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9th Anuual Report
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Ninth Annual Report of The Arab Network for NGOs

"The Social Responsibility of the Private Sector

And its Interaction with the Arab Civil Society"

Edited and Supervised by

Dr. Amani Kandil

Arab Network for NGOs recently issued the ninth annual report of Arab NGOs, which presents in a comparative framework, "social responsibility to the private sector and its interactions with Arab civil society" - the initiative is the first of its kind in the arena of the Arab Academy - in the eleven Arab countries, namely Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, in addition to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain). Social responsibility in its wider sense, which adopted the report means "initiatives, and measures taken by any organization or institution, aimed at improving the quality of human life, and reduce or eliminate negative effects caused by any decision or policy, which could threaten the process of sustainable human development."
The raising of the issue of social responsibility of the private sector in the current historical moment, pressing for several reasons: Firstly, the global financial crisis that broke out in 2009, and its effects which extended to governments, and communities, as well as civil society organizations. Second: the tenth anniversary of the Declaration of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which included eight major challenges to human development, require the concerted efforts of governments and the private sector and civil society to address them. Third Preparing the World Declaration Recommendation No. 26.000, at the beginning of 2011, by the Organization "ISO" (Organization of the measurements and specifications), a recommendation concerning the status of standards and signs indicative of social responsibility.

Reports have revealed that the national report on the annexation of several important results, we refer to it briefly as follows:

In the following pages, we will present the main findings of the various national reports:
 A critical reading of the findings in the Arab region
A)  Problematic and difficulties faced

1.     The first problem that faced this collective research work was the difficulty of finding accurate, reliable and documented data. This situation prevented many researchers from participating in this work.

2.     Another problem apparent in the majority of reports (especially in the reports of Arab Gulf countries) was the refusal of several private companies or financial and commercial institutions to release information about the overall size of financial support in the context of social responsibility, particularly funds allocated to CSOs.

3.     There are several responses of the Private Sector in the Arab region regarding its social responsibility towards the Civil Society in particular.  The first response is the seclusion and the restriction to limited frameworks in order to achieve benefits.  The second reaction is the public relations attitude where the commitment to the social responsibility represents a way to improve the image of the self for marketing and advertising purposes.  Then, we have the legal approach where private companies are committed to provide the minimum amount of social services for the workers and their families or to protect the environment in order to avoid legal questioning.  The fourth approach is the bargaining with both the government and the Civil Society where some private companies or financial and commercial institutions provide services to the Civil Society in order to avoid being criticized, or provide services to fill the gaps in governmental policies, not only to improve their relation with the power but also to easier the adoption of legislation and the acquisition of benefits. Finally, we have the complementary partnership pattern that relies on the interaction with the main other actors, i.e., the government on one hand and the Civil Society on the other hand.  This prevalent pattern in Western countries is rarely found in Arab countries.

4.     Several requirements are needed for the complementary partnership pattern in order to maximize the practice of social responsibility in the Arab region; unfortunately, these requirements are not yet met, they include:

-       The existence of a strong Private Sector.

-       The social awareness about the components of social responsibility, especially in terms of human rights, respect of the international labor standards, the protection of the environment, transparency and the fight against corruption.

-       A strong and efficient Civil Society working in a healthy democratic environment.

-       A supportive State encouraging the practice of social responsibility and a legislative environment enabling the establishment of partnerships between the diverse parties.

-       The acceptance of the principles of accountability by all partners, including the free flow of information and data and transparent practices.
B)   Findings related to the availability of knowledge and awareness about the added value of the social responsibility      

Awareness about the importance of social responsibility was found uneven among the studied Arab countries; however, the various reports reveal the following indicators:

1.     Several Arab conferences and workshops grouping sometimes the Private Sector and the government, or the representatives of the Civil Society are held.  This trend has increased gradually since the beginning of the new millennium and has been of big concern during the past three years to become more compatible with the UN recommendations as well as the publications of the global financial institutions on one hand, and meet the challenges of development on the other hand.

2.     There is an emerging academic concern translated into field surveys seeking to identify the weight of private companies with the other actors (the government and the Civil Society) in order to stimulate the practice of social responsibility.

3.     The reports point out to an effective Arab participation on behalf of chambers of commerce and industry in the ISO efforts for the development and adoption of recommendation 26000.  This participation lasted from 2007 until Copenhagen Conference held in August 2010.

4.     On the other hand, the growing awareness about social responsibility is perceived through a series of field research conducted recently (2010) by the Arab Network for NGOs indicating an increase in the contributions of private companies in support of NGOs compared to ten years ago.

5.     Another indicator is the observance of most private corporations, financial and commercial institutions of establishing websites advertising their activities and objectives, besides the publication of high quality annual reports.

6.     Moreover, some Arab countries adopt national comprehensive initiatives of human development, such as in the cases of Morocco and Lebanon.  These initiatives identify within their strategic framework partnership and complementation between the Private Sector, the Civil Society and the government.
C)  Findings related to the institutional character of work on the base of social responsibility

This dimension seeks to identify the institutional character of the practice of social responsibility in the countries under study (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Arab Gulf countries and Sudan).  It includes the existence of specialized national centers responsible of monitoring the implementation of the concept by the Private Sector, the availability of independent units in private corporations working on social responsibility, the trend among some private companies to establish independent organizations concerned with the social responsibility, planning, standards and priorities.  According to the limited available information the following was found:

1)    In most Arab countries, we find national initiatives for the social responsibility confirming the social responsibility of the Private Sector targeting the unification of private companies’ efforts, improving partnership between the Private Sector and other actors, and being committed to the rules of transparency protecting economic transactions from corruption.

