitivity Consortium (2018) About Us – Conflict Sensitivity, available at: http://www.conflictsensitivity.org/about-us/
Connor, M. (2011) ‘Business and Human Rights: Interview with John Ruggie’ Business Ethics, available at: http://business-ethics.com/2011/10/30/8127-un-principles-on-business-and-human-rights-interview-with-john-ruggie/
Dodds, F. (2015) Multi-stakeholder Partnerships: Making Them Work for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, available at: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/newfunct/pdf15/2015partnerships_background_note.pdf
Ellersiek, A. & Beisheim, M. (2017) ‘Partnerships for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: transformative, inclusive and accountable?’ SWP Research Paper 14, available at: https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/55740/ssoar-2017-ellersiek_et_al-Partnerships_for_the_2030_Agenda.pdf?sequence=1
Faysse, N. (2006) ‘Troubles on the way: An analysis of the challenges faced by multi-stakeholder platforms’ Natural Resources Forum (Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 219–229)
Gasper, D. (2014) ‘From definitions to investigating a discourse’ in Martin, M. & Owen, T. (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Human Security (Abingdon: Routledge), pp. 35-38
Glasbergen, P., Biermann, F. & Mol, A.P.J. (2007) Partnerships, Governance and Sustainable Development: Reflections on Theory and Practice (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing)
Graf, A. & Iff, A. (2012) ‘Conflict-Sensitive Business Review of Instruments and Guidelines’ swisspeace, available at: http://www.swisspeace.ch/publications/browse-publications/display.html?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=1608&cHash=8a42236e04
Gray, B. & Purdy J. (2018) Collaborating for Our Future: Multistakeholder Partnerships for Solving Complex Problems (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
Hammerstad, A. (2000) ‘Whose Security? UNHCR, Refugee Protection and State Security After the Cold War’ Security Dialogue (Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 391-403)
Hoffmann, A. (2014) ‘From ‘Business as Usual’ to ‘Business for Peace’? Unpacking the Conflict-Sensitivity Narrative’ CRU Policy Brief 28, available at: https://www.clingendael.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/CRU%20Policy%20Brief%2028.pdf
Institute for Economics & Peace (2018) Business & Peace 2018: Analysing peace as a precondition for a sound business environment, available at: http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2018/09/Business-and-Peace-2018.pdf
International Alert (2005) Conflict-Sensitive Business Practice: Guidance for Extractive Industries, available at: https://www.iisd.org/pdf/2005/security_conflict_sensitive_business.pdf
International Alert (2016) ‘Why Conflict Sensitivity Matters for Business and Human Rights’ IA Background Paper, available at: https://www.international-alert.org/sites/default/files/Economy_ConflictSensitivityBusinessHumanRights_EN_2016.pdf
International Alert (2018) Human Rights Due Diligence in Conflict-Affected Settings: Guidance for Extractives Industries, available at: https://www.international-alert.org/publications/human-rights-due-diligence-conflict-affected-settings
Jamali, D. & Kishishian, T. (2009) ‘Uneasy alliances: Lessons learned from partnerships between business and NGOs in the context of CSR’ Journal of Business Ethics (Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 277-295)
Kantor, R. (1994) ‘Collaborative Advantage: The Art of Alliances’ Harvard Business Review (Vol. 72, No. 4, pp. 96-108)
Kolk, A. & Lenfant, F. (2015) ‘Partnerships for peace and development in fragile states: Identifying missing links’ Academy of Management Perspectives (Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 422-437)
Lanchester, J. (2018) ‘After the Fall’ London Review of Books (Vol. 40, No. 13, pp. 3-8)
Leonhardt, M. & Orozco, J.M. (2006) ‘Conflict-Sensitive Business Practice: Guidance for Commercial Reforestation in Colombia (CSBP-R)’ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, available at: https://www.iisd.org/pdf/2005/security_conflict_sensitive_business.pdf
Lonergan, S., Gustavson, K. & Carter, B. (2000) ‘The index of Human Insecurity’ AVISO Bulletin, available at: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/apcity/unpan037033.pdf
Loveridge, D. & Wilson, N. (2017) ‘Engaging with the private sector through multi-stakeholder platforms’ The Donor Committee for Enterprise Development (DCED), available at: https://www.enterprise-development.org/wp-content/uploads/DCED-Platforms-Review.pdf
LSE IDEAS (2018) ‘Human Security: An Approach and Methodology for Business Contributions to Peace and Sustainable Development’ LSE IDEAS Background Paper, available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/ideas/Assets/Documents/project-docs/LSE-IDEAS-Human-Security-Background.pdf
Martin, M. & Bojicic-Dzelilovic, V. (2017) ‘It’s not just the economy, stupid. The multi-directional security effects of the private sector in post- conflict reconstruction’ Conflict, Security and Development (Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 361-380)
Mercy Corps (2011) Local Partnerships: A Guide for Partnering with Civil Society, Business and Government Groups, available at: https://www.mercycorps.org/sites/default/files/mclocalpartnershipsguide.pdf
Morrison, J. (2014) The Social License: How to Keep Your Organisation Legitimate (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)
MSP Institute (2017) ‘Making MSPs Work for the SDGs’, workshop by the MSP Institute and Tellus Institute, New York City, 15 - 17 July 2017, available at: http://msp-institute.org/projects/making-msps-work-for-the-sdgs
Nelson, J. (2017) ‘Partnerships for sustainable development: Collective action by business, government and civil society to achieve scale and transform markets’ Business & Sustainable Development Commission, available at: http://s3.amazonaws.com/aws-bsdc/PartnershipsforSD.pdf
OECD Watch & Amnesty International (2018) The OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct: A briefing for civil society organisations on the strongest elements for use in advocacy, available at: https://www.oecdwatch.org/publications-en/Publication_4430
