Experts discuss role of businesses in preventing conflicts

Karachi, August 31, 2012 (PPI-OT): Experts from the civil society network, academia, and business community engaged in an active discourse on the role of businesses in bringing peace and preventing community conflicts. The discussion took place as a consultative meeting titled ‘Peace through Profit: Peace-building through Corporate Social Responsibility in Pakistan’, organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in partnership with International Alert at Hotel Mehran, Karachi.

Dr. Talat Wizarat, from the Institute of Business Administration highlighted how modern business practices exploit resources, in turn leading to alienation of indigenous communities and thereby creating conflicts. Citing examples, she also stated how weapons were distributed by the state to local businesses operating in Nooriabad under the Zia regime, leading to communal conflicts in the area.

She stressed that societies should flourish in order for businesses to survive as well, and thus it is in the interest of businesses to ensure peaceful communities in areas where they operate.

Tahir Jawaid, Senior Vice President of Engro Corp. presented how Engro took a leading role in rehabilitation efforts after the disastrous floods of 2010. He asserted how businesses can play an important role in preventing conflicts by being more socially responsible.

He emphasized that some form of a better regulatory structure might be required in order to prevent businesses from engaging in exploitative practices that lead to conflicts in the community. He also stressed that business practices ought to be more inclusive for the communities where businesses operate in order to ensure peaceful communities with sustainable businesses.

Syed Faisal Sabzwari, Minister for Youth Affairs, Govt. of Sindh, drew attention to how the massive amount of charity and philanthropy in Pakistan still lacks a proper structure and clear direction. Continuing with Tahir Jawaid’s opinion on the lack of regulation, he stated that the government does have a proper regulatory structure but still lags behind in proper governance.

He emphasized that any measures taken to prevent conflicts in the community should be need-driven and has a clear focus. He also mentioned how international help for conflict prevention in
Pakistan has until now been confined to the troubled northern region of the country, while other conflict-stricken areas, such as Karachi have been largely ignored.

Moderating the discussion, Safwan Aziz, Researcher at SDPI, briefed about the series of activities that the organization is undertaking in partnership with International Alert and Responsible Business Initiative, with regard to engaging businesses through their CSR initiatives to mitigate local conflicts in the society. Presenting findings from an earlier consultation held in Islamabad, he stated how businesses have engaged with communities in conflict-resolution activities.

Senior representatives from the civil society network, including Shehri, The Citizens Foundation, and the Lyari Community Development Project talked about harmful business practices and how they affect communities in a negative way.

They propagated for a more responsible and inclusive role of businesses in the society. Massive divide and inequality was cited as one of the primary reasons leading to conflicts in the community, thereby justifying a more inclusive role on part of businesses that are leading an unprecedented drive of consumerism in the society. Discussants also agreed with Dr. Wizarat’s opinion of how business practices in the post-industrialization era have turned largely exploitative.

For more information, contact:
Faisal Nadeem Gorchani
Coordinator, Policy Advocacy and Outreach
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
38 Embassy Road, G-6/3 Islamabad, Pakistan
Postal Code: 44000
Tel: +92-51-2278134, (Ext: 113)
Fax: +92-51-2278135
Cell: 00-92-333-559 2210