University for a Night 2009
University for a Night 2009
This is a transcript of discussion among Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Founder and Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, Sheela Patel, Founder and Director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres and Chair of Shack/Slum Dwellers International, and Guilherme Leal, Co-Chair of Natura Cosméticos at University for a Night 2009. The discussion is moderated by Peggy Dulany, Founder and Chair of Synergos and Robert H. Dunn, Synergos' President and CEO.
Welcome and Introduction
ROBERT H. DUNN: Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is with the deepest gratitude that I greet you this evening and welcome you to University for a Night. Your support in the midst of an economic recession is all the more valuable to us and to our partners and beneficiaries in Africa and India, the Middle East and South Asia, and all across the hemisphere of the Americas.
It’s a special privilege for me to welcome back this evening David Rockefeller. He is an inspiration to all of us, and he has played such a pivotal role in the history of this organization. He has lent us his advice and wisdom and support, and even his name to the awards we will present in just a few minutes.
I also want to make mention of several others whose major sponsorship has been so important to us this evening: Marcos de Moraes and Instituto Rukha, the Rockefeller Foundation, Carlos Bulgheroni, Dorian Goldman and Marvin Israelow, Katja Goldman and Michael Sonnenfeldt, Kim Samuel Johnson, Shell International, the Baillères family, Vincent and Ann Mai.
Our full list of supporters for this event, which you can find in your programs, is a lot like Synergos itself. It includes individuals, philanthropists, businesses, and civil society organizations from all over the world. What they have in common is a desire to work collaboratively to help people secure their basic human needs and fundamental human rights. All of them share what Martin Luther King, Jr., described as the love that does justice. Thank you all so much. We could not do our work without you.
What does Synergos do? Well, I think that most of you probably are interested in organizations that build schools or feed children or protect the health and wellbeing of mothers and girls, or provide people with the skills and resources they need to support their families.
Actually, Synergos doesn’t do any of these things directly. What we do is work with leaders and organizations that provide all of these vital services to help them be more effective and have a greater impact. What we do is to help build bridges across economic, social, and political divides to enable people working together as partners to produce systems-changing results. What we do is provide strategic counsel and support to businesses, foundations, and governments promoting sustainable improvement in the lives of the poor and marginalized.
We bring to all these efforts more than twenty years of experience, twenty years of relationship-building in the developing world, and twenty years of lessons learned about what does and doesn’t work. Sometimes these lessons are set to music.
The successes we’ve had are based in part on the vision of our Founder and Chair, our dear Peggy; the wisdom of our board; the support of our donors; and the extraordinary abilities of our staff. Mostly, however, our successes are because of the partners who invite us to join with them in their vital efforts to make the world more just and equitable. I’m so glad so many of them are with us tonight, like members of the Global Philanthropists Circle, our Senior Fellows, and our Arab World Social Innovators. You are all heroes, each and every one of you. You are treasures and your names will be spoken with great appreciation and respect by future generations.
All of you are here tonight as a gift to us, and through your work, a gift to the world. And our intention in this evening’s program is to make a modest gift back to you. And so to begin, I want to present to you the angelic Yangjin Lamu.
Yangjin grew up as a shepherd girl in the mountains of Tibet. Her name literally means musical goddess. She has traveled throughout China to promote Tibetan culture and to foster understanding between Chinese and Tibetans. She sings with the voice of heaven and the voice of earth. Her music is from and for the heart. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Yangjin Lamu.
YANGJIN LAMU: [SINGS]
Thank you everybody. Thank you.
DUNN: Her beautiful singing reminds us of the capacity of music to open our hearts and take us to the place that connects us to our deepest good and holiness. I would now like to ask Peggy to step forward and to lead us in the presentation of the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards.
PEGGY DULANY: Thank you Bob, and thank you especially Yangjin.
I heard Yangjin sing for the first time a year and a half ago in India, and her song went directly both, probably through the heart to the spirit, so we were hoping to offer you that tonight, and I think we did, which shifts the whole tone of the evening. It’s possible to really move from the kind of fast-paced New York space. There aren’t too many people who could compete with the opening of the Metropolitan Opera, but you did.
[APPLAUSE AND LAUGHTER]
Presentation of David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards
Tonight we’re gathered in a spirit of partnership and collaboration with the shared vision of improving the lives of all people on the planet that we inhabit. We’re also here to recognize and honor the work of two extraordinary people who’ve done so much to that end: Sheela Patel and Kofi Annan.
The award that we give is by no mistake named the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award. So, Dad, once again, thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you, and I certainly couldn’t have done it without you. Your leadership …
….your leadership and your guidance have guided me, the work of Synergos, and so many people.
As you may have heard, cities are now home to more than half of the world’s population. While this urbanization has many positive outcomes, it also brings some social and environmental challenges. Challenges our first honoree, Sheela, has done a great deal to alleviate.
Sheela Patel embodies two seemingly disparate qualities that come together in great bridging leaders. On the one hand, when I met Sheela, I was struck by how very grounded and down-to-earth she is. On the other hand, she’s a truly global leader focused at the highest levels on systems change, which I think is the only way we can truly move the dial on urban poverty and homelessness.
As a result of these qualities, Sheela is setting a new ethical and intellectual standard on how to work with and alongside poor and disenfranchised communities.
