It is 06:30 PM on a nice autumn day in Khaneye Hamayesh, a well-known hall for VIP receptions in the north of Tehran. Guests arrive one by one on the red carpet and enter the hall where they are first welcomed by adolescent girls from a UNICEF-supported youth centre. UNICEF MENA Regional Director, Mr Geert Cappelaere who has travelled to Iran to meet with high-level UNICEF partners in Iran and attend this event greets the guests. He is accompanied by UNICEF Iran Representative, Dr Will Parks, and UNICEF Iran goodwill Ambassador, Ms Mahtab Keramati and all UNICEF Iran staff. Guests then walk to the UNICEF photo wall where photographers click for best photo shoots.
As the hall gets busier, guests are socializing in small circles, some in the main lobby and others in the backyard garden. The majority of guests are heads of key businesses and the private sector in Iran as well as a number of celebrities and representatives of diplomatic missions who have come to attend UNICEF Iran’s first Corporate Partnership Gathering; an event organized in the same week as Iranian National Children’s Day to mark UNICEF’s 70th anniversary and highlight the important role of the private sector and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in improving the lives of children.
UNICEF Iran staff wearing branded blue card holders speaks to the guests and exchange business cards. An hour later, the guests walk upstairs to the main hall decorated with big frames of smiling children on tripod stands.
The programme kicked off with the dazzling UNICEF PSA: “For Every Child”. UNICEF MENA Regional Director, Mr Cappelaere was the first person to walk on the stage to address the guests by emphasizing the importance of partnership for UNICEF: “UNICEF believes in the power of partnerships. We recognize that finding and delivering solutions to help children must go way beyond UNICEF – tremendous results can only be achieved with government leadership and courage, when whole societies unite for children.” Mr Cappelaere highlighted UNICEF’s work in 190 countries around the world by forging alliances with multinational corporations and national companies, philanthropists, UNICEF goodwill ambassadors and individual supporters to leverage collective strengths on behalf of the world’s children. He invited celebrities and business leaders to join UNICEF in Iran for a better future for children.
A round of applause fills the hall as Mr Cappelaere leaves the stage and gives his place to a group of girl children with hearing impairment to perform in sign language a well-known traditional epic song about Iran. As the music is played in the hall, the children look up to their instructor talking to them in sign language. The facial gestures of the children and the movement of their hands are so impressive and full of emotions.Towards the end of the song,as children kneel to Iran’s flag which is spread on the stage and hold it in their fists with passion, everyone’s eyes are filled with tears. As the performance finishes, the audience stand up in excitement to applaud the children and their instructor.
After this impressive performance, UNICEF Iran Representative, Dr. Will Parks, addressed the audience. He recapped the history of UNICEF partnership with the private sector in Iran over the past decades and invited the heads of businesses to partner with UNICEF for children.”There is one thing that truly unites us, one thing that we have in common”, said Dr Parks, “We have all been children, and now many of us have children of our own. You will agree with me that there can be no greater investment than investing in children.”
After a short video-clip highlighting UNICEF’s work in Iran, Mr Gholam-Hossein Shafei, President of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture addressed the audience and highlighted the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility as a concept which has recently received a great deal of attention globally and in Iran. He said: “the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture has encouraged business people to fulfill their social responsibility and play a more prominent and effective role in the promotion of professional ethics to improve the business environment as one of its main strategies.”
The event ended with signing ceremonies of two memorandums of understanding (MoU)between UNICEF Iran and two of its new partners, the Iran Chamber of Commerce and Saman Bank. The MoUs would further promote Corporate Social Responsibility by offering opportunities for the business sector to yield positive results for children. Upon leaving, guests received a UNICEF bag including a book on UNICEF’s success stories in Iran on the occasion of UNICEF’s 70th anniversary, an info-pack on UNICEF’s current programme in Iran as well as UNICEF branded pens and wrist bands.
The history of UNICEF Iran private sector fundraising dates back to 1986 when the Private Sector Division (PSD) started selling UNICEF greeting cards and gifts. UNICEF Iran started corporate fundraising in 2005 by entering into partnership with a number of major local brands. However, due to deteriorating circumstances and international sanctions, ICO had to halt corporate fundraising in 2009. Since 2016, and after having obtained the agreement of government to engage with the private sector again, UNICEF Iran works on building a second generation of corporate partnerships. The Corporate Partnership Event organized jointly with Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture was held in line with the same objective and as part of the Resource Mobilization strategy of UNICEF Iran. The Resource Mobilization strategy aims to proactively, efficiently and effectively mobilize funds for UNICEF Iran’s new Country Programme 2017-2021; It also includes leveraging other types of support such as technical expertise, innovation, human resources and convening power to advance children’s welfare and well-being through maintaining existing and developing new partnerships with Iran’s Public and Private Sectors.