Sri Lanka

Local Business, Local Peace: the Peacebuilding Potential of the Domestic Private Sector - Case study: Sri Lanka

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Executive Summary : There is increasing recognition that business needs to play a positive role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding in post-conflict scenarios. Despite the identification of the private sector as a factor in conflict, there has been little effort to engage international and local businesses in catalysing and supporting peace processes. This is often due to the fact that international and local communities tend to highlight instances where economic activities benefit from, or contribute to, conflict creation and escalation. There has been insufficient research into examples where business actors play a more positive role in pushing peace processes forward.

This report examines the relevance of existing literature on business and conflict in the Sri Lankan context. It also presents the findings of research into the existing role of business in conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities in Sri Lanka in the light of broader corporate social responsibility (CSR), a concept that is relatively new to the country but attracting increasing attention. It presents two business-led peace initiatives that have gained significant momentum in the last few years: the Sri Lanka First campaign, a peace advocacy initiative by Colombo-based big businesses; and the Business for Peace Alliance, an island-wide network of regional Chambers of Commerce that facilitates contacts and confidence building between province-based businesspeople across the country.

In order to generate broader learning from these cases and the wider business community’s attitude to peace and conflict, research was carried out to gauge business opinions on broader social issues requiring urgent attention; impacts the conflict has on the business community; who in Sri Lanka carries responsibility for peacebuilding; and what factors motivate businesspeople to engage in peace interventions.