Sheela is best known for her work with SPARC India, where she helped the urban poor, especially women and children, to have a real voice in creating and changing public policy and the programs which affect them. She’s helped people in cities all over India improve their own lives both socially and economically.
Along the way, she’s also built stable and permanent institutions that continue to confront the systems that keep people in poverty. Now, as Chair of Shack/Slum Dwellers International, Sheela is promoting peer-learning among groups like SPARC from over twenty different countries, sharing best practices on how to empower communities and foster partnerships that improve the lives of millions of the urban poor in ways not possible before.
Sheela, my friend, you have combined the personal engagement in grassroots involvement and the systems thinking that is essential in today’s world. You are an inspiration to us all. And now, I’d like to ask my father to come up and present the David Rockefeller 2009 Bridging Leadership Award to Sheela Patel.
DULANY: Sheela, with our deepest respect and gratitude, we’d like to present you this book of letters of thanks and appreciation for all that you do.
SHEELA PATEL: David, Peggy, Synergos, and friends, this is indeed a great honor that you acknowledge what I do, and I bring these thanks to you, not only on my own behalf, but for all the communities, federations, networks on whose behalf I accept this award.
My dearest colleagues and my husband are here today with me to celebrate this event. And for me it is one step forward in helping those who are committed to addressing the issues of poverty to move their sights into cities. It’s not that there isn’t enough philanthropic investment in cities, but it’s not going toward the most important and fundamental areas, those of a place to stay, clean drinking water, sanitation, and the right to feel included in the city for those who have migrated from difficult circumstances and aspire to transform their own lives and those of their children.
Today’s cities don’t do that. Many times, families spend thirty to forty years before they get recognized as citizens. To that end, the transformation that we hope to make is that these communities and these people, who have courageously come into cities, start to form their own organizations and begin to demand their space in the city, so that they, along with everybody else, can transform the way in which cities take their place in this world today.
It’s been a very difficult and quite disheartening journey, and recognition like this about what we do encourages us to stay on course. I look forward to much more of this kind of recognition of people who are struggling to make life in cities work for poor people in the future, because from last year onwards, more of us live in cities than anywhere else.
So thank you once again, Peggy. Your work has been inspirational. Your commitment to partnership makes us feel that we have a lot to learn from you and we hope that our paths cross organizationally as well. Thank you very much.
DULANY: I feel confident in saying that Kofi Annan has been a model for us all.
One of the wonderful things about this evening is that everyone in the room cares about global development issues. We give our time, energy, and resources, and are here tonight in an effort to address poverty, improve health, nutrition, education, and sanitation; strengthen governance, democracy and human rights, the rights of women and girls, needs of children; and the protection of the environment and our cultural heritage.
We’re also concerned about security. Not only wars and conflict, but the interconnected issues like infectious diseases, food security, displacement of people, and climate change.
I don’t know anyone who has, over the course of one career, done so much to galvanize leaders across so wide a range of issues. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi worked to improve the institution itself and its impact on the world. He solidified the UN’s role as a bridging organization, working not only with governments but promoting cooperation and collaboration among all groups and society: government, business, civil society, religious groups, and many, many others.
That certainly affected the work of Synergos where we’ve always believed in this approach, and thanks to Kofi Annan’s leadership, we and many others are able to work with different parts of the UN system in much more effective and productive ways.
Since completing his two terms at the United Nations, Kofi Annan has continued to play an important bridging role in addressing some of the most pressing and difficult issues of our time: strengthening democracy and governance, particularly in Africa; helping to focus global attention on development on that continent, as well as on global issues related to climate change.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Kofi’s other half, some would even say better half, Nane, has been at his side during all of this and Nane, we know what a role you have played in everything that he’s been able to achieve.
And now I’d once again like to ask my dad, long suffering that he is, to come up to the podium – and please, Kofi, would you join us to receive the Bridging Leadership Award.
DAVID ROCKEFELLER: I’ve been an admirer of the United Nations right since its beginning and very proud of the role that my family has played in it, but I think one of the reasons that I’ve not only enjoyed it, but been able to admire it from close, too, is the friendship that I have the privilege of having with Kofi Annan. I think he’s one of the great people in the world today and I’m very proud to be able to participate in welcoming him this evening.
DULANY: Kofi, you’re a person of vision and commitment, and it’s our great honor to be able to present you with this book of letters written by your admirers and friends from around the world. Thank you so much.
KOFI ANNAN: Thank you very much. Thank you very much Peggy. David, thanks for the very kind words. And my dear friends, Nane and I are extremely happy to be here, and Ms. Patel, it’s wonderful to share this evening with you.
As I sat there this evening I was looking at the logo of Synergos, the interlocking circles, which reminded me of why, in my own approach, I try to bring people together and get groups to work together. It became obvious to me early in my term that the United Nations itself cannot do everything, and that we needed to ask some very specific questions. What can the UN do, and what can’t the UN do? What should we do alone? What should we do with others and what should we lead others to do?
It became very obvious that, given the fact that the governments would not give us all the resources we needed to tackle the challenges of the world, that we needed to reach out and work in partnerships, to expand our capacity and pool our efforts to be able to tackle the major crises that we were dealing with.
When I started reaching out to civil societies, some of the ambassadors asked, “But who gave the Secretary-General the authority to reach out to civil society, to business, particularly business, and bring them into our house?” My answer was simple: “Distinguished ambassadors, look at your own charter. It begins with ‘We the peoples.’ The people are out there. They are not in the glass house. So we need to reach out to them.”
