Saturday, 31 August 2013

Business as usual in the Middle East!

Being part of the International Citizen Service's Birzeit Advancement team is a multi-faceted job: one day I am teaching English to a group of university students and the next I am helping to proof-read a book on business structures in the Middle East.
Dr Grace Khoury!
I have developed a close working relationship with the fantastic Dr. Grace Khoury, the Director of the Business MBA program at Birzeit University. The book I am helping to edit analyses different business structures in the Middle East and evaluates the effectiveness of their strategies for operating in an increasingly globalized world.
It has been fascinating to get a first hand insight into some of the tensions that emerge when many of Palestine’s traditional family-run business structures  – based on a patriarchal model of ownership – find themselves having to compete with international businesses operating on a global scale. Notwithstanding the potential loss of international competitiveness, the constraints of culture and religion have resulted in the failure to capitalize on the talent of women. Given the precariousness of the Palestinian state it should be nurturing every ounce of talent and expertise to ensure its sustainability and survival in the long-term.
As a volunteer however I am aware of how easy it is to make pronouncements about an ‘alien’ culture and my experience has given me a more acute insight into the society I come from. Given the years of Israeli blockade and the perennial threat to Palestine's survival it is not surprising that they are not equipped for the modern world. Would you if you were living in such a politically charged environment? This is where I feel that  those of us who have been lucky enough to have first-hand experience of living and working in Palestine have a responsibility to continue the dialogue with fellow Palestinians and support them even after our volunteering stint is over. Likewise commendable as the British government's support for the ICS programme is, it ultimately must also support Palestinian-led  empowerment projects or we risk promoting a Euro-centric model of development. Finally we know through the history of riots in the UK that where there is social injustice there is violence; so the UK government must show leadership in promoting trade with Palestinian businesses and promote business exchanges and placements – perhaps an International Business Citizens’ Service may be the way ahead!

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