Conflict: a major impediment to developmentEngineering and construction firms operating in unstable states face a range of conflict risks. Oil, gas and mining projects, which frequently have significant engineering involvement, can inadvertently trigger or sustain violence, or become the focus of resentment themselves. Large-scale infrastructure developments including major roads, bridges, dams and other energy-generating projects can similarly lead to upheaval and tension and be the subject of social grievance. Engineering firms often operate in ‘post-conflict’ environments as part of wider reconstruction efforts, with firms working for donor agencies, host governments, international non-governmental and relief organisations.
While traditionally contractors have had limited agency or leadership on managing risks related to the operating environment, they are increasingly finding themselves at the fore of decision-making. Conflict of all levels presents major operational and reputational risks for engineering firms operating in many politically unstable countries/regions (e.g. project delays or abandonment, staff and asset security). As a result, conflict sensitive business practice methods are key to the successful delivery of many engineering projects. Improved management systems are needed to deal with the challenges of operating in such contexts, specifically with regard to the incidence of violent conflict.
EAP has collaborated with International Alert, an independent peace building NGO, to maximise the total impact of the two organisations’ work on the nexus between social performance of the engineering industry and conflict-sensitivity. International Alert had previously produced the ‘toolkit’ Conflict Sensitive Business Practice: Guidance for Extractive Industries. The purpose of the CSBP Guidance is to minimise the conflict risks associated with extractive industry investment in conflict-prone societies. EAP and International Alert worked together to produce a complementary guidance note specifically focused on conflict sensitivity for engineering contractors on large projects.
This guidance note is addressed both to engineering contractors and their clients on major projects. It highlights key issues related to conflict, contractors and conflict sensitivity, and introduces conflict-sensitive business practice (CSBP) – steps through which these potential conflict issues can be understood and managed during the design, delivery and operation of major projects.