Pattberg, P. & Widerberg, O. (2016) ‘Transnational multistakeholder partnerships for sustainable development: Conditions for success’ Ambio (Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 42-51)
Reid, S., Hayes, J.P. & Stibbe, D.T. (2014) ‘Platforms for partnerships: Emerging good practice to systematically engage business as a partner in development’ The Partnering Initiative, available at: https://www.thepartneringinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/PLATFORMStealcoverallpages.pdf
Rio Tinto (2016) Why Agreements Matter: A Resource Guide for Integrating Agreements into Communities and Social performance Work at Rio Tinto, available at: https://www.riotinto.com/documents/Rio_Tinto_Why_Agreements_Matter.pdf
Ruggie, J. (2011) ‘Business and human rights in conflict-affected regions: challenges and options towards State responses’ Human Rights Council A/HRC/17/32, 27 May 2011, available at: https://www.business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/ruggie/report-business-human-rights-in-conflict-affected-regions-27-may-2011.pdf
Shift & Mazars LLP (2015) UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework with Implementation Guidance, available at: https://www.ungpreporting.org/wp-content/uploads/UNGPReportingFramework_withguidance2017.pdf
Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Agenda: Business Manifesto (2014), available at: http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Business-manifesto.pdf
UN (2012) ‘Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 10 September 2012’ United Nations General Assembly A/RES/66/290, 25 October 2012, available at: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=%20A/RES/66/290
UNHRC (2018) Fourth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/WGTransCorp/Session4/Pages/Session4.aspx
UNIDO (2017) Human Security Through Inclusive Socio-economic Development in Upper Egypt (HAYAT), available at: https://www.unido.org/sites/default/files/files/2018-02/EGY-120203-140098_HAYAT_FinalEvalRep-2017.pdf
UNTFHS (2016) ‘Human Security Handbook’ United Nations Human Security Unit, available at: https://www.un.org/humansecurity/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/h2.pdf
UNRISD (2016) UNRISD Flagship Report 2016: Policy Innovations for Transformative Change - Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, available at: http://www.unrisd.org/80256B42004CCC77/(httpInfoFiles)/2D9B6E61A43A7E87C125804F003285F5/$file/Flagship2016_FullReport.pdf
Unwin, T. (2005) ‘Partnerships in Development Practice: Evidence from multi-stakeholder ICT4D partnership practice in Africa’ UNESCO Publications for the World Summit on the Information Society, available at: http://www.gg.rhul.ac.uk/ict4d/UNESCOWSISpartnerships.pdf
Vargas, G. A. (2014) ‘La responsabilidad social empresarial en la construcción de la paz: una introducción’ Documentos en Desarrollo Cider 4, available at: https://cider.uniandes.edu.co/Documents/Profesores/Govargas/Vargas2014_ConstruccionPaz.pdf
Wilson, E., Best, S., Blackmore, E. & Ospanova, S. (2016) ‘Meaningful Community Engagement in the Extractive Industries’ International Institute for Environment and Development (UK), available at: http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/16047IIED.pdf
API – Angola Partnership Initiative
BCC – (swisspeace) Business Conflict Check
CSBP – Conflict-Sensitive Business Practice
CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility
ESG – Environment, Social and Governance
EU – European Union
FDI – Foreign Direct Investment
FFMC – Forum to Fight Mine Crime
GAIN – Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
GAVI – Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization
GRI – Global Reporting Initiative
HRDD – Human Rights Due Diligence
HSBP – Human Security Business Partnership
ICT – Information and Communications Technology
MoLD – Ministry of Local Development
MSPs – Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships / Multi-Stakeholder Platforms
NGO – Non-Governmental Organisation
PPPs – Public Private Partnerships
SDGs – Sustainable Development Goals
SMEs – Small and Medium-sized Enterprises
TNCs – Transnational Corporations
UN – United Nations
UNDP – United Nations Development Programme
UNGC – United Nations Global Compact
UNGPs – United Nations Guiding Principles
USAID – United States Agency for International Development
VPSHR – Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights
Mary Martin is Director of the UN Business and Human Security Initiative. Her research focuses on the role of the private sector in conflict and peacebuilding and private security in the international system. She was coordinator of the Human Security Study Group 2006-1010, reporting to the High Representative of the European Union. She holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Cambridge.
Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic specialises in the political economy of conflict and post-conflict reconstruction, post-communist transition, civil wars, political economy of policymaking and regional development. She has acted as an expert to the UNDP, the World Bank and the European Commission. Dr Bojicic-Dzelilovic holds PhD in Economics and MA in Economic Development.
Lisa ten Brinke is a research assistant for the UN Business and Human Security Initiative, supporting the project through research, project management, and communications. She holds an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
The UN Business and Human Security Initiative receives support from the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS), established in 1999 to finance projects that translate the human security approach into practical and sustainable solutions on the ground; LSE’s Knowledge Exchange and Impact (KEI) fund; and The Rockefeller Foundation.
This report could not have been produced without the support, expertise, and valuable feedback from our partners at International Alert, Swiss Peace, ESSEC-Irene, Business and Human Rights, and BuildUp.