We need to reach out to them and work with them. We need to make them part of the solution. And often they have ideas which help us and in fact, there were many occasions when civil society was ahead of us. Sometimes my colleagues would say, “How can they say this?” I was inwardly thrilled because eventually I knew we’d catch up with them. But they were breaking the – sort of icebreakers – saying things and challenging and doing things that if, as Secretary-General, I did today, I wouldn’t be ahead of my time and probably I wouldn’t be misunderstood.
So it became very obvious that by working in partnerships we have the ability to get a lot done. And of course, it’s very difficult to talk about leadership in the presence of somebody like David who’s done so much and has been an inspiration to me personally, and many people in this room and around the world.
But leadership today doesn’t mean the leader has to do it alone. The leader has to know when he or she needs help, where to get it, how he or she can reach out to others and work with them on the challenges of the day. And when you look at the approach of Synergos, it could have gone up front and said “We want to do everything, we want to invest ourselves.” But the approach is to assist others, to help others in their way, empowering each other to get it done.
And I think we must also remember, when we talk of leaders, that leadership doesn’t mean one must always be right, and one must always win, and one must always be in the lead. We should remember that a good leader is also a good follower. Thank you very much.
DUNN: And I want to say just a few words about Guilherme Leal, who has joined them on the podium. Guilherme is the cofounder of Natura Cosméticos, one of the most successful businesses in Brazil, and one of the most sustainably-operated large enterprises in the world.
Guilherme treats all of his employees, business partners, and investors with integrity and respect. He has worked tirelessly to influence the social and environmental practices of other businesses around the world. He is a passionate advocate for women and girls. He is a global leader of efforts to preserve our most precious and life-supporting natural resources, doing extensive work, particularly in the Amazon, and in partnership with indigenous communities. He is a magnificent human being and we are thrilled that he is with us tonight for our plenary session. Peggy.
DULANY: The nice part about doing the awards first is that it’s not the ending; you actually get to hear some dialogue among the people you just heard, with the wonderful addition of Guilherme. So, to set the stage, because Synergos takes the view that partnership is important, but inclusive partnership is fundamental, I’d like to turn to Sheela. We had a fantastic dialogue yesterday. Actually, the various networks of Synergos who are here tonight have been meeting since last Thursday, and yesterday we had a discussion with Sheela and one of our new board members, Corazon Soliman from the Philippines, about the issue of inclusion.
So, Sheela, I’d like to ask you your definition of inclusion, because I thought what you said yesterday was so clarifying, and that will set the stage for the other things that we’re going to talk about.
PATEL: Well, yesterday when we had a conversation, we were talking about organizational strategies and inclusion in that context. When we speak at a much larger level, you’re talking about identifying and acknowledging the presence of those in that particular environment whom parts of the city would like to leave invisible. And so identifying who they are, identifying what they need, in their role and contribution to that environment, becomes the first step towards looking at the concept of inclusivity.
DULANY: And can you just say a little bit more about how your organization goes about making sure that the most excluded are included to the extent possible.
PATEL: My organization’s most important and significant partnership is that with the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India, whose President, Jockin, is here with us today. Theirs is an organization of people who live in slums and informal settlements. And one of the most incredible and amazing things that they taught me was the capacity to help communities that have identified themselves as neighborhoods to become part of this organization, so that they become part of this organization, so that they become actors of that strategy to seek inclusion, rather than some mainstream institution, patronizingly seeking them, saying “you’re there, come in.”
So that’s the most powerful part of this process. And so creating conditions by which people get organized and included becomes the first step that we feel is the most significant part of this process.
DULANY: Thank you. Now it may seem strange to some that I would talk to the businessperson on our panel about the issue of inclusion, but the example of Natura is so amazing in terms of the way they go about their employment and their empowerment of their employees, that I wonder, Guilherme, if you would address that a little. Tell us a little bit about your vision behind starting Natura in the first place, and then about your employee policies, and just give us that little piece of data about how many women are out there selling your products.
LEAL: Thank you Peggy. Natura has today a network of 900,000 beauty consultants, Natura consultants, spread all over Brazil and Latin America, mainly. And I think it’s – the business is a powerful way of inclusion.
Our vision, since the very beginning forty years ago, and mainly in the last twenty years, in the ’90s, is that business has been based on values. Our company is really driven by values. And our main value is recognition that everything is interdependent. We really and deeply believe that everything in life, on this planet, is interdependent. There will be not a successful business without a good world, a good place to live in.
And so we believe that the success of a business is linked to its capacity to deliver to society some additional value, to the overall success of society. We really believe that business is a powerful agent of transformation, of inclusion. And the possibility of creating value for the business is to look at the society, to look at the social problems, environmental problems, as opportunities to create economic value. That is what we have been doing in these last twenty years, and we have been creating a lot of economic, social, and environmental value.
We have been treating these 800,000 Natura consultants as potential leaders in their communities, not as only cosmetics sellers – even considering that cosmetics can be a powerful tool to put people in touch with their first home. Our first home is our body, if we consider that cosmetics is not only a way to deal with vanity but to be in touch with ourselves. And being in touch with ourselves, we can be in touch with our big home – our planet. We can be in touch with each other and we can collaborate to help the planet. We can do a lot of things to transform society and to improve the conditions of the way we live.