2)    A second indicator points out to the improvement of the social responsibility in the countries under study, i.e., the trend of establishing specialized departments in some private companies, financial and commercial institutions concerned with the social responsibility.

3)    The availability of these specialized departments is greatly related to the availability of a clear vision and planning of the programs of social responsibility as well as an identification of the priorities to be addressed.  It is also pending on complementary relations of partnerships with NGOs representing the main medium between the Private Sector and the target groups in the grassroots.

4)    A critical reading of the reports reveals some main trends such as the trend of private corporations, financial and commercial institutions towards the establishment of foundations reflecting their conviction of the social responsibility by translating it into reality.

The diverse country reports indicate the growth and diversity of foundations and NGOs established by businessmen (and holding their names), or established by big corporations, financial and commercial institutions in order to implement their programs in various fields of the social responsibility.

Although the lack of accurate data and information hampers the process of comparing these various approaches and their impact at the social level, we have been able to identify several common features that could be summarized as follows:

-       Companies working in the field of telecommunications and cellular phones have launched important initiatives in almost all Arab countries, taking into account that some of these are multinationals.

-       Alliances are established between some NGOs – especially developmental ones – and big profit making corporations that rely on these organizations in order to reach the targeted grassroots.

-       The general trend points out to the concentration of the Private Sector programs of social responsibility in capitals and big cities may be as a way of advertising and marketing themselves.

-       A noticeable commonality was observed in the cases of Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco represented by their trend towards rural areas, either in terms of technology development as in the case of Tunisia, promoting small environmental industries for Morocco, or as a response to the political climate and an attempt to alleviate poverty in the case of Sudan.  In Egypt also we notice the premises of concern with rural areas.

-       The main concentration of non-profit private foundation holding the names of businessmen was identified in the Arab Gulf countries, Egypt and Lebanon.

-       Private commercial banks are mainly adopting big projects of social responsibility related to the MDGs; moreover, some State banks are also involved in programs of social solidarity through
D)  Findings related to the priorities of the Private Sector in terms of social responsibility

1.     Country reports indicate that Civil Society Organizations represent the main mechanism used by the Private Sector in order to practice its social responsibility, especially when these organizations are active inside their local communities and in close interaction with the grassroots.

2.     The second approach is developmental, focusing on empowering the poor categories by providing them with the elements of socio-economic strength in order to promote their self-reliance.

3.     One of the noticeably emerging fields of concern was the environment that represents a main element in the concept of social responsibility as globally adopted.

4.     Developing information technology was the privileged area of activity for the majority of telecommunications and cellular phones companies in all Arab countries.

5.     Regarding campaigns of awareness and the protection of consumers interests followed by support to culture, arts and scientific research (ranked on the bottom of the list).

6.     It is worth mentioning that the analysis points out to a rising concern with youth.  In parallel, there is also an enhanced concern in all Arab countries with poor women heading households.

7.     A new trend in the programs of social responsibility is to encourage voluntary work among youth; at least one model of this trend was found in each Arab country.

8.     Finally, it is important to mention some programs of social responsibility adopted by the Private Sector and addressing specific national needs:

-       20% of the programs of social solidarity in Arab Gulf countries are concerned with Islamic humanitarian relief, either inside or outside the region.

-       There are programs directed to the areas of conflicts in support of peace, such as in Sudan and a noticeable new program targeting Darfour.

-       Distinguished programs in Tunisia targeting rural areas and farmers.

-       Programs focusing on the improvement of small and medium enterprises capacity of competitiveness in Egypt.

-       Programs targeting the mobilization of youth in voluntary activities (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.).

Some important conclusions can be deducted about the Private Sector social responsibility in the Arab region and its interaction with the Civil Society..

First: There is a noticeable progress in the trajectory of social responsibility in compatibility with the global and regional developments as well as to meet the challenges of the third millennium.

Second: There is a gradual increase of partnerships between the Civil Society and the Private Sector with a higher perception of the latter that NGOs are the main channel to reach the grassroots.

Third: several challenges face the maximal results of the programs of social responsibility, including the limited documentation or availability of studies evaluating the impact at the national level, the lack of competent cadres in some Arab countries and the limited practice of accountability and transparency.

Fourth: On the other hand, there are some positive indicators predicting a promising role for the programs of social solidarity, mainly the targeting of youth, the trend towards improving the competitiveness capacities, the development approach replacing gradually or going in parallel with the philanthropic approach, the growing concern with information technology, the environment and women.  Indicators show also cooperation and coordination between the initiators of programs of social solidarity and NGOs.

Fifth: It is important to develop a strategic planning in order to stimulate the interaction between the Private Sector programs of social solidarity and CSOs in order to achieve complementation and better outcomes in the process of sustainable development.