Her Excellency Sheikha Hanadi Bint Nasser Al Thani, Founder & Chairperson of Amwal, has highlighted the important role of the small to medium size (SME) sector in addressing the region’s youth unemployment.
Speaking at the inaugural Pearl Initiative and United Nations Global Compact Regional Forum, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikha Hanadi stressed that the SME sector is the key to competitiveness.
“Job creation is not something that we have to prepare for the region’s youth; if we open up the area of SMEs, then youth become the job creators,” she said, during the open plenary session on Sustainable Leadership and Competitiveness.
“They create jobs for themselves, and they create jobs for others. But this isn’t the only aspect of the SME industry. We’re trying to determine how the market will react in the next 10-20 years, and who better to forecast this than the people who are really at the bottom of it, understanding how the market works, innovating new solutions, providing new services… this is where SMEs are crucial. They represent job creation, innovation, and sometimes disruptive innovation.”
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, addressed the Forum with opening keynote video address. “This year is critical for people and the planet; we are aiming to adopt a new set of sustainable development goals and reach a meaningful, universal agreement on climate change. Business can drive progress but not just any business will do. Sustainable development requires principled business, it requires strong corporate accountability. Good governance is vital, I hope the collaboration between Pearl Initiative and the United Nations Global Compact will help even more companies from the Gulf region to advance and progress,” he added.
The Pearl Initiative and United Nations Global Compact Regional Forum was attended by more than 500 regional and international business leaders and representatives from UN organisations, government and civil society. Speakers included Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State and Board Representative Higher Committee & Director General Bureau, Dubai Expo 2020 and Sir Mark Moody Stewart, President & Chairperson, Foundation for the UN Global Compact.
“Collaborations, such as the Pearl Initiative and the UN Global Compact are significant because they bring together governments and business to forge fundamental changes across the social spectrum in a way that advances human achievement,” Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State and Board Representative Higher Committee & Director General Bureau, Dubai Expo 2020, said during her keynote address.
During his welcome remarks, Badr Jafar, Founder of Pearl Initiative, said: “Corporate accountability matters; it builds trust, which in turn helps companies generate value and resilience, enabling them to grow. Growing companies create more jobs, stimulate economic activity, and provide new opportunities for entrepreneurs.”
The event highlighted the role of the Private Sector in making progress towards regional competitiveness and the advancement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals during its opening plenary session. The discussion was led by Hamid Jafar, Chairman, Crescent Group of Companies and included the distinguished panelists: Hussain Al-Nowais, Chairman, Al-Nowais Investments, Yves Manghardt, Chairman & CEO, Nestlé Middle East and Jamal Fakhro, Managing Partner, KPMG Bahrain & Qatar.
Hamid Jafar, Chairman of the Board of the Crescent Group of companies, said, “Corporate accountability has a substantial role to play in the sustainable development of the region, as a guide to developing stronger transparency and governance that will, in turn, lead to the region becoming more competitive.
The role and responsibility of the Private Sector is key to achieving the above objectives, as aspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Forum also marked the launch of Pearl Initiative’s “Women’s Careers in the GCC: The CEO Agenda”. The research report, which polled more than 600 business women across the GCC, called on regional corporates to create a balanced working culture to help employees maintain a good work/life balance in a bid to retain more female staff. The report made five key recommendations for senior management which include improving work/life balance, creating a balanced culture within organisations, investing in building career paths, adopting HR policies that ensure equality in the workplace and encouraging CEOs and top executive to becoming advocates for the cause in the wider community.
Following the third plenary session about integrity and transparency, the Forum concluded with three parallel roundtable discussions; Integrity through the Value Chain; Governance and Transparency in Business and Civil Society; and Governance Matters in Family Firms.
The Forum’s premium partners were Al Jomaih Group; Bank of Sharjah; Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC); Chalhoub Group; Construction Products Holding Company (CPC); Crescent Petroleum; Habtoor Leighton Group, and Majid Al Futtaim. The Forum’s media partners were CNBC Arabia and CNN and the venue partner was the Dubai World Trade Centre.
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