Doing business in conflict-affected countries

This page presents all relevant good practice case studies that showcase how business have addressed the Doing business in conflict-affected countries dilemma. Case studies have been developed in close collaboration with a range of multi-national companies and relevant government, inter-governmental and civil society stakeholders. We also draw on public domain sources, including the UN Global Compact's own published Communications on Progress through which signatories are required to report on their performance against the Ten Principles.

The case studies explore the specific dilemmas and challenges faced by each organisation, good practice actions they have taken to resolve them and the results of such action. We reference challenges as well as achievements and invite you to submit commentary and suggestions through the Forum.

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) ABB: Empowering disadvantaged groups to support reconciliation - South Africa

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) Ericsson: Communications networks to support humanitarian relief organisations in post-conflict areas - Sudan

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) Palestine International Business Forum: Bridging the gap between long-standing adversaries - POT

Agility: Public-private initiatives - Global

According to AlertNet survey 41% of the global aid organizations consider private sector as a main partner and source of funding due to recession and economic challenges in the biggest donor countries. For some of them partnership with private sector is not new. For instance, Red Cross and Red Crescent have teamed with Agility logistics company in order to provide reconstruction in Lebanon in the aftermath of 2006 conflict.

Skype, IKEA et al: Public-private initiatives - Global

The number of humanitarian aid agencies in partnership with private sector companies providing logistical support and improving telecommunications in conflict and natural disaster affected countries has been growing in recent years. The private sector is eager to help in emergencies and provide donations and cash for countries in crisis. A British-based Global Humanitarian Assistance reported around US$4.3 billion received from businesses and other private foundations in 2010. This is the increase from US$ 2.7 billion in 2006. This kind of support from private sector is likely to increase partly due to pro-active role played by charities and international organizations who are scared of reductions of aid budgets by governments. Such is the case with the UNHCR and other UN agencies that also teamed with Skype for establishing messaging software to communicate in remote areas; IKEA teaming with UNHCR on a three-year project to provide US$62 million for reconstruction housing units for Somali displaced population affected by conflict and natural disasters.

Peace Ventures: Assisting businesses to help local communities in fragile countries - Global

The idea to identify markets where businesses can make both – profits and positive impact on local communities belongs to Paul val Zyl and Daniel Lubetzky. It turned into PeaceVentures initiative which aimed at searching for companies that help to eliminate poverty, empower women and sustain peace in conflict prone countries globally. The founders of the venture truly believe that recovering economies, creating employment and fostering local enterpreunerral skills can contribute to sustained peace, hence raise the profits of businesses in such countries. PeaceVentures is at the process of development of a luxury fashion brand based on artisanal products in close cooperation with craftsmen and local communities. The Venture believes that such projects will create ownership and sustainability.

Business Humanitarian Forum: Encouraging public-private partnerships in post-conflict regions - Global

Founded in Geneva in 1999, the Business Humanitarian Forum (BHF) encourages and supports cooperation between private businesses and humanitarian organisations, particularly in post-conflict regions where reconstruction is crucial. The BHF facilitates dialogue between the two sectors and provides cooperation with an aim to expand the remit and scope of corporate social responsibility (CSR). To date the BHF has been involved in development projects in Afghanistan, South Africa, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, among others. The list of past and present partners and donors in these projects and others have included companies such as AngloGold Ashanti, Coca Cola Africa, DHL, Nestlé SA, Rio Tinto and Shell International. The BHF works in close collaboration with the UN Development Programme and the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, operating in the belief that ‘early investment can reduce the overall expense of emergency assistance and help us to ensure a sustainable peace.’

Louis Berger Group: Rebuilding essential infrastructure – Afghanistan

Between 2002 and 2007, the Louis Berger Group (LBG), an international consulting firm providing engineering services, among other things, was contracted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to repair essential infrastructure in Afghanistan. The works were carried out as part of the Rehabilitation of Economic Facilities and Services (REFS) scheme. The project included constructing over 1,500 km of roads to improve transportation along important trade routes and to improve access to education and health care facilities for nearby residents. During the course of the project the LBG employed interns from Kabul University and Afghan Deputy Resident Engineers, established a training certification programme, and ultimately revitalised the Afghan construction industry. In 2007, the LBG won the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Special Nation Building Award for its contribution to an economically stable and independent Afghanistan.

