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Middle East Gulf region governance initiative launched at UN

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Close to 100 business leaders and policy makers gathered today at the United Nations to introduce the Pearl Initiative, a private sector-led program aimed at improving corporate governance, accountability, and smart CSR practices of business activities across the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The gathering was hosted at the UN and organized under the auspices of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, the Crescent Group of the United Arab Emirates, and the American University of Sharjah. During lunch, participants exchanged views on the linkages between a transparent business environment and sustainable economic growth with the audience that included Naqvi Arif, Vice Chairman and CEO, Abraaj Capital; Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, First Special Representative for Global Partnerships, US Department of State; Niels Christiansen, Head of Public Affairs, Nestle S.A.; Robert Dunn, President and CEO, Synergos Institute; Jim Geisel, Director, KPMG Global Grants Program & UN Desk; Raji Hattar, Chief Sustainability and Compliance Officer, Aramex; Prof. Safwan M. Masri, Director, Columbia University Middle East Research Center, Charles Moore, Executive Director, Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy, and other prominent leaders from public and private sectors and civil society.

During the program, Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships and co-founder of the Pearl Initiative, explained how the Pearl Initiative will contribute positively to the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by creating a more open and transparent business environment.

He noted that 'the Pearl Initiative provides an excellent platform for creating robust governance architecture in the Gulf region, and in-turn improving business and investment confidence resulting in a consequential increase in capital flows and trade within the region. Engaging leaders from public and private sector institutions will provide an enabling environment for new and innovative partnerships in the region.'

In addition to the UN, the Pearl Initiative will also partner with international organizations such as the European Union, the World Bank, the League of Arab States, the Organisation of The Islamic Conference, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to identify and address issues critical to sustainable development including corporate governance and accountability, transparency, business ethics and corruption.

Badr Jafar, Executive Director of the Crescent Group and co-founder of the Pearl Initiative outlined the Pearl Initiative's main areas of focus and remarked, 'The Pearl Initiative will enable and encourage private sector companies of the Gulf region, such as the Crescent Group, to work with the United Nations system and other global strategic partners, in achieving greater awareness with regard to accountability and transparency with their respective stakeholders; as well as converting their CSR commitments into action through these innovative partnerships.'

The Pearl Initiatives four areas of focus are:

  • Leadership Training Programs - Create a curriculum to highlight good practices to educate future business leaders, and help companies develop collective community-based solutions to the problems associated with corruption.
  • Social Entrepreneurship and Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives - Develop initiatives to encourage social entrepreneurship and a culture of sustainable and smart philanthropy among business partners to help redefine business models in the interest of positive social impact.
  • Active Public Policy Dialogue - Host business/investor dialogues for clarification of issues and challenges that the business and investor communities consider as priorities, for the benefit of regulators to understand and as a mechanism to encourage reform.
  • Corporate Governance - Work with regulators and corporate boards to strengthen accountability structures.

Recognizing the power of education as an integral part of this process, the Pearl Initiative will engage leading centers of higher educational excellence within the Region to empower future generations, and will be based out of the American University of Sharjah (AUS). Dr. Peter Heath, Chancellor of the AUS highlighted the critical role education will play in the success of this initiative. He stated, 'the Pearl Initiative will be a flagship program of The American University of Sharjah, a Centre of Excellence in the Gulf region for sharing best practice and lessons learned to create a culture of transparency and accountability.'

The Pearl Initiative will benefit from the leadership and patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Sharjah, and President of the American University of Sharjah. The initiative will also collaborate with a wide variety of leading institutions with expertise in this field as well as with the private sector across the GCC.

The launch of the Pearl Initiative's website www.pearlinitiative.org was also announced at the event.

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