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Published Date: Dec 3, 2012

SDPI PRESS RELEASE (December 3,2012)

Business can help resolve conflicts in a community through broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) framework that addresses social and economic needs of communities, said speakers at a workshop on peace building and cited reason that lack of economic opportunities and social deprivation are the most pressing factors contributing to conflicts within a community.

They were discussing it at a research workshop on “Plural Business Partnerships for Peace: Perspectives from Pakistan” jointly organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Responsible Business Initiative (RBI) and International Alert (IA) in collaboration with European Union here on Monday.

Giving opening remarks Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Head of Economic Growth Unit at SDPI said that conference seeks to find a way to establish community-business partnerships for peace conducive economies where both can benefit from each other.

Speaking at session ‘economics of peace’, Muhammad Ali, Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) emphasized upon the need for factors such as Corporate Social Responsibility, corporate good governance and a culture of mediation to reduce and minimize conflicts. He said, “When businesses start investing in social infrastructure, their impact on the communities can be transformational.” He also informed participants that SECP has drafted guidelines for public companies to performing CSR activities. These guidelines seek to institutionalize and codify CSR activities based on fair, transparent and responsible business practices to support community growth and to eliminate practices that harm the public, he added. Nabeel Goheer from Commonwealth Secretariat, London presented their work in Pakistan which focuses on building a peaceful and democratic society by appreciating the ‘cultural diversity’. Phillip Edward Vernon briefed participants on various initiatives of International Alert (IA)on peace building started in Pakistan.

During the session on ‘communities perspective’ Naseer Memon, CEO of Strengthening Participatory Organization lamented corporations and multinational companies for ignoring local communities for employment.  Citing UNDP Human Development Report, he said that despite producing natural gas for decades, Dera Bugti is still the poorest, underdeveloped and most marginalized area in the country. Safwan Aziz from SDPI presented the findings of SDPI study and shared that most of community members in their survey asked businesses to contribute in community development through provision of education, health, and economic opportunities. He informed that there is no regulation for CSR in Pakistan and urged businesses to adopt a framework for Corporate Social Responsibility which can make their contribution to the society inter-related with their own systems.Damon Bristow, from DFID Pakistan said that businesses role in development initiatives must be supported and appreciated although it is primarily the responsibility of government .

Speaking at session on “business perspective for CSR” Khalid Aziz Mirza, Former Chairman, Competition Commission of Pakistan said that beside CSR the businesses must comply with the law of the land in letter and spirit while adhering to accepted corporate governance norm and respect all stakeholders rights. Former President Engro Corporation Asad Umar identified lack of economic opportunities as one of the many basis for most of conflicts in Pakistan and urged on creation of jobs, spending royalties on communities and improving the social capital in community. Giving way ahead, he said that businesses needs to influence government agenda for sustainable growth adding that engaging media and communities are vital partner for such advocacy. Talking on governance dimension, Altaf Saleem former Federal Minister for Privatization argued that due to lack of accountability businesses tend to indulge in criminal business practices for huge dividends and mostly get away with it. He urged on to reform government system which reward honest businesses that positively contribute toward welfare of people and resulting into peaceful societies.