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Business Leaders Address Alliance of Civilization Forum

(Madrid, 16 January 2008) – Several business leaders representing Global Compact signatories participated in the First Alliance of Civilizations Forum, held in Madrid on 15/16 January. The executives were among a group of corporate leaders from Germany, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Turkey and the United States that addressed an international audience on ways in which business and increased cross-cultural understanding can benefit each other.

Hosted by the Government of Spain, the Forum convened political leaders, as well as high-level representatives from business, media, civil society and religious organizations in an effort to find new ways of bridging the growing divide between nations and cultures worldwide, and to establish new partnerships to promote global understanding.

The working session on the corporate contribution to the Alliance of Civilizations featured speeches by the chief executives of Siemens (Germany), ENEL (Italy), Les Eaux Minérales d’Oulmès (Morocco), Repsol-YPF (Spain), BBVA (Spain), Koc Group (Turkey), Sabanci Group (Turkey), and General Electric International (USA).

Main outcomes of the session were:

  • In a globalized environment, the modern business model must reinforce diversity, and not just accept or tolerate it. Intercultural understanding expressed through diversity is a central factor in the business world today, one in which the strengthening of cultural understanding generates greater financial benefits and offer elements of stability, understanding and mutual support. Many western multinationals make highly significant strategic investments in countries of diverse cultures and civilizations. Therefore, the creation of business value today is based upon making a suitable response to all kinds of diversity, including that of customers and employees.
  • This investment trend will continue to expand, in the light of the fact that many such countries contain a substantial proportion of the world’s natural resources (such as oil and natural gas). Lasting, stable business relations represent the best Alliance of Civilizations, one in which everybody wins and in which differences may more easily be overcome and destabilising factors may better be neutralised The creation of ties among business groups on both sides of the Alliance is a powerful expression of diversity, one that enables us to work in each country on behalf of that country and for its benefit. The alliance of business communities belonging to these two worlds, far from being a challenge arising from a diversity of cultures, represents today a factor of strategic opportunity for greater and better global development, in a sustained and efficient way.
  • To become prosperous, the world must be at peace. Economies can only develop within a context of stability. Companies have to play a crucial role in achieving and maintaining peace. This is especially significant in view of the fact that 95 of the 150 largest economies in the world are not countries, but multinationals.
  • Corporate Responsibility (CR) is ever more important in companies’ strategies, and is seen as a critical element of competitiveness to ensure a better, more solidly grounded economic development in the framework of globalization. Companies and governments must join forces and act in a committed way to promote CR and extend it to all the societies on both sides of the Alliance, as a guarantee of equality, diversity, ethics, good governance, transparency, judicial security and long-term sustainability.

As part of the Forum’s outcomes, the Global Compact and the Alliance of Civilizations agreed to partner in the production of a publication on the business contribution to intercultural understanding and peace through commerce and diversity management”, aimed at raising the visibility of best practices in the corporate sector toward supporting cross-cultural relations.

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Dr. Manuel Escudero
Head of Special Projects
UN Global Compact

Further Links:

The Alliance of Civilizations