Positive community engagement stressed for success of CSR initiatives

Jamila Achakzai
Sunday, May 29, 2022

Islamabad: While appreciating the corporate social responsibility initiatives of the China Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC) and other Chinese firms in Gwadar, experts in a roundtable conference emphasised the importance of effective development communication and 'positive engagement' with the local communities for the long-term success of those projects.

They insisted that all stakeholders should come up with a mechanism for an integrated socio-economic development strategy and ensure the inclusion of the hopes and aspirations of the residents of the strategic port town vis-à-vis the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor infrastructure project.

The event titled ‘CSR Initiatives in Gwadar (The Gateway to CPEC)’ was co-organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad and the University of Gwadar in collaboration with the COPHC, Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) and Gwadar Development Authority (GDA).

GPA chairman Naseer Khan Kashani said the people's development should take priority over infrastructure uplift.

He said the supply of clean drinking water and electricity to Gwadar was the top priority of the authorities.

"A desalination water plant of 1.2 million gallons capacity will become operational in Gwadar within six-eight months," he said.

Naseer Khan Kashani also said the newly-inaugurated modern Pakistan-China Vocational and Technical Training Institute would provide three years of training to the local youth, which was a big contribution by the country's time-tested friend China.

“Chinese authorities have also recently provided 3,000 solar panels to the poorest of the poor in Gwadar for the provision of electricity,” he said.

In the keynote speech, COPHC chairman Zhang Baozhong highlighted the experiences of his seven-year stay in Gwadar.

“We are cognizant of the fact that Gwadar deserves more rapid development to live up to the expectations of the local people. There is no denying the fact that it has developed much during the past seven years,” he said.

He said there were three reasons for the promising prospects of Gwadar: the cooperation of the Gwadar people, its vast resources, and its strategic location.

“The people of Gwadar deserve respect and development according to their rightful demands,” he said.

Shahzad Sultan of COPHC said his organisation sent 20 students to China on scholarships every year, had been running a primary school in Gwadar for five years and was set to establish a secondary school in the area.

He also said more than 6000 solar panel units had been distributed among the people of Gwadar besides the planting of around 500,000 trees.

IPS Chairman Khalid Rahman highlighted the concept of CSR for the improvement of people's lives.

“We must have solution-oriented recommendations, not problem-oriented,” he said, adding that positive thinking and improvement in governance will bring a huge change in the life of the people of Gwadar. CSR activities do not mean spending a share of your profit, it’s about creating an environment which is not harmful to the society in any way,” he said.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gwadar Professor Dr Abdul Razzaq Sabir appreciated the initiatives of IPS for identifying challenges in the area.

He said giving back to society was the biggest responsibility of the corporate sector.

"Working on the development of human resources should be the biggest priority of the government and private sector. As Gwadar is expanding after the development of the port, it is important to learn from China’s experience and expertise through a student exchange programme. We must train our youth to become productive elements of Gwadar,” he said.

The VC said CSR must be defined from the local perspective and that the local issues could be considered to resolve people’s genuine and basic issues and problems through CSR initiatives.

He said engaging the local community and civil society could result in better planning, befitting solutions and better implementation with local wisdom and participation.

Riphah Institute of Public Policy director Dr. Rashid Aftab said reservations of locals must be addressed with evidence-based data sharing with all relevant stakeholders.

Jawad Akhtar Khokhar of the Ministry of Planning and Development highlighted development projects for Gwadar, especially the CPEC.

He said three projects worth $314 million had so far been completed and they included the Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan, the physical infrastructure of Gwadar Port and Free Zone Phase-I, and the Pakistan-China Technical and Vocational Institute.