Syria: How Business Can Prevent Future Crisis

Paul PolakWhile the United States and Russia work on a plan to end the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the people of that strife-torn country are fighting their own battle against poverty. According to the Strategic Research and Communication Centre, a third of Syrians are living at or below the poverty line. While there are other political, cultural and religious factors at play in the conflict, there are some people, including Paul Polak, founder of International Development Enterprises, who assert that poverty often fuels the fire of unrest in a population.

"In the big picture, poverty and violence are blood brothers," Polak declared. "Where there are wars and conflict like in Syria, poverty is often a root contributing variable."

The International Committee of the Red Cross is urging the international community to step up humanitarian efforts in Syria. While politicians look for answers in diplomacy, according to Polak, a solution to the problem of poverty in Syria and other emerging countries may be found in a new approach to business.

Polak and colleague Mal Warwick just released a book, "The Business Solution to Poverty," detailing ways business can alleviate poverty by making affordable such necessities as water, and generating revenue at the same time. Their approach recognizes that almost 3 billion of the world's people live on $2 a day. Polak said that although simply alleviating poverty will not end the conflict in Syria, it could help prevent future "Syrias."

"If it's possible to help a billion of the 2.7 billion two-dollar-a-day people out of poverty, there would be a huge positive impact in the lowering of violence and conflict," he said."

In addition to founding IDE, Polak is also founder of Windhorse International, a for-profit social venture looking to change the way companies market and distribute products. Polak and Warwick are members of Social Venture Network, which strives to support and inspire businesses to build a just and sustainable economy. Polak and other business leaders will be speaking at SVN's Fall Conference, October 17-20 in Baltimore.

More information on Polak and his new book is at

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