Celtel: Uniting divided communities – Sierra Leone

Celtel (now Airtel), a global telecommunications company, cooperated with the US-based NGO Search for Common Ground (SFCG) to bring diverse ethnic and linguistic communities together following the civil war of the 1990s The provision of mobile phone networks throughout the country allowed people, especially those in rural villages, to engage in peace-building dialogues through phoning in to their local radio stations to discuss pertinent issues. Celtel has also made numerous charitable donations to buy buses and paint for schools, wheelchairs for hospitals, and to dig wells for safe drinking water. In 2004, Celtel won the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Client Leadership Award for sustainable development, and for achieving their business goals while committing to strong corporate governance and improving the welfare of local communities.

Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility: Developing environments which enable private investment - Global

The Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), a joint initiative between the UK and Japan created in 1999, gives technical, legal and regulatory assistance to governments and institutions regarding strategies and measures to encourage foreign investment in infrastructure development programmes. At the same time the PPIAF identifies, disseminates, and promotes best practice information among private investors. This is crucial in cases of countries recovering from conflict, when the need for reconstruction is greatest and investor confidence is lowest. The PPIAF encourages responsible investment and sustainable re-development in these fragile economies. Post-conflict countries that have received support from the PPIAF include Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Energoinvest: Modernising infrastructure and repairing business relationships – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Following the Bosnian Civil War between 1992 and 1995, Energoinvest, an engineering company based in Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to rebuild, modernise and integrate the country’s severely damaged power infrastructure. The project allowed Bosnia to be connected to neighbouring Serbia, Montenegro, and Croatia, while giving Energoinvest the opportunity to repair working relationships with pre-war business partners and regional power firms through projects aimed at restoring power infrastructures throughout the region. This is particularly important following civil conflicts, which can create rifts between friends, neighbours and business partners. Repairing these relationships is a key part of the reconciliation process. Energoinvest has been able to export its expertise to other post-conflict countries such as Libya and Algeria, allowing them to sustainably reconstruct, reconcile, and regain peace and stability.

Safaricom: Spreading peace via SMS – Kenya

In December 2007, violence erupted in Kenya following presidential elections that were rocked by allegations of electoral fraud. Mobile phones and text messages were blamed for intensifying the violence through the dissemination of hate messages. Less than a year later, Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile phone service provider, partnered with the UN Office in Nairobi on the ‘Text for Peace’ campaign, in which Kenyans were encouraged to send text messages of peace to the network. Those messages were then read aloud to the UN General Assembly in New York on 21 September 2008, International Peace Day. The project helped to unite communities and heal wounds caused by the violence.

Maersk et al: Energy/shipping company support for UNDP efforts to tackle piracy through development – Somalia

In its 2012 Sustainability Report, Maersk notes that its vessels carry out around 3,000 transits through the Gulf of Aden and past the Somali coast (a key piracy hot-spot). During the course of the year, two of Maersk’s own vessels were subject to attempted hijackings – although they were able to evade their pursuers in each case. Nonetheless, international effort to counter piracy through the implementation of enhanced security practices, offshore naval patrols and other means appears to have contributed to a reduction in incidents from 173 in 2011 to 36 in 2012.

As well as implementing on-board security measures, Maersk has joined Shell, BP, Stena Lin, NYK, MOL and “K” Line to support socio-economic development initiative on the Somali coast. Between them, the companies plan to contribute US$2.5 million between 2013 and 2014 – as part of longer-term attempts at tackling the root causes of piracy. The programme is being carried out in partnership with the UN Development Programme, which already has an existing presence in the region and runs an ‘Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy in Puntland and Central regions’ project – the objectives of which are already aligned with those of the participating companies. Under its existing programme, the UNDP reportedly focuses on addressing youth unemployment by providing alternative agricultural, livestock and fishing opportunities.

