The ground-breaking film about tourism development in Baja California, Baja All-Exclusive, is now available online (FREE)
Three Seeds Organic Farm (Finca 3 Semillas) is located near EL BRUJO DE RÍO NUEVO in the Central/South Pacific mountains of Costa Rica. Here you can practice your Spanish, become immersed in Costa Rican rural farm life, see sustainable development in action, experience living off the land, breathe in the rainforest, show your children where cheese and beans come from, and so much more! At Three Seeds Farm you will live in your own bungalow on a secluded Costa Rican organic family-owned farm located deep in the jungle - nestled up against the old growth jungle and right on the edge of a crystaline, wonderful river with swimming holes. Very child friendly. Read more….
~Bordering 150,000+ acre Los Santos Forest Reserve
~Very secluded – no other tourists around
~A place to learn about the very rural, rainforest, organic permaculture way of life in the tropics.
~visit nearby small villages tucked away on the border of the massive Los Santos Forest Reserve
~meet locals on the soccer field, at local elementary school, etc.
~traditional Costa Rican culinary experience – learn how to cook tamales from scratch, hand made tortillas, etc.
Volunteer, learn Spanish & explore at Instituto Asis!
Learn, Serve & Share in Harmony with Nature
This language immersion program includes the perfect combination of Spanish classes, cultural immersion, and volunteering in semi-rural Costa Rica. Students live with a local family, receive language lessons and spend time practicing their new language skills while volunteering at a wildlife rescue center, participating in a local recycling co-operative and spending time with their host family.
Available year round and great for families and children.
Click here to learn more!
Register with us for a discount:
The Climate Project Hosts First Ever Latin America Summit, Debuts New Online Presence
Al Gore's non-profit continues to build international momentum with latest summit and website.
(Nashville, TN, September 28, 2009) – Former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore will train 300 people hailing from more the 21 Latin American countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Trinidad, and Columbia to become the first Climate Project (TCP) Presenters in the region.
The summit opened today in Mexico City and will run from September 28th – 30th. Mr. Gore, along with other international experts, will train people from all walks of life to talk to their networks, peers, and communities about the climate crisis. This summit also marks the establishment of TCP Mexico in association with Pronatura, a non-profit organization headquartered in Mexico City.
Latin America is an important next step for TCP. From Brazil's Amazon and Mexico's wetlands to the glaciers of the Andes and the coral reefs of the Caribbean – the urgency of climate education and awareness in Latin America is undeniable. “The citizens of this region need to be informed about climate change and engaged in the issue,” said TCP Executive Director Jenny Clad. “After the summit, the new TCP Presenters will return to their countries and communities ready to take on this challenge.”
TCP Latin American Presenters will become dynamic leaders in their region’s ongoing conversations about land use, energy policy, and emissions measures. They will be active participants in solving the climate crisis not just in their home country, but worldwide.
This event is the third TCP Summit held in just four months. Both the North American Summit in May and the Asia Pacific Summit in July played a major role in generating domestic and international momentum for TCP, which now has eight official branches: USA, Australia, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, and now Mexico.
To help coordinate these efforts, TCP today unveiled a new website (www.theclimateproject.org) where citizens around the world can learn how to get involved in their region. The site identifies where TCP has volunteers internationally and provides a way to unify TCP’s growing movement.
If you'd like to host a TCP presentation in your community, please visit http://www.theclimateproject.org/presentation.php. If you're interested in requesting a presentation in Australia, Canada, India, Spain, or the UK, please visit these countries' websites, which can also be found at http://www.theclimateproject.org/presentation.php.
About The Climate Project
The Climate Project (TCP) is an international non-profit organization founded by Nobel Laureate and former Vice President Al Gore. With its global headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, TCP’s mission is to increase public awareness of the climate crisis in the United States and abroad. TCP consists of a professional staff and more than 3,000 volunteers worldwide who have personally been trained by Gore to present a version of the slide show featured in the Academy Award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth. In February 2009, TCP expanded its mission with a new commitment to advocacy and activism to combat climate crisis.
