«The Beirut Conference 2013 – Towards an Economy Serving Mankind» was inaugurated on Monday, March 25, 2013 at the Hilton Habtoor Grand, Beirut, under the high patronage of the President of the Lebanese Republic, General Michel Sleiman, and in the presence of Minister Frej Sabounjian, representing the President, the Prime Minister and the Head of Parliament as well as officials, ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, economists, businessmen, scholars, Muslim and Christian religious figures and members of the press. The conference was organized by IFP Group, International Fairs & Promotions; and supported by MA’AM, the Islamic-Christian Forum for Businessmen; KAS, the Konrad-Adenauer foundation; and UNIAPAC, the International Christian Union of Business Executives.
During the two-day conference, 30 local, regional and international businessmen would be giving speeches to around 400 attendees and business leaders from all over the world, including Angola, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE.
The Minister of Industry, Freij Sabounjian, conveyed the greetings of the Lebanese President to the participants, describing the conference’s task as a “current cause.” Minister Sabounjian added, “Your presence in Beirut today, despite the turmoil in the country and the region, is proof of the pivotal role Lebanon plays in the fields of diversity, dialog and the meeting of civilizations.”
Pierre Lecocq, President of UNIAPAC, opened the conference with his speech, indicating that this meeting of businessmen coming from over 25 countries constitutes a living proof of how the international business world needs a fairer, more balanced economy. Lecocq said he was hopeful this conference would allow the establishment of a new vision with human beings at the core of the economy. He underlined the important role the UNIAPAC plays in strengthening the notion of humanity and social justice in the daily lives of businesses.
Dr. Mohammed Nokkari, President of MA’AM, said, “Listen carefully to the ideas put forth during the conference in order to find the optimal solutions that pave the way for a better society on the economic, social and spiritual levels,” hoping that “the activities of this conference will lead to a more humane economy which focuses on human beings without sacrificing gain or production quality.”
Raymond Sfeir, Secretary General of MA’AM, underlined the bonds between the concepts of faith and productivity, drawing a comparison between work and creation. “Work is the continuity of creation. It must therefore fall within the framework of the values of faith so that it may be a sustainable action, just like creation itself,” he stated.
Gerhard Wahlers, Secretary General of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, spoke lengthily of consolidating freedom, social justice and peace, through the foundation’s activities in more than 120 countries, through 100 offices and 200 projects. He also highlighted the characteristics of the German system, which aims at reducing poverty while integrating the concepts of free markets and social justice, leading to a strong state and a strong market.
Adnan Ahmad Youssef, Chairman of the Union of Arab Banks, presented the vision of the Al-Baraka banking group, of which he is the CEO; the vision tackled Corporate Social Responsibility in Islamic financial institutions, considering that “selecting Corporate Social Responsibility as the title of this conference is crucial in a time where the consequences of the international financial crisis are pushing business owners to better understand their responsibilities.”
The speech of His Royal Highness Prince Turki El-Faisal, Chairman of the King Faisal Foundation for Islamic Studies, was given by Dr. Awad Al-Badi, focusing on the establishment of an international forum to bring together philosophers, thinkers, religious figures, politicians, economists and businessmen to discuss international economic policies in order to help the world overcome the current crisis, and to better manage globalization so that it may become an asset to humanity, rather than a burden.
The theme of globalization was also tackled by Pascal Lamy, General Director of the World Trade Organization. He called for “global governance” built on the pillars of “building a community of values, conciliating through arbitration mechanisms when these values exclude or compete with one another, and working under the umbrella of institutions that are legitimate before and after their work”. Lamy described globalization as disoriented and lacking in the trust of people.
Former Minister and Chairman of the Arab Union Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Mr. Adnan Kassar, hailed the selection of Beirut as host city to this conference, adding that “At this time, we need opportunities for structural development based on models that support investment in fields of added value such as industry, agriculture and renewable energy in order to improve human resource indicators, integrate them in the development process and fight social scourges.”
Closing the first day of the conference, the speech given by Louis Gallois, former president of EADS, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, touched on the role of bosses in the establishment of a corporate culture and the impact of said culture on work methods within a business. He considered that “Corporate culture is a key element for stability in an ever-changing context.” A business owner must display clarity and credibility towards all his collaborators, and he must instill corporate culture by adopting an exemplary attitude in his service to human goals.”