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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2005, Vol. 5 No. 1 .


Business and Security, Public-Private Sector Relationships in a New Security Environment
Alyson J.K. Bailes and Isabel Frommelt eds.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004,
328 pp HB 40.00 ISBN: 0-19-927450-9


Business and Security, which grew out of a 2003 conference sponsored by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the Liechtenstein Institut, is a collection of essays exploring the ?shared vulnerability? of business and governments to security threats (i). This rubric creates a framework for a more robust political assessment of international issues in the context of any business decision. The diversity of the collected essays is intentional: security matters to a broad range of concerns, and in turn, while massive events like the 11 September attacks raise awareness in the private sector, the actual process of understanding the threat environment concerning any business is more complex than worrying about one form of event.

An essay by Niall Burgess and David Spence on European Union reactions to emerging threats is an explicit exploration of the systemic and coordinating limitations affecting governments? ability to react nimbly in assessing and responding to threats. While the European Union ? given the still unwieldy and limited purview of much of its security policy ? is perhaps a unique example, problems of intergovernmental coordination have also been a significant impediment in the United States. Indeed, the establishment of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security required an enormous organizational undertaking. The private sector enters this policy area as an alternative source of entrepreneurial strategy; while government must deal with implementation, the ability of private firms ? for example database integrators, explosives detection device makers and so on ? are able to serve as intellectual security laboratories. In turn, these firms seek to develop the kind of security and public policy expertise that has often been the realm of government and academia. In short, the functions of government and the private sector begin to converge. Eric Belfrage (p. 33) touches on this phenomenon in his brief piece on public-private sector cooperation. While highlighting the economic risk to business, and touching upon integrative roles the private sector can play, there is clearly more space for discussion. From a somewhat different perspective, George Baur (p. 104) discusses governmental efforts ? often undertaken through multilateral structures ? to influence private sector compliance ? vital in, for instance, the battle against money laundering.

As John Maresca points out, the private sector remains the world?s largest allocator of funds (p. 121). Maresca argues for a creative alignment of business objectives with humanitarian needs. Interestingly, the renewed attention paid to the risk of failed states in the context of security planning ? as opposed to primarily humanitarian motivations ? has expanded governmental attention to humanitarian issues. The challenge Maresca poses is to complete this circle, with government acting as advocate for greater private sector involvement in humanitarian planning. Maresca?s work on the ?business-humanitarian relationship? feeds well into Andrew Bone?s (p. 135) study of the Kimberely Process, bringing public participation in home countries into the assessment. The editorial placement of the two pieces together reinforces the connection between all key players. This case-specific model, in Bone?s view, provides a more effective alternative to established institutional structures. This conclusion, while a theoretical advance, is enabled by the heightened awareness of security issues in the private sector, and the growing perception in government and non-governmental organizations of how this awareness can be leveraged.


Jon Levy, The Eurasia Group, New York



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