Maersk, GE Foundation, Ericsson et al: Corporate support for DIHR/IHRB initiative to support responsible business – Myanmar

Maersk, the GE Foundation and Ericsson were initial corporate participants in an initiative driven by the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) (and supported by the British Government) to develop a framework for responsible business in Myanmar. The work is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and is, according to Maersk, focused on three key ‘tracks’: (1) business and investor support for responsible business practices by local/international business with a presence in the country; (2) support for national reform processes and international support for sustainable business; and (3) support for the inclusion of civil society in discussions on responsible business. The initiative follows the lifting of key sanctions on the country in 2012 following a period of reform – paving the way for an influx of international investment into this previously isolated market.

BP: Emergency evacuation amid civil unrest and conflict – Egypt, Libya


In 2011, BP faced two emergency situations in the Middle East and North Africa – including serious political instability in Egypt and (ultimately) conflict in Libya. The company initiated its crisis management systems to ensure the safety of its local and expatriate staff.


In January, the company evacuated almost 400 employees and their families – as well as contractors – from Egypt due to civil unrest. Air transport and evacuation infrastructure was in place within 24 hours and all affected expatriates had been taken to the UK within four days. In addition, support was provided to more than 1,200 local employees and their families – including the provision of cash, food and medicine as needed. Contact was maintained with workers on a daily basis. By March, all relevant employees had been returned to the country.


In Libya, a decision was taken to implement evacuation of all expatriates following civil unrest in February. The situation was more challenging than that faced in Egypt due to the fact that the workforce was located at five remote sites – including exploration sites in the Sahara Desert. Nonetheless, within 90 hours of the decision, all those who requested it (a total of 101 people) had been taken out of the country. This followed a risk assessment of all transport routes – and the use of both aircraft and ferries.

Shell: Integration of VPs into security training and contracts – Global

Shell included the Voluntary Principles in its Group Security Standards in 2007. As a result the standard annual risk assessment that all of Shell’s operations are required to conduct now includes background checks on security staff to make sure they have no past record of human rights abuse, and checks that security staff have been trained on how to implement the Voluntary Principles. The Voluntary Principles are also referenced in its contracts with private security providers and when working with public security forces.

Bill and Melinda Gates foundation/Microsoft: Establishing a private-sector coalition to address healthcare, including in conflict areas - Nigeria

In November 2013, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates launched the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) platform in collaboration with the private sector business leaders. The aim of the platform is to help the government of Nigeria achieve its healthcare-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The platform intends to bolster state healthcare capacities and resources, and to improve delivery of healthcare services to the population affected by conflict.  The idea is to mobilise the local private sector to join their collective capabilities, influence, financial and human resources to target problems in Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system. Exxon Mobil Companies of Nigeria, Folawiyo Oil and Gas, Etisalat, MTN, First Bank and Wellbeing Foundation all pledged donations to the alliance. The coalition’s target is to save one million lives by 2015 and to address inequalities in access to healthcare services in conflict-affected country in the long-term.


IKEA: Developing new solutions for refugee housing - Global

IKEA has partnered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to develop flat pack houses that can provide resilient and practical shelter for refugees. The pre-fabricated houses are designed to provide greater security and privacy than the tents that are currently used. They are also fitted with solar panels, negating the need for kerosene lamps and candles, and are designed to insulate against adverse weather conditions. In addition to supporting the right to housing for refugees in host countries, a UNHCR spokesperson has suggested that it may be possible for refugees to transport the structures back home, facilitating their right of return. The shelters were erected for a first trial in Ethiopia in August 2013. In December 2013, permission was obtained from the Lebanese government for the shelters to be used for Syrian refugees in the country.


ArcelorMittal Foundation: Promoting inter-ethnic friendships through mixed children’s camps – Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 2014, the Arcelor Mittal Foundation gathered 100 primary school pupils, their teachers, employee-volunteers and 10 international volunteers to take part in an innovative project to bring together children from different ethnic backgrounds. It is based on a 5-day holiday camp (‘Camp of Children’s Smiles) in Prijedor, where ArcelorMittal has mining operations. ArcelorMittal has supported such camps – held in the Kozara Mountain national park for three years – in partnership with local NGO Don. The camp aims to develop “multicultural skills and learn about their ethnically-diverse community through sports and art” – in addition to other life skills. In particular, the camp aims to “engage the post-conflict communities and bring them together by bridging ethnic differences”.