Local Business, Local Peace? Intergroup and Economic Dynamics

Journal of Business Ethics 173 (4):835-854 (2020)
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Abstract

The field of “business for peace” recognizes the role that businesses can play in peacebuilding. However, like much of the discussion concerning business in conflict zones, it has prioritized the view of multinationals, often overlooking the role of indigenous local firms. The economic, social, and intergroup dynamics experienced by local businesses in conflict zones are understudied, with the current paper beginning by positioning micro- and small enterprises in the peacebuilding debate, then engaging with multidisciplinary works to understand how they foster peace. Through a case study set in north Lebanon, we conducted semi-structured interviews with twenty-three MSE owners in one industry who operate across sectarian divisions and with recently displaced Syrian refugees. Our findings indicate that local business activity can simultaneously promote peace and foster conflict, with peacebuilding improved when intergroup differences are reduced within the operating environment. Furthermore, the importance of economic development was elevated for local businesses, suggesting that peace through mechanisms such as social development, the rule of law, and training, is only achieved if economic needs are alleviated through these measures. We conclude by citing how contextual factors in conflict zones can enhance intergroup differences, and how resolving such factors can promote peacebuilding, with further empirical work needed in this area.

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