Natalie Ralph’s Peacemaking and the Extractive Industries presents an unprecedented approach to the rapidly emerging field of corporate peacemaking. Ralph explores the role extractive transnational corporations can and should play in peacemaking processes in conflict-affected regions of the globe. Painstakingly researched and conveniently practical, Ralph has produced a stellar foundational text for the field of corporate peacemaking (CPM) at a time when its significance is growing exponentially.
Ultimately, Ralph’s book attempts to answer two questions: 1) why should transnational extractive corporations participate in CPM, and 2) how can they effectively do so? The first half of the volume argues that CPM will benefit both peacemaking processes and corporate activities in conflict-prone countries. The second half presents a number of practical tools for applying CPM. Ralph distinguishes between structural peacebuilding and corporate peacemaking, the latter referring to the role and responsibility of extractive industries in contributing to successful political dialogue and negotiation processes. In doing so, Ralph has composed one of the first comprehensive reviews of this specific aspect of corporate social responsibility.
Ralph’s book builds its argument in support of the value of CPM from scratch, starting with the summaries of the most basic and foundational concepts involved: peacemaking, corporate responsibility, and wartime economics.1 These literature reviews build a strong foundation for Ralph’s later chapters. Readers well acquainted with one or more of these schools of thought may find the related chapters unnecessary and disengaging, wading through familiar definitions and studies. However, Ralph’s comprehensive and targeted summary of these concepts assures readers that her argument finds its foundation in well-established schools of thought.
While her argument for why transnational extractive industries should engage in corporate peacemaking is founded in thorough academic and practitioner research, at its core, Peacemaking in Extractive Industries is an applicable toolkit. Ralph proposes a practical CPM Framework consisting of fourteen options for CPM engagement, ranging from lobbying and advocacy to shuttle diplomacy to sharing crucial resources and expertise. Upon exploring the added value of each of the fourteen suggestions in depth, Ralph proceeds to discuss implementation methods for such activities, including when to act, who to engage and how to monitor and evaluate CPM activities, among others.
Moreover, Ralph provides an analysis of ten examples of case studies of CPM activities. These cases explore a wide range of types of CPM, including peacemaking done by business personalities, single corporations, as well as domestic, foreign, and global business collectives. These include the Consultative Business Movement in South Africa, the Confederation of British Industry/Group of Seven collaboration in Northern Ireland, and the role Estee Lauder president Ron Lauder played in shuttle diplomacy between Israel and Syria.2 These case studies provide much-needed historical evidence in an overwhelmingly theoretical book, and serve to strengthen Ralph’s argument beyond a doubt.
The strengths of Peacemaking and the Extractive Industries lie in its unprecedented and timely concept, its inter-disciplinary approach, and its focus on practical CPM application. Ralph leaves no caveat unaddressed, and proposes several new tools, including her 14-point CPM framework, evaluation methods, a "Map of CPM Activities", and a model for Inter-Track Business Diplomacy.3 It is expertly designed to walk the reader from a place of very little familiarity with corporate peacebuilding and responsibility, to one where he or she can effectively design CPM strategies and engage in CPM activities.
One weakness in Ralph’s argument is the business case she makes for CPM. Corporate executives reading her book will most likely ask "what’s in it for us?" How does CPM benefit transnational extractive corporations? To address this question, Ralph demonstrates extensively how war and insecurity hurt transnational corporations – an argument for which she cites many decent sources. However, she then expects the reader to draw the conclusion that, because war harms extractive business, TNCs should thereby engage in CPM. Alternate courses of action would be for TNCs to abandon operations in conflict zones, or capitalize on the short-term potential of war economies and then leave. Extractive industries in particular are prone to such tactics. More discussion of why CPM is more beneficial to corporations than the alternatives would be appreciated.
In summary, while Ralph’s book will not necessarily convince resistant minds of CPM’s value, it provides a powerfully useful guide for those already open to its importance and profitability. It is a strong and thorough toolkit for moving forward with CPM. In Peacemaking and the Extractive Industries, Ralph has slingshot the conversation around corporate peacemaking into the minds of extractive industry executives, and paved the way forward with a sturdy theoretical and practical foundation.
1 Natalie Ralph, Peacemaking and the Extractive Industries: Towards a Framework for Corporate Peace (Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf Publishing, 2015), Chapters 2-4.
2 Ibid., 171.
3 Ibid., 110, 248-254.