The J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding established in 1993 is awarded by the Fulbright Association to recognize individuals who have made extraordinary contributions toward bringing peoples, cultures, or nations to greater understanding of others. Fulbright Prize laureates include:
* Nelson Mandela (1993)
* Jimmy Carter (1994)
* Franz Vranitzky (1995)
* Corazon Aquino (1996)
* Václav Havel (1997)
* Patricio Aylwin Azócar (1998)
* Mary Robinson (1999)
* Martti Ahtisaari (2000)
* Kofi Annan (2001)
* Sadako Ogata (2002)
* Fernando Henrique Cardoso (2003)
* Colin Powell (2004)
* Bill Clinton (2005)
* Desmond Tutu (2008)
Contact Athena Fulay, Program Officer - Outreach and Communication, firstname.lastname@example.org , 202.686.6242
We are preparing to set our Education Calendar for next year. Please tell us what four-week workshops you are likely to attend. We will base our choices on the results of this survey. The survey will take about 5 minutes to complete.
Take this survey now
International Society of Sustainability Professionals
¨As you may have read, the crisis in Honduras moved to a new and more volatile stage yesterday with the clandestine return of President Manuel Zelaya to the capital, Tegucigalpa. Zelaya's successful repatriation came after two prior attempts failed. It took the de facto government -- that came to power as a result of the June 28th military coup -- by surprise, but was hailed by a crowd of thousands who quickly surrounded the Brazilian Embassy where Zelaya and his family have been granted sanctuary.
Early this morning (Tuesday Sept 22), riot police attacked the peacefully assembled Zelaya supporters gathered outside the embassy, violently dispersing them with tear gas, truncheons, and concussion grenades. Dozens of citizens were detained and several serious injuries were reported. At the time of writing, the de facto government has closed the country's airports and land borders.
Please call Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's office at 202-647-5291. Tell the State Department that the US must take forceful and immediate actions to stop the violence against citizens and civil society organizations and to negotiate a handover of power to the democratically elected leader, President Zelaya.
More State Department and Congressional Contact Information:
State Department Honduras Desk: Maria Gabriela Zambrano, 202-647-3482
Office of Central American Affairs: Director Christopher Webster, 202-647-4087
Contact the US State Department Switchboard: 202-647-4000
Find your Congressperson's Contact Info Here:
Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121
For more information about the immediate situation please see:
"Rally for Ousted Honduran is Dispered," The New York Times -- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/world/americas/23honduras.html?hp
For background analysis and information about US policy:
"Clinton, Speak Clearly Now to Avoid a Massacre in Honduras," The Americas Policy Program -- http://americasmexico.blogspot.com/2009/09/clinton-speak-clearly-now-to-avoid.html?utm_source=streamsend&utm_medium=email&utm_content=6247961&utm_campaign=Clinton%2C%20Speak%20Clearly%20Now%20to%20Avoid%20a%20Massacre%20in%20Honduras
Thank you, as always, for your work on behalf of peace & justice,
I was pleased that even the Nature Conservancy is realizing that true sustainability and conservation must include a deep integration of the social and economic dynamics surrounding remaining forest areas and that conservation must allow for reasonable land use extraction practices by local stakeholders needing to feed their families in their homeland. People are not the enemy, but they are certainly the main factor damaging our shared ecosystems (oftentimes because of destructive extraction practices taught by U.S. and European transnationals during the first "Green Revolution"). People represent the Social Pillar and should not be shoved aside, displaced or otherwise ignored because that will only come back to haunt us in ways we cannot imagine - including mass environmental degradation.
Economic sustainability is also an important part of the equation, called the Economic Pillar of the Sustainability equation (People, Planet, Profits or Triple Bottom Line). The case of the Indonesian project where The Nature Conservancy participated in advancing peace by helping broker sustainable use of the forest by loggers and local villagers is a great example of the type of triple bottom line approach I and fellow Latin eco-warriors have been calling for for years (read "The Bigger Picture - Socially Responsible Conservation") I am convinced that only through "Bigger Picture Conservation" or "Triple Bottom Line Conservation" will we have true conservation over the long term, especially in "developing" areas of the world.
