UAE Minister of State urges businesses to act as role models for youth

Values such as transparency and integrity must be respected by companies so that young people can learn by example and help spur growth, Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy tells business forum

Young people today need role models who are committed to transparent business so that future generations can help spur job creation in a responsible way, Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State advised at a recent event in Dubai.

Organised jointly by Pearl Initiative and UN Global Compact, the event raised issues of integrity in business and its impact on future competitive growth and sustainable development in the Gulf region.

Boosting the number of jobs is a hot topic in the Middle East and Gulf regions where youth unemployment reaches up to 30 per cent in some countries.

“If we want mature, responsible, thoughtful people tomorrow, then we need to provide them with positive role models today,” Al Hashimy told an audience at the inaugural Corporate Accountability Matters Forum in Dubai. “We must help them to understand and absorb proper values, respecting their rights, the law, social responsibility, and honesty.

Failure to do so would harm all our futures, she added. It is not just sensible but also makes “sound business sense.”

Some 500 business people, government representatives and young people attended at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Transparent companies which adhere to sound financial, social and environmental principles, are more successful in the long run and therefore a key driver of economic growth and jobs, several panellists agreed.

If we want mature, responsible, thoughtful people tomorrow, then we need to provide them with positive role models today

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State

Badr Jafar, an Emirati business executive and social entrepreneur who founded Pearl Initiative, said: “Corporations have an unwritten contract with their stakeholders, which is value creation.

“In the GCC we can expect our workforce to grow by 4 per cent each year, meaning that by 2020, the region will need an extra 3 million jobs for Gulf nationals entering the job market. We know we cannot, and we should not, expect our governments to employ all these people. The only sustainable solution is to have healthy companies generating jobs and strong economies providing opportunities.”

Pearl Initiative, developed in cooperation with the UN Office for partnerships, was set up in 2010 and is a not-for-profit organisation led by the private sector. The voluntary network of businesses works across the Gulf to share best practice in transparency, accountability and good governance.

“All of us are determined that through global events like Expo 2020 and this important gathering today, we can promote the themes [of mobility, opportunity and sustainability] and provide the launch pad for us all as we use the words – and the thoughts that lie behind the words – to catalyse our thinking and crystallise our philosophy of collaboration, invention and discovery,” said Al Hashimy, who is also director general of the Expo 2020’s bureau.

The forum also launched a new study, ‘Women’s Careers in the GCC – the CEO Agenda’.

Lubna Qassim, group general counsel at Emirates NBD bank, said that greater diversity – including more female representation – among the higher echelons of business improves corporations’ performance and competitiveness.

More than 60 per cent of women surveyed said they aspire to reach a senior or board level position in the next seven years. Still, some 80 per cent feel they are disadvantaged in the workplace because they are female.

Improving flexibility at work, getting CEOs to visibly support women and more mentoring for female employees would help the push to increase the number of women in senior positions, the study concluded. The Pearl Initiative report polled 600 senior businesswomen across the GCC.

“The challenges we’re facing today are not exclusive to Gulf companies,” Qassim told Vision. “From a global perspective, the lack of confidence of men in women is still a challenge.”