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Private sector’s role in times of crisis and beyond

Dec 02,2023 - Last updated at Dec 02,2023


During the past few years, the world has faced a slew of challenges, ranging from COVID-19 and its worldwide effects to the Russia-Ukraine War and the most recent attacks in the Middle East. This, combined with the global challenges of climate change, poverty, malnutrition and unemployment, pose enormous global threats. These issues bind us together as humans, no matter where we live. Their consequences are far-reaching. We are all dealing with one or more of these difficulties. 

When we consider solutions, we frequently point the fault at governments and international organisations. However, and often overlooked, is the powerhouse of the private sector. The private sector has long been at the center of global humanitarian, development and peace agendas worldwide.

During the COVID 19 crisis alone, the private sector donated billions globally. According to a UNHCR report released in 2022, the private sector contributed more than $200 million to the UNHCR's Ukraine emergency response.

The private sector plays a significant role in not only assisting crisis-affected areas, but also in driving positive change globally through its Corporate Social Responsibility arm, where its donations are frequently a win-win for donors and beneficiaries because they receive a tax deduction as a per centage of their taxable income for charitable donations. With this in mind, what is the scope of the private sector’s influence?

Investors alongside consumers are watching their every move. Investors will choose to invest in companies that yield a high return on their investment but also ones that do not infringe on their personal values. Consumers will always support a brand with an altruistic image that is consistent with their own ideals. As a result, it is critical for companies to tread lightly on how they act, speak and, most importantly, what they support.

Companies should focus their attention on global issues that affect everyone and shy away from taking sides that may either repel an investor or consumer because their ultimate purpose is to maximise shareholder value. 

Aside from their large philanthropic donations, businesses can play an immediate role in long term reconstruction and development. Starting with a needs and impact assessment prior to investing aid and proceeding with operations is necessary. It is critical that the private sector work alongside the international community, think tanks and academics with expertise in local contexts that possess the necessary skills to assist them in contributing constructively in tackling identified issues. Risk analysis prior to any investment and tracking and reporting on performance is integral in this process.

Climate change, education, healthcare, poverty, starvation and skill development are just a few of the major areas of concern for the private sector. Their strong concern for global concerns, as well as local ones in their areas of operation, can be impressive to investors and consumers in a global market. 

The Ukraine war resulted in 17,535 injuries and 9,614 deaths from February 2022 to September 2023.

The private sector stood by this crisis as providers of goods and services for aid and as dialogue partners in advocacy.

Today, we face fundamental and inherent global problems that require our immediate attention. The war in Gaza has killed at least 15,000 Palestinians (including 6,150 children) and injured 36,000. Close to half of the 2.4 million Palestinians living in Gaza today are children living in a strip of 365 square kilometres. This war has resulted in the displacement of 1.5 million people, damage to 190,000 residential units, and 29,000 uninhabitable units. Gaza’s ministry of education has suspended the school year 2023-2024 for 625,000 students. The economy is likely to shrink by 12 per cent losses of $2.5bn and more than 660,000 people pushed into poverty, if the conflict stretches into a third month. In the first quarter of 2023, Gaza was already grappling with 46 per cent unemployment rate. Four weeks of war have destroyed some 390,000 jobs.

Satellite images show that in the governorates of north Gaza and Gaza City, more than 36 per cent of greenhouses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 1,000 fields have been damaged.

This is a time for the private sector to step up globally as mobilisers of resources and contributors of financial and in-kind resources, and once this tragedy ends be leaders of a build back better campaign.

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