In depth


Business and conflict

Antoni Pigrau Solé
Lecturer in International Public Law and Director of CEDAT (Tarragona Centre for Environmental Law Studies), Rovira i Virgili University. Member of the Governing Board of the ICIP (International Catalan Institute for Peace)
Antoni Pigrau Solé

Antoni Pigrau Solé

This edition of the Peace in Progress magazine is dedicated to the relationship between business and conflict, a subject that ICIP has been following for some time (as can be seen in No. 9 of the magazine and in No. 8 of the Documents collection of the ICIP).

If we think of armed conflicts, links are very varied and we can highlight three here. Firstly, the international arms market and its supply chain, together with the financial institutions that support them are closely associated with any armed conflict. Secondly, for some years the privatisation of security has increasingly led the private sector into working in areas that are traditionally reserved for public actors, normally governmental ones. Thirdly, companies that are theoretically outside of the arms or security business, whether national or multinational, also operate in areas affected by conflicts and can end up taking positions that are strongly committed to the continuation of conflicts if this benefits their business interests. This is particularly true for sectors involved in the exploitation and trade of natural resources.

Armed conflict situations always generate a climate in which the line between legality and illegality is very blurred and where impunity, based on the power provided by the use of armed force, is the usual situation. Therefore, companies could be directly or indirectly responsible for the violations of human rights associated with armed conflict – which depending on each case could represent war crimes.

However, these negative impacts are not always associated with armed conflicts. The global energy crisis and competition for resources often mean that extracting activities – especially in the fields of mining and oil – have a tremendously negative impact on the environment and on human rights, and on the ways of life of local communities in general.

In this edition of the Magazine we are publishing various contributions regarding specific, representative aspects of this complex problem: the debate about the regulation of private military and security companies (Helena Torroja), the part played by natural resources in the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Josep Maria Royo), the Kimberley Process international certification scheme for diamonds (Antoni Pigrau), the social and environmental effects of mining extractive activities (Tica Font), the possibility of making claims against transnational companies for violations of human rights in the field of European law (Marta Requejo), and advances in the field of corporate liability regarding human rights(Maria Prandi). This analysis is completed by an interview with Mauricio Lazala, deputy director of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre in London (Eugènia Riera), which is a non-governmental organisation that is carrying out an exhaustive monitoring into claims of involvement by companies in violations of human rights and that has achieved a significant degree of dialogue with companies.