On May 29, Peter Maurer, Chairman of the International Committee of the Red Cross, was invited to speak at CCG about Chinese Companies’ investment under the framework of the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative, from the perspective of an international humanitarian agency.
The “Belt and Road” Initiative was proposed four years ago and has won the support of many countries and companies since then. However, there remains a big gap between China and the countries along the route in terms of culture, legislation, politics, religions and economic development stage, which has impeded its implementation. Similarly, ICRC has implemented a great variety of projects that require to tackle such issues, and therefore obtained extensive experience in assisting governments and companies with their policymaking.
CCG President Dr. Wang Huiyao extended the warm welcome to Dr. Maurer’s visit and applauded ICRC’s tremendous contributions to humanitarian assistance worldwide. Led by Dr. Maurer, ICRC has been proactively engaged in humanitarian diplomacy and established innovative partnership with other countries and institutions. Its experience in the “Belt and Road” countries, in particular, can provide great insights that guide Chinese government and corporate policymakers to develop their strategies.
In his speech, Dr. Maurer noted that one of ICRC’s objectives is to cohere business success with public welfare. Business dynamics always interact intimately with social dynamics: the impact of commercial activities does not merely appear at the economic level. Instead, they also have social and political consequences. This is particularly evident in fragile areas. In those areas that have been wrecked by poor governance, conflicts, corruption and extreme poverty, the improper investment might cause unexpectedly negative impact on politics and society, and eventually influence companies’ development.
ICRC is now implementing humanitarian programs in 40 countries along the “Belt and Road” route, most of which are torn by wars and stagnant conflicts. Currently, most companies are merely concerned about monetary returns, and pay little attention to social and political consequences of their investment. To secure investment, companies are supposed to alter their mindset. They should take social, humanitarian, environmental factors into consideration when evaluating costs and benefits; they should understand that business activities will also have profound impact on society, politics, and environment. In return, all these factors also have reverse influence on business success. Therefore, when investing in the “Belt and Road” countries, the companies should employ the strategies to avoid negative influence.
Based on these concerns, Dr. Maurer pointed out that companies should strike a balance among three aspects: firstly, investment can bring profits to stakeholders; secondly, companies should take political and social impact of their investment into consideration to avoid negative consequences; lastly, investment should have the support of governments and local society.
Apart from conflicts, Dr. Maurer also pointed out that urbanization is another factor that causes implicit impact. Driven by urbanization, cities and population grow bigger, giving rise to turmoil. This requires companies to have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the potential impact of their investment. To improve the outcome of their investment and to ensure lasting profits, companies should pay more attention to their social responsibilities, respect the human rights, and improved local people’s welfare.
To wrap it up, Dr. Maurer reiterated the importance for investors to build close connection with local government and civil society, and to maintain a good relationship. ICRC has launched several projects to expand its cooperation with private companies and to help them improve business environment. ?
Following the speech, Dr. Maurer joined the audience that represent NGOs, international organizations and private sector in a heated discussion, including Jacques Pellet, Special Envoy of the ICRC President on China Affairs; Boris Michel, ICRC Regional Director for Asia and Pacific; Pierre Dorbes, Head of Delegation of the ICRC for East Asia; Simon Schorno, ICRC Operations Coordinator for the Asia Pacific Region; Miao Lu, Vice President and Secretary General of CCG; Liu Yu, Deputy Secretary General of CCG; Sun Xiaojun, Vice president of CCG “Belt and Road” Institute.