This is good business, transforming lives and helping people. And this is what we have been doing through the years and we think that we have been producing good results.
DULANY: Thank you. That was a beautiful answer. One of the biggest issues around inclusion is whether people have access to food or not.
Kofi, since you left the United Nations, and as well while you were with it, I know that one of your principal focuses has been on the issue of agriculture in Africa, and I’m wondering, given the situation both of climate change, which is increasing desertification in Africa, and the issues around distribution, if you could say a bit about what you’ve been doing, particularly since you left the UN, to make sure that people have the right to food.
ANNAN: Thank you very much Peggy. While I was still Secretary-General, I was concerned about this issue. Most of you will remember that in the year 2000, the Millennium Summit, we came up with the Millennium Development Goals. All the heads of states and governments agreed that one of the goals was to reduce drastically the number of people living with hunger, living on less than one dollar a day. And of course, we monitored it each year to see what was happening.
In 2004, I was beginning to get concerned about lack of food security in Africa, a continent that used to export food in the1960s and ’70s, and was now importing quite a lot of food and living on food aid. We were growing things that we did not eat and only exported, and importing what we ate and couldn’t afford.
So I felt we needed to really find a way of tackling this agricultural issue. So I approached Bruce Alberts, who was the head of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, and asked, “Would you work with me to pull together inter-academy experts, scientists, to take a look at African agriculture and advise us on what is wrong and what should be done?”
The scientists came from all over – from India, from Latin America, Europe, and the US and African scientists – and gave a very good report which indicated what the problems were, beginning with seeds, where some countries are still using seeds which are twenty years old. They were not doing any research on these seeds. They do not use fertilizers. There was hardly any irrigation. Between 44 and 50% of the farming in Asia is through irrigation. It’s only about 4% in Africa. The African soil was depleted because we kept mining the nutrients and not putting anything back.
And as you’ve said, the problem was being compounded by climate change. In some regions, the desert is traveling at the rate of seven kilometers per year. And with droughts, desertification, and floods, often the farmers could not rely on their produce to feed themselves, much less sell the surplus to get some money.
The Academy of Sciences study was funded by several foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation and Gates Foundation. When the study came out, they [the foundations] also decided to stick with the problem. Most of you know that the Rockefeller Foundation had been involved with agriculture and played a very important role in the green revolution in Asia and Latin America. And in Africa, they had done quite a bit of work.
So, the Gates Foundation decided to join the Rockefeller Foundation with us to launch a program. I had called for a “green revolution” in Africa in 2004 at a meeting of heads of state in Addis [Ababa]. I was quite excited by this initiative, and agreed to chair the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa.
The work of the Alliance, the mission of the Alliance, is to help small, older farmers, who are mainly women. The farmers in Africa are women who often get no support from governments, they cannot raise money, they have no insurance, so they sink or swim on their own. And what we are now trying to do is to make sure they have the right inputs, that they make sure that they get the right seeds.
How do we do that? By working with seed breeders to ensure that we come up with seeds which are adapted to their environment. We are looking at drought-resistant seeds. We are looking at seeds that will help increase their yields, as well as teaching them soil management, the right kinds of fertilizers to use, irrigation so that they get more crop per drop, and trying to help them all along the value chain to make sure that they can get their produce from the farm gate to the market.
We are also working with governments, with the farmers themselves, and encouraging the private sector to invest in agriculture. But our focus is on the small farmers. This does not mean we are opposed to large-scale farming, but the continent is fed by these small, older farmers. And of course there are situations where larger farms are also next to their smaller, older farms. But you need to get them to work together to ensure that they get decent prices for their produce and you can get it to the market.
So this is what we’re doing. We’re also pushing governments to come up with the right policies, policies which are friendly to the rural population and also help agriculture.
DULANY: Thank you, Kofi. And if you don’t mind, I’m going to ask a follow-up question on a slightly different subject, but still in essence relating to the issue of inclusion and exclusion, and that relates to conflict, and how one can lead into post-conflict situations in a way that will ensure the inclusion of those who were left out in the beginning. And I refer, of course, to Kofi Annan’s significant role in the conflict in Kenya last year. I wonder if you can comment on it from that perspective.
ANNAN: The Kenyan crisis shocked everybody. It was considered one of the stable countries in the region, and it was in the midst of chaotic environment. You had Sudan, you had Somalia, you had Uganda. We’ve had the struggles in Rwanda, and so Kenya was a sort of a haven. And suddenly, after the elections in December 2007, it exploded.
So, between December 2007 and February 2008, about 1,500 people were killed, and 350-400,000 people displaced. I was asked to go in to help at the request of the president of the African Union.
When I went in, the two parties were at each other’s throats. The opposition maintained that the government had stolen the elections. The government maintained that it had won the elections fair and square, and neither party was giving ground.
The choices people had when I got there were to rerun the elections, to recount, or to re-tally. And given the tensions in the region, and the results of the parliamentary elections, where the government had 102 seats and the opposition 104, neither side could run the government or parliament without some cooperation.
What was also interesting was that the options before us were not viable. In that climate, if you did a recount, you would get more people killed because a recount would almost be like fresh elections. You’d have to go to each constituency with party representatives present, and count votes again.
