By: Zena Ali Ahmad, UNDP Syria
The past ten years has provided a unique opportunity for the private sector to engage in high-level dialogue with governments from around the world and identify promising trends and opportunities for business community contributions to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it best by saying: “The common thread runs through almost all companies’ experiences in bringing the Compact’s ten principles to life: expanding markets and advancing the economic and social well-being of people and societies can be two sides of the same coin"…
Private sector leaders have launched corporate practices, exemplary collective action and innovative business models for contributing to development in the areas of poverty and hunger, maternal and child health and HIV/AIDS, access to education through innovative ICT, innovations for financial inclusion, empowering women and achieving equality and greening the economy.
Today, Syria stands as the UN Global Compact’s fastest growing network in the Middle East, with 43 members and USD 4 million in UNDP lead private sector partnerships. This fact speaks volumes about what the initiative can do in a country, no matter what the economies of scale. At the same time, it provides an indication of how mature the private sector can be when engaging in global development.
UNDP Syria supports reform and development efforts of the Syrian Government which aim to achieve the MDGs and sustain economic growth while also improving human development and reducing poverty. The Country Office program is anchored around several pillars, including governance reforms, poverty reduction and social development, environmental sustainability and crisis prevention. Partnerships with the private sector and civil society organizations are a cross-cutting effort for the Country Office.
The UN Global Compact Network in Syria has been lead by UNDP since 2008 – a project that falls within the larger strategy and provides a framework for UNDP’s private sector work. This effort culminated with the creation of a National Advisory Council of 23 professionals aiming to increase the impact, scale and sustainability of initiatives that help small enterprises grow, create jobs and reduce poverty.
To examine the private sector impact on human conditions, labor rights, the environment and corruption, three assessment studies were conducted which opened a long awaited channel of dialogue between the policymakers and the private sector. The UN Global Compact Network also opened a new platform for exposure and display of Syria’s private sector good practices and their potential role in local global socio-economic development and peace. This was done through sensitization workshops around the country and strong international presence in annual forums and the sponsorship of the recent Leaders Summit.
On the grass-root level, this collaboration is directly benefiting job conditions, performance and productivity of almost 30,000 workers within the Syria Global Compact Network. With proper dissemination of the 10 Principles of the Compact, impact is channeled to business partners, the general society and, ultimately, policymakers.
In this context, UNDP Syria plans its private sector development approach on Inclusive Markets Development. The overall aim is to ensure that markets work better for the poor as entrepreneurs, wage employees and consumers.
In order to support these interventions, steps are being taken to tailor existing private sector programs more closely with strategy objectives – all drafted under the umbrella of Syrian national priorities.
For more information, please contact Zena Ali-Ahman, UNDP Syria.