Expert Meeting on Improving the Business Environment

Improving the Business Environment in Conflict Affected Regions

The Role of Advocacy

June 26th, 2014  –   15:00 – 17:30 hrs

Humanity House

Guest Speakers:

Simon White – SA IDEAS
John Zemko – CIPE

SPARK is pleased to annouce the first Expert Meeting 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’. This first meeting will take place in the Humanity House in The Hague, on Thursday June 26, 2014. The event will be highlighted by keynote speakers Simon White from South African IDEAS a development expert on business environment reforms and John Zemko, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at CIPE. Members of the Dutch Parliament will be present to react to both guest speakers.

Expert Meeting: The Role of Advocacy

NGOs working in the field of inclusive 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 growth benefits the poor, women, youth and other marginalised communities. Business growth and job creation programming without specific attention for inclusivity generally will not trickle down to those groups.

Playing this advocacy role and building capacity of local CSOs in this field is challenging. Which local CSO partners should be selected and how can their capacity be built? How can we work with potential pressure and threats local partners may receive for advocating, especially in the case of women, entrepreneurship with minitory groups that may be unpopular with the central government in particular fragile states?

This expert meeting wants to explore these and other questions, providing a framework for how advocacy capacity building, particularly with NGOs, and CSOs, but also Business Development Service Providers (BDSP), and Business Memberships Organizations (BMOs) can lead to relevant results.


The programme will be as follows:

15:00 – 15:10 – Opening

15:10 – 15:30 – Keynote by Simon White (SA IDEAS)

15:30 – 15:50 – Keynote by John Zemko (CIPE)

15:55 – 16:40 – Breakout sessions

16:40 – 17:00 – Conclusions

17:00 – 17:30 – Drinks!

Two breakout sessions

After introductions and keynote speakers, two breakout sessions will take place focusing on the following themes:

Reforms: What business environment reforms are we talking about? And for who: national or local governments in developing countries? Should priority be given to larger multinational corporate investments or target the local MSE sector? Or both?

Advocacy: How do you run an advocacy campaign for an inclusive business enabling environment ? What added value do NGOs have in this? How do Business Member Organisations do this? What is the role of government, media, international organisations and multinational companies?

Keynote Speakers

Simon White

Dr. Simon White is the managing director of Southern African IDEAS. He is a development specialist with expertise in private sector development, innovation and entrepreneurship, business environment reform, and regional and local economic development. Simon has experience in working at local, national and international levels in policy design and evaluation, programme development and management, as well as in strategic planning and organisational development. Since 1990, Simon has worked in over 25 countries across Africa, Australia, Asia, as well as parts of Europe and the Pacific.

John Zemko

John Zemko  is currently the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at CIPE. During his tenure, CIPE has established programs on corporate governance, combating corruption and improving the rule of law. Mr. Zemko has also developed projects that focus on building national business agendas among private sector associations and that focus on raising competitiveness. He has also been managing editor of CIPE’s magazine, Economic Reform Today. Mr. Zemko established CIPE’s award winning Web site, the Forum on Economic Freedom, and has moderated interactive discussion groups on the topic of corruption in cooperation with the World Bank Institute.


Download the full report on the expert meeting here.


Background: SPARK Expert Meetings 2014

In 2014, together with a wide spectrum of international partners (UNDP, ILO, Silatech, The Hague Institute for Global Justice, CASA and others) SPARK organises a series of eight expert meetings worldwide, designed to deepen understanding of the role of entrepreneurship development for stability in fragile states, develop concrete tools with key development partners, and place the importance thereof higher on the international policy agenda.

As of recent, the concept of job creation for stability has become trending. Investments in this thematic area are rapidly increasing, especially in fragile states. Entrepreneurship development is seen as a key intervention strategy for employment creation that can correlate with stability. However, the evidence base on various aspects of this concept is still weak. This series aims to build the evidence base and an international network of practitioners that collects such evidence together.

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