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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2009, Vol.1, No.1 .

Oil, Profits, and Peace: Does Business Have a Role in Peacemaking?
Jill Shankleman

(United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington, DC, 2007) 228 pp, PB, $12.00, ISBN 978-1-929223-98-5

Oil and gas companies have an enormous impact on conflict and peacemaking wherever they are established and work. According to author Jill Shankleman, there is a corporate social responsibility on the part of these companies to facilitate economic development, promote peace and reduce ethnic conflict. Shankleman clearly presents her argument in a precise, impartial and extensive manner that is an easy and enjoyable read. What is put forward is an examination of the consequences of oil exportation for oil-producing countries, emphasising the links between conflict and peace, and how oil companies? business practices affect the risks for conflict and the prospects of peace.

The author?s argument begins with the analysis of the international oil industry, taking into account the features that facilitate or constrain its adoption of socially responsible approaches. Shankleman?s aim in the book is to influence oil corporations? long-term agenda by highlighting the contributions they could make to conflict prevention and resolution, and raising awareness of economic issues amongst those involved in peacebuilding. Throughout the first four chapters Shankelman develops a foundation for grasping the two major connections between oil and conflict. The first link, and the most important according to Shankelman, is the immense wealth generated from oil production. The second is the expense to the surrounding area. Instability, environmental desolation and social tensions can arise from production. It is in the fourth chapter where Shankelman?s argument can have a practical influence upon oil companies. Not only does she lay out the issues created by international oil companies, but she also produces ideas and possibilities for these companies to incorporate into their business plans to help reduce violent conflict. This argument is assessed against three different case studies outlined in the book - Azerbaijan, Angola and Sudan. How the author profiles these countries is an essential read on how oil companies truly disrupt intergovernmental politics, economics and society.

Shankelman?s data and recommendations are highly practical, proactive and realistic for any international oil company to incorporate into their long-term agenda. Oil can be a catalyst for violent conflict between different ethnic groups, political parties or nations. What is presented in this book intelligently brings to light attainable solutions for conflict prevention and it would be an injustice for any oil company to not take into account the findings Shankelman introduces.

Diana Webster, MSc Peace and Conflict Studies Masters, University of Ulster

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