ARISE UAE in the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development 2021 (AFSD-2021): Catalyzing Private Sector Engagement in the Decade of Action

Source(s): United Nations Global Compact United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Arab States

The National UAE Private Sector Alliance for DRR (ARISE UAE) participated in the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development 2021 (AFSD-2021) in a special session for the private sector under the theme “Catalyzing Private Sector Engagement in the Decade of Action” on 30 March 2021.

The session explored a suite of powerful and practical examples within the Arab world from youth skilling to ensuring employability to the empowerment of women in the workplace, and to supporting business resilience among SMEs. Business and academic representatives presented perspectives and remedies on how we can recover better, and most importantly, together, through enhanced accountability, trust, and cooperation to set a new course for the Arab world where the SDGs are at the core of business strategy and practices.

SMEs: Key challenges and trends

The measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 have had major impacts on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Arab countries, considering they are at the heart of economies and communities. SMEs represent 40% to 50% of formal employment in the MENA region and contribute to 30% of the GDP, holding significant importance in achieving the SDGs, hence representing important players in terms of economic resilience.

The pandemic illustrated that SMEs are hit more significantly and experience slower recovery than larger businesses and that they face uncertainty notably. With fewer buffers and resources to draw upon than larger businesses their ability to respond and adapt to shocks is significantly constrained. A structure for responding to incidents and emergencies, and clear plans and procedures to ensure business continuity are needed to improve the resilience of SMEs.

SMEs Resilience

The panel SMEs Resilience within the AFSD 2021 came to clarify the foundations for developing a business resilience framework and business continuity plans within different entities to increase the resilience of SMEs. It explored the power of the private sector to support the SME community and unlock growth opportunities. The session highlighted the importance of tapping into local partnerships and alliances such as the Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE) in conjunction with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), which serves to promote risk-informed investments and to mobilize business practices that build resilience and prevent new risks.

The Co-Chair and Founder of ARISE UAE, Ahmad Riad, stressed the importance of such dialogue, which identified the most pressing challenges facing SMEs today in the region, the critical components to developing a business resilience framework, and the tools required to leverage public-private partnerships to support business continuity and resilience.

Key recommendations

  • Set up public-private partnerships as well as multi-stakeholder coalitions.
  • Implement capacity-building activities to support micro-enterprises or more vulnerable SMEs.
  • Draw lessons from other countries that faced crises from the past.
  • Develop a national policy framework to support SMEs’ resilience and facilitate access to finance.
  • Promote inclusive digitalization.

Watch the full session and ARISE UAE engagement in the AFSD 2021, through the participation of ARISE UAE Co-Chair and Founder

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