I have hope when I see the Nature Conservancy, known historically for displacing local communities, changing their course and adopting a triple bottom line approach to their conservation projects. They call it "pathbreaking" - I call it "finally!"
Local conservation and ecological organizations in Latin America have been using this socially integrated approach to conservation for decades and weaving the issue of peace with environmental sustainability (to us it is an obvious reality we live almost daily). Too bad Latin social justice workers and environmentalists have not been able to access the stakeholders that give the most funding for conservation - such as the U.S. environmentalist, thus their voices have been largely unheard.
This is in part why I felt the need to create Instituto Conexiones - I thought it would be good to create an organization that could serve as a cultural liaison and communications outlet in order to bring to the U.S. donor and sustainably minded investor the voices and ideas of the rainforest communities - local entrepreneurs and leaders tend to have realistic and culturally integrated ideas on how to go about 'saving the rainforest' in ways that help the society achieve economic growth and peace and justice too (Central Americans, like me, are particularly vested in the idea of maintaining and advancing peace and social justice due to witnessing the catastrophic environmental, economic and social impacts of revolution and war).
Sounds like others out there are starting to get to the decision makers at the Nature Conservancy and similar organizations - I'm so glad because now I feel there is a realistic chance at actually conserving our last remaining wild places and saving species from becoming extinct. And I have more hope than ever that the good intentions of foreign conservationists in Latin America and other developing countries will continue to be more aligned with social and economic on-the-ground realities, which means that there is real hope for many families to stay together, and indigenous and peasants the world over will suffer less from displacement and disenfranchisement. I have always recognized the U.S. Environmentalist as a key ally - so long as they listen and integrate the local voices in their methodology.
I hope to see more stories like this one on the conservation wires. Please send me any others you know about to add to this blog and our educational archives. We are looking to showcase positive case studies where foreign environmentalists and/or greenpreneurs merge and collaborate in an equitable and positive way with the local people and help support (rather than replace) existing local green initiatives.
To access the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), click here
New on LAPOP news feed:
- The Inter-American Dialogue, May 8th: Mitchell Seligson and Liz Zechmeister will present the results of the survey on democratic values and behaviors of over 40,000 respondents in the Americas in the event: Will a Bad Economy Hurt Democracy? Evidence from the AmericasBarometer Survey.
- The Americas Barometer Insights Series: I0814. Satisfacción ciudadana con servicios municipales. Por Daniel Montalvo
- Two LAPOP partner organizations named among the most influential "think tanks" in Latin America. Read The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program 2008
- "State of the Region" report released on Central America; uses AmericasBarometer data.
- "Deepening Our Understanding of the Effects of US Foreign Assistance on Democracy Building Final Report Foreign Assistance on Democracy Building Final Report "
During this time in Washington D.C., representatives of Instituto Conexiones participated in a round table discussion at the Cannon building in Capitol Hill with sustainable business thought-leadres whereas Newton was able to express the position that U.S. companies with operations & partners overseas must uphold high social responsibility standards that include their marketing & competition practices in emerging markets.
She spoke with a congresswoman who is also a committee member of the Waxman Bill, regarding international standards and communicated the position that the actions of U.S. companies in international markets must be included, which she agreed and gave us directions on how to best send them our position.
The trip was a great success and allowed Instituto Conexiones to include the Latin American voice within the U.S. sustainable business movement.
En celebración del Día de la Tierra 2009, el próximo 22 de abril, miembros del Congreso de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica harán entrega de los premios Seal of Sustainability, en una ceremonia promovida por el Sustainable Business Institute. Soy invitada al Capitolio como representante de la perspectiva Latinoamericana e internacional. Llevaré una carta (abajo) con firmas para apoyar la posición que presentaré a miembros del congreso y otros tomadores de decisiones.
Se espera que el 'Seal of Sustainability' se convierta en el más alto estándar de distinción para empresas y organizaciones comprometidas con la sustentabilidad. Este Sello ofrece a los consumidores elementos para decidir a qué empresas apoyar, sabiendo que así contribuyen a restaurar los sistemas naturales y a establecer practicas empresariales equitativas y justas.
