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Prof Brian Ganson
November 9, 2021 @ 18:3019:30
Is it a “private” sector? The impact of business actors on social conflict and cohesion
Private sector actors play an inordinate role in peacebuilding and other conflict-affected environments. Their organisation, financing and limited focus on business objectives, particularly when they operate at scale, allow them to profoundly shape economies emerging from conflict. Macro-level studies demonstrate that the trajectory of private sector development also shapes societal relations. Poorly managed, it can further concentrate power in elites, undermine state-citizen relationships, and exacerbate intergroup tensions. These dynamics make already pressing social and political issues all the harder to address. Yet it has traditionally been hard to assess whether and how the actions of an individual business enterprise affect the broader society’s ability to address its past and build a more positive future. Recent and emerging scholarship in network and systems theory and analysis allows us to model how the relationships that business actors build and break, as well as the dynamics of conflict and cohesion they interrupt or amplify, reverberate profoundly beyond their “private” relations. This underlines that the primary impact of a business on conflict or peace is not economic, but rather relational. There are important implications for business ethics and leadership in the African context, as well as for social and policy perspectives on the very nature of the private sector we choose to develop.
Brian Ganson is Professor at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. There he heads the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement, which works with business, government, international actors, labour and communities to reduce the costs of conflict and increase collaborative opportunities. Prof Ganson’s research focuses on private sector development in conflict-affected contexts, including questions of management and leadership; risk assessment and risk management; international policy; and the role of neutrals. Concurrently a Professor in the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, he co-leads the Business & Conflict Research Initiative, an international consortium applying the tools of data science to increase understanding of conflict dynamics and conflict risk mitigation. Prof Ganson was previously a Senior Researcher with the Fletcher School Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution. He was also a Director of Conflict Management Group, a not-for-profit consultancy addressing protracted conflicts of public importance. He received his Juris Doctor with honours from the Harvard Law School, his Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School, Tufts University, and his Bachelor of Arts with high distinction from the University of Michigan.
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