On June 26th at the Humanity House in The Hague, SPARK held the first Expert Meeting of 2014 on improving the business environment in conflict affected regions in a series of eight meetings in 2014, called ‘Entrepreneurship Development for Stability in Conflict Affected Regions’. The organisation’s vision is to develop higher education and entrepreneurship to empower young,ambitious people to lead their conflict affected societies into prosperity. The event included keynote speakers such as Simon White from South African IDEAS, a development expert on business environmental reforms and John Zemko,Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at CIPE. Members of the Dutch parliament were also present to react to both guest speakers. Our ADPC colleague, Rens Twijnstra also had the pleasure of attending.
SPARK is determined to increase the number of sustainable jobs and economic growth not only support local partners to better assist local SMEs to grow and create jobs,but also have a key role to play in advocating for the improvement of the business environment. This means breaking down business barriers for local SMEs and promoting inclusive growth,ensuring that the growth benefits the poor,women, youth and other marginalized communities. Business growth and job creation programming without specific attention for inclusivity generally would not trickle down to these groups.
Playing this advocacy role and building capacity of local CSOs in this field is challenging. Which local SCO partners should be selected and how can their capacity be built? How can we work with potential pressure and threats local partners may receive,especially in the case of women,entrepreneurship with minority groups that may be unpopular with the fragile government in particular fragile states?
This expert meeting wants to explore these and other questions,providing a framework for how capacity building,particularly with NGOs, and CSOs, but also Business Development Services Providers (BDSP) and Business Membership Organisations (BMOs) can lead to relevant results.