Under the High Patronage of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Lebanon General Michel Sleiman, “The 1st Beirut Conference – Towards an Economy Serving Mankind” will be held on 25 & 26 March, 2013 at Hilton, Beirut Habtoor Grand Hotel.
This prestigious event is organized by UNIAPAC and MA’AM. UNIAPAC is a federation of associations, gathering more than 15000 Christian Business Leaders from 30 countries. MA’AM, the Islamic-Christian Forum for Businessmen is an association whose sole purpose is to determine the motivations, practices and controls of the business leaders in organization.
On this occasion, ifpinfo had the following interview with Pierre Lecocq, the President of UNIAPAC International.
Q. When was the UNIAPAC established, and what are its objectives?
A. UNIAPAC was established in 1931 as the International Conference of Associations of Catholic Employers, made up of the associations of the Netherlands, Belgium and France (with observers from Italy, Germany and Czechoslovakia).
After World War II, UNIAPAC spread to other European countries and Latin America. In 1962, UNIAPAC became an ecumenical association and changed its name to “International Christian Union of Business Executives”, keeping its initials. In time, members from Asia and Africa joined UNIAPAC.
In the 1970s, the Union became an ecumenical association, and took its present name, taking in among its members associations from Asia and Africa. In 1975, it inaugurated the so-called “Church-Transnational Corporations Dialogues”, set against the background of an increased awareness of the role that business has to play in society. UNIAPAC has relations with all the international governmental and non-governmental organizations working in the field of economics and business management, and with the Holy See and the World Council of Churches. It is an invited member of the Conference of ICOs, and as an NGO has consultative status with Unctad, UNESCO, ILO and the Economic Commission for Latin America.
The aim of UNIAPAC is to give witness that modern humanity needs more than ever spiritual convictions which it should not hide under bushels, that economic efficiency and self-fulfillment must and can strike a balance, and that business leaders are fully aware of their responsibilities towards society and faith. Member associations to UNIAPAC, which gathers Christian Business Leaders inspired by their faith, believe that the human element is an end and not a means. Fully immerged in the reality of the market economy, member associations demonstrate that this belief not only helps building a better world, but directly contributes to make their companies stronger and more efficient.
Q. UNIAPAC’s International objectives?
• To serve as a link between Christian associations of business executives across the world, to promote and facilitate interaction and networking between them.
• To sponsor the founding of Christian associations of business executives in new areas.
• To promote their vision of an economy that serves mankind within international institutions and across the world in general.
Q. What can you say about the relation of religion and business, how they meet, how they collaborate and how serve other communities?
A. Religious beliefs are personal to every human being. They do inspire behaviors and particularly guide relationships with others. Business is essentially about human relationships. Believing that all humans are creatures of God ends up in considering that each individual deserves the deepest respect and cannot be considered as a tool. Business, at the confluence of power, money and competition can easily lead to utilize man as a tool to satisfy personal selfish interests, as it often occurs nowadays.
However, in today’s world, deeply changed by globalization and communication technology progresses and the consequent ever increasing necessary speed of decision-making, we also see that running business requires trusting its employees and relying on them. But there can be no loyalty if there is no respect. Furthermore, this trust relationship also leads to the promotion of common good in a world which has never been so much interdependent. One can think about environmental issues, access to critical resources, overpopulation and the consequent migrations….etc. One can say that respect of man and behaviors inspired by religion have never been so up-to-date for business and communities at large.
Q. When the need of internationalization of the UNIAPAC was felt, and what was the outcome?
A. From the beginning, UNIAPAC was born from a need for internationalization. The 1929 economic crisis made the leaders of European Christian business associations feel the need for sharing experience and better international understanding, which led them to strongly believe that a better world could only be created by more respect for man and the common good. Today, UNIAPAC welcomes associations and individual members or companies from the whole world, with a stronger presence in Europe and Latin-America. It gathers more than 30 national Associations with more than 16.000 members. It has widely inspired laws and regulations in countries where it is represented in addition to the International Labor Organization.
UNIAPAC has published several books and guidelines for its members like the recently published “The Profit of Values”. This document, written by Christian business executives coming from many different backgrounds, exposes how Corporate Social Responsibility anchored in the respect of the human being can not only better integrate companies in the social fabric where they can operate, but directly help at building a better world. It can be found on the website www.uniapac.org.
Q. What can you say about UNIAPAC’s membership and activities in general?
A. Entrepreneurs and business leaders belonging to a national association, member of UNIAPAC, gather monthly in small groups and participate to conferences and seminars organized by their National Association to exchange their experiences, study notes and text about human based business guided by their common faith and the Christian Social thoughts accumulated by their churches. National Associations also organize national meetings and direct personal contacts to interface their national communities (media, universities, government bodies), to promote their vision of a human person serving economy.
Q. What can you say about the organogram of UNIAPAC?
A. UNIAPAC is chaired since 2009 by Pierre Lecocq, the French CEO of a large International Company and is managed by an International Executive Office with 3 vice-presidents, each for a continent (America, Europe and Africa), by a bi-annual board composed of the Presidents of all member Associations. Every three years, it organizes a world Congress. The last one was in Lyon (France) in March 2012, the next one in 2015, will be in Belo Horizonte (Brazil).
Q. How was the idea of the Beirut Conference was formulated and why in Lebanon?
A. The world is shaken by an economic crisis, which has at its core a lack of social ethics and a loss of the sense of human finality of the economy. This idea is shared by a lot of Muslim entrepreneurs, even though they do not have organization similar to UNIAPAC. We were joined recently by MA’AM, the Islamic-Christian Forum for Businessmen, the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which promotes worldwide the concept of market social economy, the King Faisal Foundation for Islamic Studies and the Federation of Arab Chambers of Commerce.
We have two objectives: to allow both communities of Muslim and Christian business leaders to better know each other, and to proclaim that the human being is the author, the core and the finality of socioeconomic life.
Our choice of country for hosting our initiative was no coincidence. His Holiness the pope John Paul II described Lebanon as the “Message-Country”. It is a sign of peace in a land where communities, who were sometimes in hard conflict, have been living together for centuries, creating a deeply nested culture, enriching for all of them.
We would like this conference be a beautiful sign of peace in this torn world, and Lebanon is a wonderful symbol.
Q. Who are the major speakers?
A. Our initiative was received with great interest and has allowed us to have high quality speakers such as: Pascal Lamy, Director General of the World Trade Organization, Louis GALLOIS, former President of EADS, HRH Prince Turki AL FAISAL, Chairman King Faisal Foundation for Islamic Studies, Georges Corm, former Minister of Finance of Lebanon, Riad SALAMEH, Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Johann EEKHOFF, Director of the Institute for Economic Policy University of Cologne, and ultimately His Excellency General Michel SLEIMAN, President of Lebanon.
Q. Why to participate and what are your expectations of such conference?
A. The theme “Corporate Social Responsibility and purpose of human economy” is particularly relevant to entrepreneurs. The conference will begin with a half-day program on global economy and the Arab world shaken by its “spring” to end up by a dialogue with the media who, we believe, should be the “vectors of humanity.”
During these two and a half days, we will focus on the prominent role that business leaders could have in cultural development, their behavior within their companies and finally we will discuss their vision of the role and the future of businesses in our society. We believe that business leaders have a major role to play in achieving our goal where human beings are considered the end and not the means.
Finally, the personal contact between the participant leaders in the conference from different cultures and spiritualties will be a source of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation for promoting and preserving the highest values in their businesses, by understanding the mentality of their employees coming from different cultures.