Te invitamos a copiar la carta a un correo, firmarla y reenviarla a tus contactos, colaboradores, etc. siempre con copia a email@example.com para poder recopilar todas las firmas.
Kimberly Maria Newton-Klootwyk
Abril 22, 2009
Honorables miembros del Congreso de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica:
Como miembros de diferentes organizaciones, empresas y grupos de la Sociedad Civil Organizada de Latinoamérica, estamos conscientes de la importancia que tiene el debate sobre los estándares para los premios “Sello de Sustentabilidad”. Sabemos que este momento, en el que se definen los parámetros de operación de las empresas del país líder de negocios en el mundo, es el idóneo para cambiar de rumbo hacia un mundo justo, congruente, solidario y verdaderamente sustentable.
Para salvaguardar la integridad social y la diversidad biológica de sus países socios, es fundamental que las operaciones internacionales de las empresas de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica se guíen y sean evaluadas con los mismos estándares que rigen las operaciones en su territorio nacional.
Nuestra comunidad de organizaciones, empresas y sociedad civil organizada de Latinoamérica pide que el Congreso de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica, así como los autores y evaluadores de los parámetros para los premios “Sello de Sustentabilidad”, incluyan en su análisis el impacto que las compañías de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica tienen en los ciudadanos y territorios de los países donde operan, tomando en consideración también la huella ecológica y social de su estrategia de comercio en mercados internacionales asi como el de la cadena productiva de todas las operaciones.
Los consumidores norteamericanos están esperando esta certificación por parte de su Congreso como una garantía de que las empresas que porten ese sello operan bajo estándares que cumplen o exceden los estándares de sustentabilidad, y consideran también las externalidades en lo ambiental, social y económico. Por ello, este sello debe garantizar la operación tanto doméstica como internacional de las empresas que lo porten.
Los firmantes hablamos principalmente por América Latina, pero estamos ciertos de que cualquier otro país que tenga tratos comerciales con empresas estadounidenses estará en sincronía con este planteamiento. Por lo tanto, individuos u organizaciones que representan poblaciones impactadas en otras partes del mundo o que son impactados por las acciones de empresas estadounidenses también firman esta carta e identifican su lugar de procedencia en paréntesis después de su firma.
Gracias por su atención a esta posición – una posición que tenemos la certeza, tendrá repercusiones positivas al estar el tema íntimamente relacionado con la migración transnacional masiva de obreros, el calentamiento global, y con el clima socio-político de países en vías de desarrollo o economías emergentes que tienen convenios de libre comercio con los Estados Unidos.
En solidaridad con esta posición firmamos:
(tu nombre, afiliación y país)
Instituto Conexiones Invited to Attend Earth Day Celebrations on Capitol Hill with Sustainable Business Leaders - A Call for Sponsors!
On Earth Day itself, even more attention will be given to this issue than on any other day. Congress will be recognizing sustainable companies during a special Seal of Sustainability Awards Ceremony, which will take place in the U.S. Capitol. In addition, as part of the federal government’s Earth Day events, the Sustainable Business Institute (SBI) will be briefing the U.S. Congress, as they do each year, regarding their advances in the area of sustainable business practices and guidelines.
The Sustainable Business Institute (SBI) has provided Instituto Conexiones the opportunity to add the international perspective to the sustainable business conversation happening in the chambers and halls of the U.S. Capitol on this upcoming historic day.
SBI is most likely the oldest sustainable business organization in the United States and the world. U.S. government leaders and CEO's of the largest corporations in the world turn to SBI for thought-leadership and applied best practices in the area of triple bottom line sustainable business practices. Working with the Pollution Prevention Roundtable (P2) as their third party review committee, they have created standards and guidelines known as the 'Seal of Sustainability' - a Seal that the U.S. government is looking at utilizing as they standardize their sustainable business "certification" - an optional certification businesses will be able to receive.