Fresh elections would also have led to violence, without any certainty that either side would have accepted the results. A re-tally would only have given you bits and pieces of paper which were not handled properly, but it would not give you the results.
So we had to find a way out. A political solution out. So we got them to agree to form a grand coalition and share power, so the leader of the opposition became the prime minister; in fact, he’s in New York today, sharing power with the president. They also distributed the cabinet positions in terms of strengths in parliament, so it was almost 50-50 from each party.
But the key to your question, Peggy, is in trying to resolve the issue, I was determined not to be seen as being in Kenya to rearrange the power arrangements between the political elite and leave it there and say we’ve solved the problem. So right from the beginning, I invited civil society, the private sector, religious groups, and the press and universities to work with us.
So they were having meetings with us as I was negotiating with the political leaders, because I told them it was their country, and the agreement we’re going to come up with will be their agreement and, therefore, we were not going to do anything behind closed doors, and each agreement we signed would be released immediately.
So we released all the agreements. The first was to try and stop the violence. How do you bring the violence under control was our main, first agenda item. The second one was how you deal with the humanitarian issue and the hundreds of thousands that were displaced. And then, of course, you moved onto the political issues about power-sharing. But more importantly, getting them to use their numbers now that they were a grand coalition in parliament, to institute reforms: constitutional reform, electoral reform, fight against impunity and security forces reform, land reform, and means of getting employment for the youth, and ensuring that there was equal access to opportunity.
So they have a very heavy agenda for reforms. And we also appointed a consulting firm, a local consulting firm, to monitor the progress they were making, issuing reports every quarter so that the population knew what was going on. And they have stayed engaged. Progress was not as speedy as we would have liked, but the civil society and the people engaged are all pressing their government to do the right thing. It is their country and they want to get it right. So by involving them and bringing them in, they feel that the process is also theirs.
We did a one-year review and the courage of civil society, headed mainly by women, the religious leaders, was remarkable. And they were very honest. The religious leaders told me, “Mr. Secretary General, we made mistakes.” They said, “During the crisis, we took sides.” So when you had a bishop say he wasn’t talking about Kenyans, he was talking of the people in a particular tribe, that was wrong. But they admitted it and said we are not going to let it happen again. So by involving them they also become part of the solution.
DULANY: Thank you.
One of the things that we’re talking about implicitly here is how do you allow for the inclusion of those who normally are not part of the decision-making process, but also take solutions to scale. And we have someone who started – did you say in 1973, you started your work in urban slums, Sheela?
ANNAN: You must have been a child.
DULANY: Yes. And we have a business leader who started a business that probably didn’t start at the size that it was, but is now all over Latin America, and we have the former Secretary-General of the UN. So I’d just like to throw out to the three of you, in what order you feel you’d like to address it, or maybe only one or two of you would.
This issue, because many of us who support or work in civil-society organizations or work from the perspective of business or even government, have this frustration that if we work way up here, how are we really going to impact it down there where it counts? But on the other hand, if we start here, how can we ever get to a significant scale that’s really going to create the tipping point for reducing poverty and creating a more sustainable world?
PATEL: In our case, I don’t think there was anything below us. We were the ones at the bottom. And I think that as we began to face different kinds of problems, the most important one was being completely invisible.
The federations developed some very interesting techniques for producing data about its members. I’m very sorry to say, but data about poor people is dismal. It cannot be disaggregated. They’re lumpy numbers which are sort of floating in the stratosphere, so very little use to bring change or measure change.
And so one of the most powerful things that we began to do was for communities to do censuses of themselves, and this began like fire to just move around. And so today you have communities and federations of these kinds of people who are living in very difficult circumstances in cities without secured tenure, without basic amenities, counting themselves and standing up and saying we want to be included, this is the number, these are the people, men, women, children. And now, demanding from the city the way the cities see themselves.
So this has become sort of a fundamental strategy that began very humbly on the pavements of Mumbai and now, through the Shack Dwellers International, has begun to inspire people in different countries all over the world, to start counting themselves and beginning to knock on the doors of cities, of provinces, of national governments, of international aid agencies, and the UN and the World Bank and many other institutions, to say, here is a very large number of people who are not counted, who are not included, and whose involvement in the process of transformation is critical.
So, how do we create conditions by which communities not only network with each other to learn strategies and ideas from each other, but become an important critical mass that the other institutions at the national and global level cannot dare to ignore? Because I think that’s part of what is very transformative, that large numbers make their presence known.
DULANY: And can you say something about some of the policy changes that are coming out of this collective organization, census taking?
PATEL: Well, one of the most important impacts has been in relationship to the Millennium Development Goals. My colleague here, Rose Molokoane from South Africa, I remember she had a meeting with Mark Malloch-Brown [Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme] and she said, “I’m your goal-keeper. When things work for me, then you can say that your goal has been achieved.”
So when you’re talking about monitoring, you look at the community of women from all over the world and make them your goalies. They’ll tell you when the goal has been scored. And that, for me, is the transformation, that community leaders begin to articulate what they want, they explain to you the kind of solutions that will work for them, and then let development assistance build around them so that they contribute to that process. They don’t just become these beneficiaries who sort of stand there and get things thrown at them. That’s not a good way of doing things.
DULANY: Guilherme, I can’t help making the analogy to market research. So when you started working with these 800,000 consultants, can you say a little bit about how you went from both your business ideas, as well as your vision in the world, to how you developed the strategy of not only employing these consultants – I believe all of them are women or most of them are women.
