Molly M. Melin

Mar 21, 2022

The Building and Breaking of Peace

Corporate Activities in Civil War Prevention and Resolution

Oxford University Press 2021

Private corporations are rarely discussed as playing a role in efforts to curb civil violence, even though they often have strong interests in maintaining stability. Violence often damages the infrastructure necessary to deliver goods to market or may directly target companies. Corporations also have a normative obligation to conduct business in ways that promote peace. While there are historical examples of firm-instigated violence and firms reaping benefits from instability and conflict, there is also evidence that corporations proactively engage in peacebuilding. For example, firms devise programs to promote economic development, offer access to education, and employ former combatants.

In The Building and Breaking of Peace: Corporate Activities in Civil War Prevention and Resolution (Oxford UP, 2021), Molly M. Melin develops a theory of the conflicting roles corporations play in both building and preventing peace. Melin shows that corporations engage in peacebuilding when there is a gap in the state's capacity to enforce laws, but they also weigh the opportunity costs of peacebuilding, responding to the need for action when conditions enable them to do so. Firms are uniquely situated in their ability to raise the cost of violence, and proactive firms can increase the years of peace in a country. At the same time, an active private sector can make it harder for states with ongoing conflict to reach an agreement, as they act as an additional veto player in the bargaining process.

Including original cross-national data of peacebuilding efforts by firms in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa from 2000 to 2018, and in-depth case analyses of corporate actions and outcomes in Colombia, Northern Ireland, and Tunisia, Melin shows that corporations help to prevent violence but not resolve it. In examining the corporate motives for peacebuilding and the implications of these activities for preventing violence and conflict resolution, the book builds a more holistic picture of the peace and conflict process. The findings also help explain why armed civil conflicts persist despite the multitude of diverse actors working to end them.

Molly M. Melin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Loyola University Chicago. Her publications on third party interventions in international conflicts, the dynamics of conflict expansion, and peacekeeping operations have appeared in International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Conflict Management and Peace Science, and International Interactions.

Lamis Abdelaaty is an assistant professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She is the author of Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees (Oxford University Press, 2021). Email her comments at or tweet to @LAbdelaaty.

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Lamis Abdelaaty

Dr. Lamis Abdelaaty is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and Senior Research Associate at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. Her book, Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Email her at
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