Where Instituto Conexiones fits into the conversation is through education related to making sure that the Seal of Sustainability standards, as it is adopted by the U.S. government, include rigorous evaluation of the overseas operations of companies receiving any seal or certificate identifying them as being a “sustainable business.”
We know that what U.S. companies do affect the rest of the world and the U.S. is looked to as a business leader. This is a great opportunity for the U.S. to think globally while acting locally and lead the world towards a truly sustainable future. We feel a critical component to true sustainability is making sure ethical and sustainable business practices include considerations of the impact U.S. business activities have on non-U.S. citizens and on ecosystems outside of U.S. territory.
U.S. Consumers will be looking for this "seal" when making their conscious purchases and we believe they will want to know that a logo certifying a product or company as "sustainable" means that those companies are meeting or exceeding sustainable business practices in all three pillars - environment, economic and social sustainability, when operating in other countries.
We have accepted the invitation extended to us by the Sustainable Business Institute (SBI) to join their delegation briefing the U.S. Congress next month. We recognize that this is a critical moment to bring the "international perspective" into the conversation as U.S. government and corporate leadership debate and decide on the new sustainable business standards.
We obviously speak for Latin America more than any other part of the world, but all countries doing business with U.S. based companies and investment groups will be affected by this, so we ask for your support so we can go to the Capitol in DC on Earth Day and advocate for the "International Perspective on Sustainability!”
All individuals reading this, and especially those who represent relevant stakeholder groups are encouraged to send in your opinion letters so we may include them in our position statement and educational materials. We have also posted a poll question on our blog - take a moment to voice your opinion!
We must raise $2,500 to pay for airline tickets, lodging for two nights and creation of special related educational/marketing materials.
Every dollar counts.
Pledge your support today by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or simply donate through the Pay Pal button on our blog: www.institutoconexiones.org.
Sponsors can join the Instituto Conexiones delegation and will have logo placement on our marketing and educational materials. Monetary contributions are best, but pro-bono printing, airline tickets, graphic design, hotel rooms, etc. gladly welcomed.
Kimberly Newton de Klootwyk
Ethical leaders go against the industry grain, like Andrew Witty of GlaxoSmithKline. The new chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, startled commentators, campaigners, and probably a few shareholders, with his announcement that the company would slash the cost of many of its drugs to people that need them in developing countries.
It was a perfect example of the difference that leadership can make. It raises the question – what counts as great leadership in socially responsible business?
There is a wider list to be produced on that topic, but I wanted to highlight here five key thoughts in the light of the GSK and other recent examples. And we always have the sharp contrast of poor leadership we have seen in the last few months of the financial crisis.
Five things that count as great leadership in socially responsible businesses are:
The folks of Institute for Cultural Awareness have been working for years to bring awareness about the teachings and knowledge of the elder wisdom keepers from around the planet, among other things.
We encourage all who read this post to learn more about their upcoming Return of the Ancestors Event in Northern Arizona (April 18-28th) and to consider attending or/and supporting this historic event. Elders and wisdom keepers from around the world will be coming together to share their stories and pray for the sustainable future of our shared planet and peaceful co-existence among its people. This multi-cultural gathering is part of the fulfillment of the ancient prophesy regarding the time when the Eagle and the Condor would unite. The Eagle is the symbol for the North and the Condor is the symbol for the South.
Watch the video here
Click here for a downloadable brochure
Instituto Conexiones is involved with and supports this project as we share in the mission to bring together the Eagle and the Condor in an equitable and peaceful way - We owe Institute for Cultural Awareness a great deal for their support of our work through the years and in return, we support their work whenever possible - hosting elders when they come to the Bay Area, providing free translations of materials, and volunteering as interpreters. They are on our list of philanthropic organizations to give donations to as part of our annual give-away.
We wish them the best of luck with their upcoming event!
Attention International Executives and Globally Minded Philanthropists - Cross-Cultural Relations Help is Here!
Instituto Conexiones now provides Cross-Cultural Relations Services to U.S. American visionaries carrying out projects in Latin America - special focus on Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Bolivia.