LEAL: Most of them are women.
DULANY: But also your strategy for encouraging them to become leaders in their own communities.
LEAL: We have been, since the beginning, we proposed to them that they somehow be involved in being more than cosmetics sellers. But this has a business objective. This is integrated with business, it’s not separated. It’s not on the one hand doing business and on the other hand doing philanthropy. This is an interesting point.
We have been creating through these years an integrated approach. We are in a direct-selling industry.
LEAL: Direct-selling industry.
DULANY: Direct-selling, yes.
LEAL: And we are – I am not, please understand that I am not trying to advertise Natura, I am just trying to explain an idea. We are the most productive company in our industry, and what does it mean to be the most productive? Those 800,000 women are independent from us. They can sell for any company in the world, cosmetics or other goods. So they are free. They sell our products if they want. They have a strong connection with us, so they need to like us. They should have emotional connections with us. So we must offer them something greater than just having a good income and selling good cosmetics.
So our proposition is that they are part of something greater. Our offering is that they are part of a group, of a network that wants to create a better world. And this makes sense to them. And we have – shown in hard data – the highest level of loyalty. We have the lowest turnover in our sales force, and this means that we have the highest productivity index, so they have the highest income per capita.
And so they are engaged in promoting other kinds of changes. They believe that they are able to produce change, so they are becoming more and more a force for change. They are becoming really engaged in promoting change in their communities. And we are finding, day after day, new ways of promoting change.
We have, for instance, a program that we call Believe It To See It, a ten-year-old program designed to increase and support the improvement of quality of public education in Brazil and in Latin America.
And so there have been many different projects that our consultants have been engaged in. They are free to choose how they engage themselves.
But the point is that they believe that it’s possible to be agents of change and there are many, many different ways to do this. This is linked to the business, so it’s a virtuous circle that we create. And this is a sustainable way to drive the business and to show our fellow business people that it’s good for business to be a good citizen, to engage people in creating a better society and improving good public policies and things like that.
DULANY: Thank you. So, in a minute we’re going to turn to the audience, but I can’t resist, Kofi, to be our – what’s the baseball term? I’m going to get this wrong, I want to say wrap-up hitter, but that’s clearly not it.
In any case, you get the point.
You heard these two great stories, and having been Secretary-General and having had to deal with all of these issues from a global perspective, how do you hear these stories? Is it inspirational? Is it discouraging? Is it …?
ANNAN: It’s very interesting for me to listen to our two friends here. But I think you raise the issue, when you start from the top, when the idea emanates from the top, how do you get it down and get it working? And when it begins at the grassroots level, how do you move it up and have an impact and get it done?
I think in today’s world, even governments are realizing that there are lots of things they cannot do alone, if they wanted to. Even in international relations, people-to-people contacts, the sort of work you do, contacts between corporations and others, all help.
The governments and the leaders also realize that if they are going to have a real impact and move forward the ideas and get it done, they need to get it down to the grassroots and get the people to understand it and follow them and agree to be led for it to be done. But the people below, if they have an idea and a vision and they want to get it out, they also have influence upon the way you touch on it, by developing numbers and getting the people to speak up. And if you have sufficient numbers raising their voices, the leaders or the politicians get the message. The shout becomes so loud that they cannot afford to ignore it.
So it’s a dynamic relationship and those at the top and those at the bottom must understand that relationship, and also appreciate how to work with it. For example, with the climate change conference coming in December, I, working with a group of NGOs, have mounted a campaign called TckTckTck It’s Time for Climate Justice, pressing leaders to ensure that they get an agreement in Copenhagen, arguing that pollution has a cost and the polluter must pay, and that when you look at the global situation, the poor countries and the poor people, who are responsible for less than 2% of the greenhouse-gas emission and the pollution, are bearing the brunt. They are the ones suffering, either through droughts, floods, high sea-level impact on their houses. And yet, often they don’t have a say at some of these conferences.
So basically we are saying we need action. We want to protect the planet and are pressing the leaders to try and come to an agreement. I wrote to one hundred people around the world asking them to become climate allies.
Today, just before I came here, I got a message that the British business minister, [Peter] Mandelson, has written to one hundred of the big, big businessmen to join, and also to one hundred politicians to join, and asking others to do the same. And so if they all keep writing to one hundred people and asking them to join us, it snowballs. We are also coming up on the website asking people to call their parliamentarians, their congressmen and really put the pressure on to let them know that the grassroots and the people want it. Already we have about a million and we expect that by next month we’ll move up to five million and it keeps going. So I’m an NGO now. We are working together to build it up from the ground.
DULANY: Great. Thank you so much. And we’re now going to turn it over to Bob who’s a great facilitator of the question-and-answer process.
Question & Answer with Audience
DUNN: This is an opportunity for you to ask questions of the panelists. What I’m going to do is collect a couple of questions and invite our panel to answer them. If there’s more time, I’ll solicit additional questions. So if you have one, please raise your hand. There are a couple of microphones, I think, that are available. If not, just speak up. The floor is open for questions that you’d like to pose to any of our panelists. Please.
BRUCE SCHEARER: What do all of you think of the role of philanthropy in producing the changes that are needed in today’s world?
