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Overview of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Middle East

January 20, 2014 • BUSINESS & INNOVATION, Climate Change & Society, Middle East & Africa, World Development

By Dima Jamali

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the Middle East has distinctive roots and unique expressions that do not always mirror the current understanding and practice in the West. Dima Jamali demonstrates how the long-entrenched traditions of philanthropy and generosity in Arab culture have been reinvigorated in recent years and are starting to cross-fertilize with new, more institutionalized forms of giving.


Highlights of the Book

To date, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has not received systematic attention in the Middle East region. The recent book on CSR in the Middle East published by Palgrave in 2012 begins to probe and flesh out the understanding and practice of CSR in this part of the world. As revealed through the various contributions, CSR in the Middle East has distinctive roots and unique expressions that do not always mirror the current understanding and practice in the West. Nevertheless, the various contributions included in this book seem to suggest that CSR is alive and well in the Middle East region, although it continues to have its unique flavour and connotations; Islamic philanthropy, in other words, provides a strong foundation for CSR in the region, and constitutes a pivotal tradition of voluntary giving that falls outside the realm of what we commonly encounter in the West.

Philanthropy, derived from the Greek words Phillen (love) and Anthropos (human), is clearly rooted in the religious and cultural traditions of the Arab region and in the broad social values of compassion for other humans. Several Arabic nomenclatures for giving, including Zakat (mandatory giving and one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith), Waqf (Islamic endowment), and Takaful Insani (humanitarian solidarity and giving) permeate the language and culture of the Arab world.  Giving and helping hence resonate with Arab and Islamic values and are nested at the heart of this culture, flavouring the behaviour of individuals, organizations and the corporate sector as a whole. Grounded in Islamic principles, the philanthropy ecosystem thus continues to be diversified, drawing on the efforts of business and political leaders, foundations, non-governmental organizations, social welfare institutions, and charitable trusts.

 
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