External Expansion Limited

Thursday, 4 September 2014


Given recent events live internationally by various armed conflicts that affect the correct commercial operation in many countries, through social networks, we have received some inquiries of how to act in these situations. Although we have professional experience in some countries currently affected and therefore know the rights and obligations that international companies must meet in these specific contexts, we have proposed to investigate the matter and, through our blog, display information relevant about policies of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), derived from policies relating to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) that every company that interacts in these situations or at some point to be drawn into them must know perfectly for their own performance during the conflict and post conflict. There are 13 conflicts that tarnish the world right now: (In Europe) Ukraine; (In Asia) Palestine-Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan; (In Africa) Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

In conflict contexts in which firms interact are various armed actors, both regular and irregular, who exercise their power in these environments of violence, whether governments or armed forces, also against one or more armed opposition groups. Also include other rebel groups such as clans, warlords, armed groups opposed to each other or militias of ommunities ethnic or religious who primarily use conventional armaments, but increasingly often performed suicide attacks, terrorist attacks, armed groups who exert sexual violence and promote hunger, as they have a greater impact on the civilian population. Majority the armed conflict have been linked to aspirations on their identity and demands for greater self-government by any party. In some countries, control of natural resources and land have been the origin and dynamics of conflict that lead to major humanitarian crises, situations of violence that generated deaths, forced displacement, epidemics and famines affecting in large measure to the population, weakening or collapsing partially or fully the economic, social and political structure of the country that suffers. The international community in an effort of establishing a minimum order for this kind of contexts, created the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) that should be taken into account by companies in their policies of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), there are many companies that have adopted human rights policies, but few that incorporate CSR policies in their policies relating to IHL, therefore, companies that manage this issue innovatively, take a pioneering better prepared to meet this new challenge of CSR globally, and greatly contribute to society and peace in the countries concerned position. Below, we will make a brief explanation of IHL and how it should be integrated into CSR policies to be taken into account for the international and local companies that can become involved in countries affected by armed conflict, either during the time in which they occur the facts and afterwards.

The IHL is a set of internationally recognized standards to regulate armed conflict by determining the methods and means used by the armed actors. There are four covenants from Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, constituting the instrumental basis of IHL. Later new protocols have been held that regulated the prohibition or restriction of use of certain weapons, primarily aimed for companies that produce or market any type of military weanponry and that operate in conflict countries. The majority of states have ratified those convenants, but usually and unfortunately, rules are not respected by armed groups in conflict whether governmental or opposition. In turn, few companies are aware that in these contexts must respect human rights and must prevail the IHL that involve a number of rights and obligations, one of them being the allocation of protection of both personnel (local, expat or subcontractors) as their assets and capital investments. By the principle of immunity of the civilian population, factories, offices, vehicles, land and civil remedies are also protected from deliberate or indiscriminate attacks as well as pillage or violations of private property that should be restored or compensated to the end of conflict. The IHL also affords protection to the abducted persons offense to which it is subjected repeatedly personnel of some companies that interact in these contexts. Respecto to persons clearly states that they can not be required to perform the job coercively, this one considered the provision of work or services under the menace of a penalty and involuntary realization. The obligations for companies or its staff in compliance and respect for IHL, stipulate forth that they shall respond in criminal or civil case of reneging the rules in which complicity is demonstrated on a fact-related with the conflict. The IHL provides that not only the perpetrators of violations but also their superiors may be held criminally responsible for committing a war crime or civilly liable for damages.

In complex conflict environments there are three areas that are interconnected and must be reflected in CSR policies, being these human rights, development and peace. Therefore, the CSR of the companies can not be separated from the context in which operate, and should reflect and respond to the challenges facing them in their immediate environment at the local level, which in turn are linked to the challenges facing humanity worldwide. It is undeniable, and known by all, that an important part of business and foreign direct investment globally occurs in countries in conflict and post-conflict, because they are countries with diverse attractions in the area of business, mainly linked to the exploitation of natural resources, important markets and advantageous production costs, among other attractive commercial. These attractive business, although situated in complex and uncertain environments attract companies operating globally, or are operated by national companies that provide other global chains so they are strategically general interest. That is why, it is important the role of these companies in their CSR policy in the countries in conflict because their operations can help lay the basis for peace or to rekindle more the causes of conflict. For this reason the IHL requires that enterprises contribute to peace with a conflict sensitivity perspective, owing understand and anticipate their interaction in the context of avoiding negative impacts and maximizing positive by neutral manner. So it is important to know well the conflict and its actors (stakeholders) to build a CSR policy conflict sensitive whose central point is work priority with the populations that are found in vulnerable situations as a result of armed conflict. Businesses should be careful to avoid being complicit in human rights violations or participate in the conflict, running the risk of being accountable to the law, for example, through of providing logistical support on commercial terms to one of the conflicting parties (government or opposition) being able to facilitate the commission of violations in IHL. Another issue is that companies acquire the resources and assets of these countries with the free consent of the owner without the intervention of threats, intimidations or abuse of power often given through a third party, because otherwise its could be charged of plunder. Also, companies must pay attention to the people or companies responsible for ensuring their safety, of both staff and installations, as well as manage issues arising from violence, such as the deprivation of liberty and discrimination of its staff. Therefore, corporate and individual liability is a very important element to take into account by companies when assessing the risks arising from the activities carried out in these countries during the conflict and the postwar period because determined situations could mean the company's complicity in human rights abuses still when the company unknown the circumstances.

In conclusion, we can say that IHL regulates situations of armed conflict or war, and companies operating in these contexts must not only be vigilant of their rights but also to their obligations, with particular attention to stakeholders (internal and external) interact with them for insigth into the truth and participate with neutrality in their own framework of CSR policies. Companies should be especially vigilant about the type of relationship that want to keep with the local community and the level of conflict in the area. Businesses should be very careful with the use of persons in forced labor and acquire the resources or assets of these countries with the free consent of the owner. Companies should know the risks involved for their reputation of doing business with certain people or elites that subsequently, according to data or reports from UN agencies, prove to be responsible for serious violations of human rights during the conflict, or who have interest in discriminating and suppress any territory or ethnicity during the conflict or post-conflict. In relation to post-conflict situations, it could cause changes that is due to be careful while always considering the evolution of the indicators of transitional justice in the country and if these have a point of intersection with the policies or activities that develop, for example, in the field of reconciliation. Businesses should contribute to peace and finished a conflict to hire people balanced between the different ethnic groups previously faced, for not privilege ones over others, thus preventing promote a new outburst of violence. We believe that the above will be useful to know handled in these troubled countries, to value have an internal CSR policies based on IHL to better cope the challenges on a global scale and contribute positively to society.

For more information or require services related to this article, please contact through our website www.externalexpansion.net or directly our email info@externalexpansion.net.

Until the next article...

Leonardo Dufau

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