Corruption has been a major roadblock to a meaningful and sustaining democracy in Thailand. According to CIPE Asia Regional Director John Morrell, “corruption was the stated justification for the military’s ousting of an elected government in 2006 and the Supreme Court’s sacking of another elected government in 2008.” In Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perception Index, Thailand was ranked 85th out of 175 countries.
To address this corruption issue in Thailand within the local context, CIPE partnered with Thai Institute of Directors (IOD) and launched a Collective Action Against Corruption initiative in 2010. This project is unique in that CIPE and IOD aim to combating the supply side corruption in the private sector through a coalition of member companies, established in this initiative, which vowed to adhere to the highest standards of corporate governance, compliance, and anti-bribery protocols.
Participants at the ITCILO training in Turin. (Photo: ITCILO)
As many previous CIPE blog pieces have pointed out, empowering women entrepreneurs leads to inclusive economic growth around the world. This point was further explored in a recent McKinsey report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth:
“We consider a “full-potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men, and find that it would add up to $28 trillion, or 26 percent, to annual global GDP in 2025 compared with a business-as-usual scenario.”
One way to increase the number of women entrepreneurs is by addressing the bottlenecks that prevent women from becoming business owners or circumstances that prevent them from expanding their businesses. And this can be done through policy reforms via business associations and chambers. To this end, CIPE and the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO) held a joint week-long training-of-trainers session “Women Empowerment through Business Member Organizations (BMOs)” at the ITC-ILO campus in Turin.
Women across South Asia face myriad challenges when it comes to participating in the economy — especially as business owners. Women’s business organizations can help their members learn from each other, overcome barriers, and push for changes to laws and regulations that work against women entrepreneurs.
This August, CIPE held its eighth in an ongoing series of capacity building and networking workshops in Kathmandu, Nepal for its South Asia regional network of women’s business associations. Since its inception, the participants of this network, which includes organizations from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India, have been enthusiastic and engaged in learning from both CIPE and their peers.
This year, building on the results of previous projects that aimed to strengthen the internal capacity of these organizations, CIPE has focused on building the advocacy skills of the participants, in order for women entrepreneurs’ voices to be heard in the policymaking process.
A year after the impasse over the 2014 presidential election was resolved, Afghanistan finds itself at a critical juncture in its economic development. Given the dramatic reduction in foreign military presence over the past several years and the decrease in development assistance from the international donor community, concerns are mounting that Afghanistan’s economy will be unable to sustain itself.
A recent study published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the International Council of Swedish Industry (NIR) draws attention to the problem. “In its current state,” the report notes, “the Afghan private sector is not the engine of economic growth or instrument of social inclusion it has the potential to be. Popular dissatisfaction with unequal access to economic resources, flawed public services and goods, the adverse security situation, and predatory government activity undermine an effective and sustainable private sector.”
President Ashraf Ghani and the National Unity Government have laid out a wide range of proposals to kickstart economic development, but security conditions and political infighting have made it difficult to implement many of these reforms. Nevertheless, hope for progress and success remains. The Swedish report, while painting a grim picture of the current outlook, provides a concrete set of recommendations to Afghan government policymakers, the international donor community, and other key stakeholders, for incentivizing private sector growth and boosting economic development, thereby improving prospects for peace and stability.
Chief among these recommendations is the need for the Afghan private sector to play a greater role in the policy making process. On October 28, over a hundred leaders of the Afghan business community, civil society, and media, as well as prominent provincial and national government figures, convened in Jalalabad for the official launch of the report of the Nangarhar Provincial Business Agenda.
I was truly honored to attend this year’s Compliance and Ethics Institute (CEI) in Las Vegas, and to present with my colleague Frank Brown, CIPE’s experience with motivating mid-sized businesses in emerging markets to launch compliance programs. Our session was one of the opening ones scheduled at 9am on Sunday morning (did I mention we were in Vegas?) so it was abundantly clear to us that everyone who attended was truly dedicated to the cause!
As we’ve heard throughout the event, emerging markets pose many compliance risks, especially in the area of anti-corruption. Local enforcement may be lax and bribery remains common in business transactions. What is more, under laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or the UK Bribery Act, it is not just the behavior of a company’s own employees but also the conduct of it suppliers, agents, and other business partners that’s of concern.
Rita Bhandary is a woman in business who means business. She is the current President of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association in Nepal (FWEAN) and a successful entrepreneur in her own right. Rita began humbly, learning as she went to seize opportunities to launch her business and a career, and, eventually, to share her success with other women across the country. Her story starts not with the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs in Nepal, but in the home, like many women in South Asia.
As she noted at CIPE’s panel at a March 2015 National Endowment for Democracy conference in Delhi, entrepreneurial success for the women of Nepal is just like the recipe for success worldwide: take opportunities when they present themselves. Bhandary’s experience also shows the importance of sufficient human, physical and financial capital for women to succeed in business.
Shamama Arbab, Vice President of the Peshawar Women’s Chamber of Commerce (PWCCI) in Pakistan, is both a director of her own business and a tireless advocate for economic inclusion for women in Pakistan. Peshawar is a city where it is often difficult for women to even leave the home alone, so launching and growing a business can seem like a journey too dangerous to consider. Yet given her own success, she strives to provide similar opportunities to other women. She is focused on fostering women’s economic, social and political inclusion, addressing inequality, building an ecosystem in which women entrepreneurs are empowered, and where women can contribute to the country.
Across South Asia, there are women like Arbab who are both inspirational and transformational. They are changing their countries from the inside out by changing the role that women play as citizens. With this blog series, “Exploring the Connections Between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Democracy,” based on a panel at a March 2015 National Endowment for Democracy conference in Delhi, CIPE is highlighting the work of several such women leaders of chambers of commerce and business associations in the region. Having broken through various glass ceilings themselves, these women are now sharing their success by building institutions and mechanisms to support women across the economy, from all walks of life.
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.