MARYAM BIBI: What are the reasons that we’ve not been able to secure the kind of change we all want? What are the kinds of obstacles that get in the way?
SMITA NARULA: Along the lines of the last question, I was wondering if each of the panelists could speak to the role of business. We’ve heard a lot about a sustainable and positive business model, but it seems to me that both in the context of the right to food, as well as the problem of slum dwellers and many urban inhabitants, that businesses actually play a potentially negative role – agro-business in the context of the right to food in Africa and other places, but also in India in the context of setting up special economic zones or other ways in which individuals who are marginalized are pushed even more to the fringes. So something about the role of business, but also how we can get businesses to be more socially responsible and abide by human rights, even though there’re currently no particular norms attached to businesses, something we’re all working on, I know.
DUNN: So one more, and then we’ll let the panel share its wisdom.
MARY NYAMONGO: Thank you a lot. Kofi, I’m a Kenyan, so I’m very proud to be affiliated with your efforts in the past. But I’m just wondering how much we can do to improve the lives of the poor, and how much we can achieve unless we really solve the politics within a lot of our countries. Because it doesn’t matter how much you achieve, when there is conflict the poor get even further disenfranchised. So unless we deal with the issues around governance and politics, how much do we really think we can achieve with all our efforts? Thank you.
DUNN: So we have questions about the role of philanthropy, the kinds of obstacles that are making it difficult to achieve our shared goals, the way to engage business in a more constructive way, and how we make progress without impacting the dysfunction of politics in government. So we’ll turn that over to any or all of you. Guilherme?
LEAL: Okay, tough question. I think Synergos is a good inspiration. The circles that combine – I don’t believe that any isolated actions could deal with so challenging questions that we face today. The social and environmental questions that humanity faces today are so complex that no isolated sector of society can deal alone with the challenges.
Philanthropy, it’s not the solution. It’s totally necessary, but it’s not the solution alone. Business is fundamental, the effort of business is fundamental, but without government, without state, without politics, public policy, it’s impossible to do. Tomorrow I will be at the UN – part of business pushing governments to set a framework at Copenhagen – to direct business efforts and to push business to be more proactive towards climate change, changes in business practices. This is necessary. It’s not business alone that will deal with this challenge.
And so, we have really a huge challenge to face. We are, in my perception, at a turning point in civilization. This last crisis, the financial crisis, is being dismissed too quickly. It seems to be ending, but it’s not ending in a real way. This crisis is connected to the environmental crisis. They both have the same origins. We have put in some trillions of dollars to address the financial crisis, but everything seems to be the same as a year ago. So we are facing a much deeper crisis that if we aren’t open to changing the way that we consume, the way that we produce, then we’re not open to a revolution in culture. We are not prepared to deliver a sustainable world to our children, to our grandchildren.
It seems that we are not so conscious of this challenge yet. So, it’s not a question of business. It’s not a question of government, it’s not a question of philanthropy. It’s a question of all of us, individuals, NGOs, governments, businesses. Each and all of us. I believe it’s possible, it’s really possible.
But each and every one of us must be involved and find solutions. We have good examples here. We have events like this and Synergos has great hope in showing us and connecting us, showing that there are many ways to build solutions, to change this situation. But we must be, all of us, deeply committed to provoke this change.
DUNN: Mr. Secretary-General, I think you were going to comment as well.
ANNAN: I think philanthropy can play an important catalytic role, and it has also helped, over the years, to empower people who have been disadvantaged and taken on issues where governments are not always ready to get involved, or the private sector is not ready to get involved. And philanthropists are becoming quite creative in handling some of these things and trying to make it sustainable.
For example, when you talk to my good friend Muhammad Yunus and take water in Bangladesh, you manage to get water to a village, his advice is, don’t give it away free. It has to be sustainable. Even if you charge one cent, put the money back into the project and roll it and get people to understand that water has value, we need to pay for it, but at a cost that is affordable to them. And often, when it starts that way, they also find a way of challenging their own governments to sustain a service.
So as I travel around the world and look at how certain projects started, who gave them a break, quite often it’s philanthropy. And even quite a lot of big companies are doing that.
I remember talking to an executive at a big Dutch bank about getting involved in agriculture and investing in agriculture in Africa. And he said, “Well, the bank doesn’t do it, but there’s a foundation that can do it. And I found out the foundation belonged to the bank.” So they test it on the foundation angle, and when it works and it’s viable, they can then come in and do interesting work.
On the question of why we don’t have change at the pace as we would like it, I would want to say that, first of all, it’s human nature. We resist change, and change and what is unknown also frightens us. We also do not always appreciate the fact that the change that is being proposed may be in our interest.
Take the crisis you referred to, the latest financial crisis. When everybody was scared that we were heading towards another Great Depression, when they met in Washington they all realized we are in the same boat, we need to come out with some solution. They met in London in April as G-20 and felt they needed to do something and there was a sense of danger, a sense of urgency, and the G-20 was working a bit more harmoniously together.
Now, as Guilherme said, people are saying the crisis is nearly over, we think it’s over. People are becoming relaxed again. And I assure you, when they go to Pittsburgh [for the G-20 Summit on September 24], the spirit of cooperation and agency will not be there. They’ll all be going back into their national interest. We have to watch out for protectionism rearing its head. Unless we have the sense that we are all in the same boat, it’s all in our interest, people would want to protect themselves. But in today’s world, you cannot protect yourself at the expense of the other.
