As the international community discusses new approaches for building peace, the private sector is “increasingly a major part of these geopolitical discussions,” says USIP’s Andrew Cheatham, with more and more “partnerships of states and private sector corporations working together to pursue national interests.”

U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.

Transcript

Laura Coates: Joining us now is Andrew Cheatham, a Senior Advisor for global policy working in the executive office of United States Institute of Peace. He joins us now. Welcome, Andrew. How are you?

Andrew Cheatham: I'm good. How are you, Laura, it's good to be here.

Laura Coates: I'm good. Thank you so much for joining us here today, we are following closely what is happening with the release of hostages, as well as Palestinian prisoners from Israel and the different rounds of names that are being given. Both sides seem to be open to the possibility of extending the truce, although Netanyahu says ten more hostages must be released for every single day of a pause in the fighting. We're waiting to see how all of that will play out. But there has been also a lot of talk in terms of not only what diplomatic solutions are might be, but I often wonder about what the private sector and businesses what role they might have in mitigating conflict and countries in which they work overseas.

Andrew Cheatham: Absolutely Laura, I mean, this is something we've been looking at closely at the Institute for a while. And, you know, the violence in the Middle East and in Ukraine is front and center in everybody's mind. But you know, conflict and war is really on an uptick. We've seen since the 2010s, sort of a really drastic increase all over the world in war and violence, really, the biggest since the end of the Cold War. And at the same time, the world is becoming more and more, as they say, multipolar, you know, this, issue that you have just the U.S. out there as the main leading policeman working on helping people in diplomatic ways and having a lot of strong influence changed with the rise of China, but also the rise of many, many other countries. And you see, in the current talks, how many players are involved in the truce process that you've mentioned, and also in Ukraine, but also all over the world, many, many players, including the private sector. And the private sector is increasingly a major part of the geopolitical discussions beyond what they've been doing, you know, just to make profit, you've seen also the focus on social wellbeing, and you know, what they call ESG, environmental, social and governance aspects, and corporate social responsibility. So, what we're looking at the Institute is how they can use their leverage their weight, to help in these peace processes, whether it's a temporary truce, but also more importantly, long term peace processes. What can the private sector do to be a very positive influence for them, for the world in these societal reasons, but also for their own bottom line? So, this is what we're looking at the Institute.

Laura Coates: When you're looking at the influence they can exert, do they have true power in the face? I mean, obviously, it's going to be different for every country in the power dynamics at play. But what type of power? Are we talking about? Is of the influence over the people who in turn, will, you know, persuade and lobby their governments? Or is it the direct through line to the government officials?

Andrew Cheatham: Many in many, many different ways. So, you know, transnational corporations hold, you know, a tremendous way with the countries with many different countries, but of course, countries where they are based out of so you have you have big, huge, huge companies of Apple has just been evaluated that three trillion in wealth, you have companies all over the world, Walmart and others who are bigger than big countries like Russia, Belgium and Sweden. So just as a massive way of financial influence, these big transnational companies can hold a lot of power, but then they work in through their supply chains and distribution with local actors, these local actors have power all the way down to or an influence all the way down to community levels in places of armed conflict. So, you know, in a long-term war, like we've seen in Syria, Yemen, these very protracted wars, somehow, some way, you know, the economy moves on and some of these, some of these war economies are fueling the war, and that's bad. But some of the economies are just how people survive, how they get the basic goods, and how they get services in these humanitarian instances like we were seeing recently. You know, it is the private sector that has the access to deliver food and get people in and out of places. That's for humanitarian reasons, yes. But it's also a little economy of itself. So, this big ecosystem, from the big, big players, all the way down to the local distributors is all in the private sector. And if they think through it, they can influence the big talks and local ways of having peace and stability.

Laura Coates: There's a phrase that's often used, and its neo-mercantilist policies, can you describe a little bit of what that is?

Andrew Cheatham: Sure. So, this neo-mercantilist policy is looking back at things in the 16th and 18th century where you had this colonial expansion really, of big corporations, the first corporations like the, the Dutch East India Company, and these companies that went out pursuing these colonial aspects with states, European countries. So, you know, in a very bad way sometimes, you know, preying on populations and extracting wealth. Now, neo-mercantilism is looked at in the current in the current economy as this partnership, again, of states and private sector corporations working together to pursue national interest, you really see this in the Chinese model, which is a non-market economy, and some other Asian models that were but also in the United States where we're looking to promote our national interest through our economic interest in countries. And this is really on the rise with protectionist policies, raising the export penalties for different countries and the trade wars we may see with China and others. So, this state involvement with the private sector for national interest is really what neo-mercantilism is. And that just adds to the relevance of the private sector in these geopolitical situations, we see that they have influenced politically, militarily, socially and economically.

Laura Coates: What role is the U.N. in all of this? Is that the coordinating entity to try to create the priority list? Or is it every sort of corporation and private sector government relationship unto itself?

Andrew Cheatham: Well, we would hope that the U.N. could be really working with the private sector and states, you know, separately and together on various issues. You see, we have the COP28, coming up in the United Arab Emirates. So on the climate issue, you see that the U.N. has embraced the private sector, you know, wholeheartedly because they know that they cannot pursue real change on climate on the climate agenda without the buy in of the private sector, but also in the more broadly, the Sustainable Development Goals, which are these 20, these goals for 2030 sustainable development around the world, which are kind of failing right now, frankly, but they, the U.N. knows member states and the U.N. as a body knows that they need to work with the private sector, if they want to have development in countries all over the world in developing countries and developed countries that helps go forward in a way that's good for the climate, but also good for society. So, I mean, we're looking at artificial intelligence, the growth of the internet, these new technologies and ways we don't know, if there could be these unintended consequences that are bad for society. I mean, everybody's looking at these things. So, we really need the private sectors buy in working with states and the regulatory bodies within states to see that we can minimize the possible catastrophic things that we might see.

Laura Coates: Really interesting conversation. Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. Andrew Cheatham everyone and Senior Advisor for global policy working in executive office in the United States Institute of Peace. Thank you so much.

Andrew Cheatham: Laura, thank you so much for having me.


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