Feature Story

Cisco CEO Calls for Businesses to Aid Lebanon

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Chambers outlines efforts to help rebuild the country and bring stability to region

January 25, 2007

Cisco Systems, Inc. likes to talk about the power of the network. Usually, this means all forms of communication and IT coming together on a common platform. But there's a growing network that business leaders recognize as being an even more significant tie that binds. It is what Cisco refers to as "giving back". Corporations can be an invaluable asset when it comes to raising and donating funds for those in need. In today's global economy, organizations are crossing borders and cultures in order to improve the lives of people from all over the world.

One example of such a network in action is a delegation of American businesses that has come together to assist in the rebuilding efforts of one of the globe's most troubled countries, Lebanon. The U.S.-Lebanon Partnership aims to harness the financial resources and expertise of these companies in order to not just rebuild the country for today, but to help shape its future. As one of the founders of the Partnership, John Chambers, Chairman and chief executive officer of Cisco Systems, will bring this message to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week. He will be one of 2,000 business leaders and politicians from 90 countries attending this preeminent global economic event. Chambers spoke with News@Cisco about the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership and his views on how businesses can help contribute to the rebuilding effort.

What is the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership?

John Chambers: In September I had the privilege of participating in a presidential delegation of American businesses that was asked to visit Lebanon. We went there to listen, learn and develop a joint action plan. We saw the goodness of the Lebanese people and the traits they have in common with our own people such as family, faith, resilience and optimism. What became obvious was that no one group could achieve this on its own. Through public-private partnerships along with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the global community, together, we can accomplish what none of us could do alone. We are calling upon citizens and the global business community to share their financial resources and expertise with the Lebanese people to contribute to a safe, stable and prosperous nation.

The call to action is clear: the door to hope is now open for Lebanon, but to cross that threshold, the effort will require the power of public-private partnerships. I, along with three fellow American business leaders-Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel, Yousif Ghafari, chairman of Ghafari Inc., and Dr. Ray Irani, chief executive of Occidental Petroleum-were asked by President George W. Bush to spearhead the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership. Our goal was to develop a joint action plan to help make a difference in Lebanon and for the Lebanese people.

Most recently, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer, joined our group. Together, we look forward to contributing to the stability, economic recovery, and job creation opportunities in Lebanon. We encourage other businesses to join our effort by visiting www.lebanonpartnership.org.

How will the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership help Lebanon?

John Chambers: While we can't underestimate the challenges associated with this endeavor, we also cannot afford to ignore the great needs facing this country. Our hope is that economic recovery will help return stability to Lebanon. Public-private partnerships can help spur this recovery by assisting with education, job training, business development, and technology infrastructure. The Partnership aims to create greater support from the business community and leverage its financial, technical and entrepreneurial expertise.

Since we visited Lebanon, the Partnership has been working with the U.S. and Lebanese governments, local businesses and NGOs to assess the situation and identify where help is needed most. From this, we have developed initiatives in five key areas critical to sustaining economic growth in the region. These areas include: crisis relief and response, information communication technology infrastructure, workforce training, job creation/private sector revival and connected government.

One example of how we are helping is in the area of crisis relief and response. The Partnership is working with NGOs in Lebanon to help address the immediate needs for adequate housing, education and worker training. Habitat for Humanity will help close to fifty families repair damaged homes. UNICEF will rehabilitate ten schools in southern Lebanon. Mercy Corps will also rehabilitate ten schools expanding their extracurricular offerings providing IT access and computer training. ANERA will distribute partnership funds among ten southern Lebanese community-based organizations to link the neediest populations to education and worker training materials. These efforts will help address the immediate needs of adequate housing, education and worker training.

What specifically is Cisco contributing?

John Chambers: Cisco is making a $20 million commitment to this effort. For example, we are contributing to job creation through $10 million in venture funding and the creation of internships. We are also helping to establish community centers in Lebanon by providing the information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. In addition, we are donating two Cisco TelePresence systems to the government of Lebanon to help facilitate communications and collaboration within the country. And we are more than doubling our Networking Academies in Lebanon to forty-four with the goal of reaching 2,500 students.

Beyond Lebanon, what do you believe should be the role of businesses as members of the world community?

John Chambers: Today's global businesses are in a unique position to help improve the future of Lebanon. I also believe that there is an opportunity to create a successful model that can be replicated in other areas of the world. By applying the combined resources and expertise of businesses, our efforts can be much more effective than if we acted alone.

Cisco has also announced plans to donate its TelePresence technology to countries in the Middle East. What is the goal of this effort?

John Chambers: Cisco has announced that it will present two Cisco TelePresence systems each to the governments of five nations in the emerging markets, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In an increasingly global world, communications and collaboration will become even more important not only for people and companies, but countries as well. Cisco TelePresence has introduced an entirely new way to communicate and collaborate and the adoption of this technology by these countries illustrates the role ICT can play for countries in the emerging markets to leap frog existing infrastructures. We believe that the implementation of leading edge technology such as TelePresence in each of these countries will help foster greater interaction within both the countries and the region, presenting new ways to enhance the lives and opportunities for their citizens.