In a world where the swine flu and others can go across borders in no time, we have to understand that we are in the same boat. But, of course, those who are promoting change should also be able to explain the benefits of the change, and we don’t always do a very good job in explaining it. We want to give it as an order from higher on down, and that doesn’t work. So explanation, education, and appreciation of situations is important.
On the Kenyan situation, let me say that it’s not just Kenya. I agree with you that as an African, both of us, and I’m sure there are others in the room, we are often embarrassed and ashamed by the misery that you see, by the wars and the conflict that have scarred the continent, we need to find a way of ending these wars and conflicts to be able to focus on the economic and social issues that are much more important. But to do that, we need to tackle some of the root causes.
Politically, we need to tackle the issue of governance. We need to tackle the issue of impunity. We need to tackle the issue of abuses by security forces. And these are some of the things in a way, in a microcosm, that we are trying to deal with within Kenya, because as we’ve indicated, that if we do not deal with the root causes, 2012 could be worse than what we saw in 2007 and 2008.
And finally, on the issue of the private sector and human rights, some of you may know that I started the Global Compact to encourage businessmen and corporations, to embrace nine principles. Those principles included human rights, the environment, and core labor standards. We eventually added a tenth principle, the fight against corruption.
But let me focus on the human-rights area. I know when we started the compact, lots of NGOs said if you cannot enforce these principles, it’s not going to work, it has to be enforceable. But as I explain, the UN had no power to impose and enforce these things with the corporations. And that the best weapon we had was transparency, encouraging the companies to publish, in their annual reports, let the world know what they have done. If a company claims it has done something that it didn’t do, the employees knew. They’d know. They would say we didn’t do this, what are you talking about? I never saw this. And they can learn from each other.
A company does not need a national law to know that you don’t pollute the lake in your area of operation that provides clean water for the people. A company does not need a law strictly to pay a decent wage. A company does not need a law, in some cases to help with the healthcare of their workers, if – a business, I think it was Volkswagen do Brasil, that was the first to start treating its workers for HIV/AIDS. They used to sit back and see the managers, experienced managers, die. And they started treating them and their families, suddenly realizing it made business sense. Doing good is good business. They were able to retain these experienced managers who kept on their work and continued to make productive contribution.
So companies can, in fact, in some cases, lead and set the tone. When you look at the situation in the delta region in Nigeria, where the communities feel it is their area that is producing the oil, but they are getting no benefits from it, the corporations can say we pay our taxes and we gave the money to the government, but the government did nothing. If the companies had set up clinics, schools, as a sort of a social responsibility of sorts, the situation would be entirely different and the people could have pushed their governments to go further than what the corporations have done. And so there are many ways that companies can help. Thank you.
DUNN: So earlier Peggy displayed her extensive knowledge of sports by inviting the Secretary-General to close out an earlier part of the discussion. I thought in turning to Sheela, I would stick with the musical theme, because the evening was begun by Yangjin, and throughout the course of the program we’ve listened to arias from the opera. I wonder if you have a final comment, and I would invite you either to speak it or sing it, if you prefer.
PATEL: Well, I’ll certainly not compete with the opera. I think that the whole issue of governance is beginning to take a new interpretation in terms of everybody’s responsibility to make that change happen. For too long, people have expected governments to be transparent, for business to be responsible. And very often it has been left to civil society to grumble and complain and say it’s not happening that way. And I think that that’s beginning to change.
And I think philanthropy plays a very important role in catalyzing some of that. And increasingly, social movements have emerged where there was a big vacuum in opinions from large numbers of people. And increasingly, globalization has helped communities from different parts of the world to start aspiring for good government. So it’s the demand that people are making all over the world, saying, “Why is my government so badly behaved? Why do people behave so badly? Why do our leaders do these kinds of things?” And beginning to start saying, “We want to have a role in this, we want to be involved in making policy, we want to be there with a stick if somebody doesn’t do the things right.”
And I think that’s the transformation that we hope will accelerate the kind of things we all aspire for, because I don’t think anybody today can say, “I’m satisfied with my work,” because everybody knows what is possible. Every young child – and we have quite a huge population of young people, who are much more impatient than people like us, who are not going to sit back and let the world just go on its usual way. So I think we are in for exciting times and I think – and I go back to my campaign of getting everybody to be aware of making cities work for people, especially in the global south, in Africa, in parts of Asia, we’re going to face such a huge influx of people into cities.
So cities have to change the way they plan themselves, how they include people, how they set themselves up, because whether it’s businesses or governments, they’ll have to change the way they look at things. And I think communities of people – and a lot of people who are going to come into these cities are going to be poor. They’re going to be coming in because of conflicts, because of environmental problems, all kinds of things, and they will have to be included as citizens who contribute and find solutions for the city.
And I want to encourage all of you to support this, whether it’s through working on issues of good business practices or campaigns for climate change issues, or addressing poverty. A lot of it’s going to happen in cities.
DUNN: Thank you.
Well, inclusion has been one of the themes of the evening, so I’d like to include all of you in joining me to thank our panelists, and then we want to include all of you in the conversation over dinner with topics that most of you have selected. This is an evening for learning, and for teaching, and for sharing, and for connecting, and for taking the plans that are needed for action. But please, first join me in thanking our plenary panelists.