Junior Ambassadors Program 2017 - Ulrik Trolle Smed

Bringing the private sector on board

by Ulrik Trolle Smed


The EU should urgently address the need to discuss how businesses and industry can contribute to CFSP and the new EU Global Strategy. The private sector is no new partner in the foreign and security policy arena. Traditionally, it has been seen as an actor that delivers materials (arms, resources) and services (capacity building, security) to governments on demand. But some companies are now proactively engaging in community resilience efforts with the aim of increasing security and stability in their surroundings. Shell, Chevron, Starbucks and Heineken are undertaking peacebuilding ventures in some of the most fragile and conflict-affected regions of the world. The UN recently ramped up its public-private sector engagements with an 8,000-strong network of businesses engaged through the Global Compact initiative, the Business for Peace platform and the Sustainable Development Goals. These partnerships provide new insights, facilitate coordination and funding for projects. Business is no new partner to the EU either, which already utilizes the expertise and competing interests of private companies and organizations as cost-effective input on legislation. With government budgets shrinking  and a rising number of common problems in the foreign policy and security domain facing both politics and the private sector, this development seems not just mutually beneficial, but necessary.


The new EU Global Strategy focuses on five policy areas: security, resilience, integrated conflict approach, cooperative regional orders, and global governance. Engaging the private sector as a partner on these areas could be a way for the EU to achieve more with less. In order to do so, the EU should create a new analytical unit to explore how businesses can be partners in implementing, supporting and sometimes co-leading projects within the five policy areas. The unit would be tasked with tentatively drawing up potential areas of cooperation, inviting relevant companies to give feedback, and with working towards memorandums of understanding and partnership contracts. One example could be maritime security in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, where coordinating and investing in coastal communities, together with on-site European maritime businesses and NGOs, can create jobs, sustainable hubs of stability and growth, and more resilient societies. Other areas for public-private partnerships include the protection of critical business infrastructure in the field of energy security and (especially) cyber security, where the private and the public sector are meeting common challenges and share many interests. Second, this new analytical unit should create an equivalent to the NATO Industry Forum, which could form the basis of a European Private Sector Hub. The hub could facilitate the integration of public-private partnership discussions into existing sector-specific conferences. This would enable businesses and industry to provide systematic input for a sub-strategy for public-private cooperation in the EU Global Strategy's five policy areas.


Certainly, policymakers will need to be on guard to avoid corporate abuse and consider wisely where to approach the private sector for deepened cooperation. Inviting businesses to support the EU Global Strategy might not produce overwhelming public support. However, it presents a realistic – and insufficiently exploited – solution to cope with an increasing number of European problems in a world of decreasing government budgets, an increasing number of cross-sectoral challenges and long-term mutual interests.