Organized by the Faculty of Business Administration & Economics at Haigazian University, a half day symposium titled “Social & Economic Justice” took place on the morning of January 17th, 2014.
In his welcoming address, Dean of the Faculty Business Administration & Economics, Dr. Fadi Asrawi, introduced the topic of social and economic justice, a topic that is more relevant today in Lebanon and the region than any other time. Dr. Asrawi, pointed out that social justice includes in itself economic justice. It imposes on each of us a responsibility to work with others to plan and continually perfect our institutions as tools for both personal and social development. He also added, a society that seeks peace must first work for justice.
University President Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian placed particular significance on justice being a core to life and relationships rather than a minor or side issue. He pointed out that most of the uprisings or wars that are taking place today in the Middle East are a result of social and economic injustice that probably took place at some previous time; however our generation continued this injustice in modern ways. Dr. Haidostian also mentioned that as an educational institution, Haigazian focuses on distributive justice; owing and sharing with the others in a fair way, especially the weaker ones.
The representative of his Excellency the minister of Social Affairs, Mr. Wael ABou Faour, Dr. Bashir Osmat, drew attention to topic of social justice being of great concern to philosophers, rulers, and the underdeveloped nations, since in the beginning of time. Social justice is an economic matter; he went on, with a major objective of clearing out the fundamental inequalities that exists between different social classes. Dr. Osmat suggested different means for the sake of achieving justice, such as, drawing out plans for different intervals in time, with a program of social and economic development and the cooperating between governmental organizations, NGO’s and the private sector.
Afterwards, Dr. Jonathan Andreas, from Bluffton University, USA, further discussed social and economic justice. He began by spotlighting a saying by one of the major economists, Keynes, “no idea more powerful than the idea of justice.” He mentioned that every textbook in Economics defies Economics as a positive science; not ethical. In contrast, he believes that it is impossible to avoid ethics since there is an opportunity cost to every decision made and that’s an ethical decision. Dr. Andreas pointed out that previously people were measured based on what they value (utilitarianism), however now, they are being measured by the money/income they make (mutilitarianism), and this is a form of injustice.
After a coffee break, Dr. Khattar Abi Habib from Kafalat, a capital institution, financially controlled by the Central Bank, shed light on the different efforts Kafalat adopts to contribute to social and economic justice. By concentrating on short term lending to support activities such as trade, commerce, and immediate services, they aim to motivate small and medium enterprises to grasp the opportunity of expanding, improving, or branching out. Also, they provide equal opportunities to rural and underdeveloped regions as to the center of the country for financing, favoring small economies to filter into the middle class.
From World Vision International, Mrs. Anita Delhaas, pointed out that civil rights and economic justice is the basis of a just society. She believes that it takes wisdom for people to get out of their comfort zones to build the right relationships in order to achieve a just society. Mrs. Delhaas highlighted that poor people are not in need of money and charity; they are in need of justice. Based on that, World Vision works closely with Ministries of health, education, public affairs, religious leaders and media to increase awareness and to achieve the wellbeing of 150 million of the world’s most vulnerable children, by working together to empower people in their economic life.
Followed by Mrs. Delhaas, Mr. Khalil Obeid, an acting CEO in the first Micro Finance Institution of Syria, conferred the attempts the institution is performing to upgrade the capacity of poor people to do more; by offering them micro credit and a safe place to put their savings. To contribute to a just society the Micro Finance Institution offers loans at minimal interest rates and charges a negligible amount to open a bank account, providing equal opportunities to poor people to have access to accounts. In addition to that, the Institution is offering group loans, to motivate Syrian women to act more responsible and accountable for their own lives and children, during the current dreadful circumstances.
The final guest speaker Mrs. Carmen Geha, from Beyond Reform and Development, tackled the topic of social and economic development by analyzing an alternative strategy, Social Entrepreneurship; a global phenomenon combining business with social impact and community development. To advance this strategy, Mrs. Geha thinks people should first adopt the mindset. It is a movement to counter the client list system, overcome corruption and a movement above all to free citizens from the chains of sectarian networks. There is enough evidence this would work Geha believes, and the rest is up to us.
An interactive session of Q&A followed every guest speaker, allowing the audience to share their thoughts and questions regarding the topic.
The symposium then concluded with a luncheon in Conte Hall.