WED 30 - 9 - 2020
Date: Jan 30, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
New horizons for social responsibility
Hiba Huneini

The World Economic Forum in Davos wrapped up last week with new initiatives and approaches in public-private partnerships, which were in the top discussions along with political issues. As we are witnessing high global risks at various levels, public-private partnerships have become imperative in any developmental process tackling global issues.

It is needless to say that the private sector has made considerable contributions to the development of many sectors in several developed nations. The role of the private sector in boosting scientific research and development in the U.S. and Europe has impacted the overall level of innovation and competitiveness of their economies and led to an era distinguished by a trajectory of growth and prosperity. The private sector has had a clear impact on the future to which those countries have aspired.

Development and economic research have concluded that development is not doing more of the same thing; instead, it is about doing more but differently, or more precisely, doing more with innovation. This is a critical role that the private sector can play.

The WEF discussions included the potential role of the private sector in the Global Humanitarian Action Executive Alliance, which will be formally launched at the U.N. General Assembly in September, to support the U.N. in its effort to help people affected by humanitarian crises.

The World Economic Forum is also partnering with the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross in launching a High-Level Group on Humanitarian Investment with the objective of unlocking “new capital in fragile contexts.” This is a new area for corporate social responsibility, which used to be optional and is instead turning into a prerequisite for helping governments and societies navigate complex societal, technological and work-related transformations that are having profound impacts on people’s livelihoods.

The forum this year organized events on collaborative philanthropy taking place at Davos, aiming to “bring donors together to discuss not only how they can combine their resources but also ways the growing number of philanthropic collaboratives can learn from one another,” according to a Devex report.

Philanthropy has been a direct way for individuals to support society with a sustainable influx of funding via endowments. This has also encouraged them to make big contributions and maintain a family legacy.

This discussion around the key role of the private sector had considerable support from many in the forum’s audience. However, on the other side of the table sat advocates of human rights, equality, environmental sustainability and development. This group’s commitment to their causes was expressed in one of the sessions when historians and development leaders talked eloquently about taxes and the need for fair tax policies to achieve equality. Discussions about dignified jobs and real employment also took place.

To address the challenges brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum President Borge Brende said the forum would “continue to leverage its platform for public-private cooperation and the greater good,” according to a statement. “We cannot solve the most pressing global challenges without unique partnerships between government, business and civil society,” he said.

The role of the private sector in development is critical to sustain innovation, create jobs and solve complex social problems. But corporate social responsibility needs to come with an effective enactment for legal systems that could impact the level of inequality and overall national income.

Hiba Huneini is manager of the youth and civic engagement program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development. Email her at [email protected]

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 30, 2019, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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