Zimbabwe’s new dispensation has ushered in an aura with so many topics that were a non-event in the old dispensation finding space on social, electronic and print media- from corruption hearings to under lock cabinet misdemeanours coming to light.
Zimbabweans have probably never had this kind of media freedom and freedom of speech in a very long time, although it isstill too early to celebrate. One of the issues that was a bit like walking on a plank of nails was that of peace and peacebuilding by private entities in Zimbabwe. Apart from the fact that this is a hot issue where you could “burn” your hands, there is also the issue of the private sector not taking time to fully comprehend and unpack the fundamentals of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 16 — promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Peace, justice and strong institutions can be coined to be the backbone of any society.
According to a survey of over 2 000 companies done by The Guardian (2016) many businesses have come out to support SDGs, but goal 16 is not the most popular. The survey revealed that SDG 13 (climate change) was the most popular followed by SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth). Private sector players have left SDG 16 to NGOs and governments. But the truth of the matter is that SDG16 affects everyone more so business as peace, justice and strong institutions are a precursor to a sustainable business operating environment thus invariably contributing to the profitability of private sector entities.
There are many ways in which the private sector can promote peace, justice and strong institutions. The United Nations Global Compact 2015 Report outlines some of the initiatives that the private sector can take to promote SDG16. At a micro level, these include corporate governance and responsibility aimed at increasing transparency and accountability.
In Zimbabwe, these micro level process have always been ongoing with promotion of corporate governance being spearheaded by professional organisations such as The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe (Icsaz) and the Institute of Directors, among others.
At a macro level, the private sector’s approach to SDG16 can be aligned to the rule of law, human rights, labour rights, environmental issues and anti-corruption initiative.
However, macro level interventions are easier said than done, especially with peace and peacebuilding issues mentioned above generally deemed political and most private sector entities would rather not be involved in such with the fear of being viewed as politically incorrect by the powers that be.
The new dispensation provides an opportunity for the private sector to understand the importance of their contribution to SDG16 and start initiatives to contribute meaningfully. The constitution of Zimbabwe is very clear that issues to do with peace, unity and stability are the prerogative of all stakeholders, “the state and every person, including juristic persons, and every institution and agency of government at every level, must promote national unity, peace and stability” Chapter 2:10 of the constitution.
The January 5 2018 gazetted National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Act allow the commission to receive funds and “any donations, grants or bequests made by any person or organisation or any government of any country …” (Chapter 10:32 part IV). This indicates the Government of Zimbabwe is warming up to other players, including private sector to contribute financially or otherwise to national peace and peacebuilding processes.
Apart from this move addressing long term financial sustainability issues (because the NPRC will not only be relying on government’s limited funding) it also addresses issues to do with locals taking an active role in nation building and national identity rather waiting for external donors who most of the time have their own agenda (as they are advancing their country’s foreign policy) which sometimes is not congruent to local peace building objectives.
Peacebuilding processes and spaces in Zimbabwe and Africa generally need the private sector to be more active and be involved. Creating private sector and civil society platforms for dialogue, engagements and partnerships alongside the relevant government institutions must be promoted to take collective and sustainable action for conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
As the discussion on the involvement of the private sector in peacebuilding gathers momentum, the notion that big corporates and multinational companies are the only ones being referred to must be addressed as well.
In the context of Zimbabwe, where small companies and informal businesses are thriving, all facets of the private sector need to be active in peacebuilding processes. Once all stakeholders have an interest the culture of nation-building, and unity of purpose is fostered among our communities.
At a global level, the UN has an initiative called the United Nations Global Compact which seeks to encourage businesses worldwide to invest in supporting broader UN Goals such as the SDGs. The Global Compact is not a regulatory instrument, but a forum for discussion, networking, learning exchanges, working groups around SDGs at a local context. The global reach, though commendable, is yet to have impact on the African soil with few African countries like Kenya and Uganda among a few others having shown interest and initiative.
Zimbabwe’s new dispensation, which is seemingly tolerant to diverse progressive views and inputs presents an opportunity and creates a platform to start serious discussions with stakeholders in the private sector who were previously victimised for adding their voice to seemingly hot SDG16- of promoting peace, justice and strong institutions.
The more private business players start contributing financially or otherwise to peacebuilding processes and initiatives through NPRC or other institutions within our country, the greater the positive impact we realise on society and business.
Makanjera is an economist, a local fixer for international researchers, an entrepreneur and a volunteer with JM Busha 54 Races, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes peace and unity through sports and also engages individuals and institutions to actively promote and pledge for peace and unity. These weekly New Perspectives articles are co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society. — firstname.lastname@example.org or cell +263 772 382 852.