If you are part of a U.S. team carrying out a business idea (or philanthropic vision) in Latin America, you need more than just a cursory knowledge of the dynamics of intercultural relations between yourself and the local Latin American people you work with, serve, sell to, or have an impact on in some way.
We believe that in order for you to succeed - to have true longevity in your vision - you need someone on your team who has local contacts, who has a deep level of understanding between your culture and the culture of the place where you are doing your business (or carrying out your social enterprise or philanthropic project) and who can engage the local people to subscribe to your project to help you achieve your goals.
Our years of combined research and experience and our multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approach provide us with a unique perspective on best practices related to helping foreigners enter the Latin American world in a truly sustainable way.
Our unique approach includes helping your vision self-reflect on its social and ecological sustainability and coming up with a triple bottom line approach to your venture. Business executives worldwide now know that being socially and ecologically responsible does not have to come at the expense of doing good financially. Actually, businesses and social enterprises that invest in social and ecological responsibility will do better over the long term than their non-responsible counterparts. The costs related to conflict mitigation, public relations band aids, increased security, climate change, sabotage repair, etc. are extremely high. Doing the right thing is good business sense and is the foundation through which you will have success, local support, and staying power, especially in Latin America.
This relates to nonprofit, international cooperation and public sector projects too - having good intentions does not automatically translate into having a positive impact, gaining local support, or having a good public relations reputation. Nonprofits also need to understand how their actions are being perceived and the impact they are having because this lack of knowledge could be working against their cause. For example, rain forest conservation groups that buy out local poor farmers may be contributing to larger environmental problems in the long term, as well as a myriad of social problems (see "Looking at the Bigger Picture When Saving the Rain forest," 2006)
Instituto Conexiones is here to educate and coach you on topics you will need to know about as you navigate the different social dynamics you will encounter, especially if you are a U.S. American entrepreneur or philanthropist who is having an impact on, is needing to interact with, or is reaching out to Latin American stakeholders (and if you think a stakeholder is a type of cutlery- it is time to contact us!!)
To help you along as you educate yourself more about these important topics, we encourage you to read the following blogs/publications:
Additions by Carmina Valiente, President of 7 Filos Producciones
We are proud to announce that a film concept that Instituto Conexiones helped develop with a local Mexican Production Firm, 7 Filos Producciones, is well on its way to becoming a reality!
The concept is a series of investigative film reports focused on showcasing the positive and negative social impacts related to the influx of foreigners coming into Baja California to purchase retirement homes and invest in the growing tourism, real estate development and "green investment" sectors. We will strive to find positive case studies of foreigners and locals working together in an equitable and sustainable way to advance shared goals.
After presenting the concept to a group of Mexican and U.S. donors, 7 Filos Producciones secured the first phase funding for these important and timely investigative video reports.
Instituto Conexiones has contributed to the formation of the concept through ongoing advocacy for a need to look at the social dynamics related to the cultural encounter between wealthy foreigners and Latin American locals, especially in areas considerd biodiversity and tourism "hotspots" & UN World Heritage Sites.
The following links to relevant short films, sent to us by 7Filos Producciones, provide examples to what is happening and how 7Filos Producciones and Instituto Conexiones will be approaching the subject:
Rosarito Documentary by CBS
The Parallel Case Study of Quintara Roo (Cancun) by Sea Studios Foundation
The Parallel Case Study of El Mar Menor, Murcia by El Escarabajo Verde
Instituto Conexiones will be in charge of the translation of the films, subtitling and the U.S. communication and marketing strategy to get these films seen by the relevant U.S. demographic.
We are still looking for Stage 2 funding to actually pay for the marketing and diffusion campaign, website and online presence, and other post production costs.
If interested in learning more on how to be a sponsor, are interested in being involved, or would like to commission this type of intercultural relations study and documentary in your part of the world, feel free to contact us.
For the last few years, I have been working with organizations or for organizations that are considering carbon offsets for their projects. I have also been reading about the new trend and its advances in a cursory way - I am a far cry from an expert on this topic.
However, since my time working in Costa Rica on rain forest conservation projects, and my "Bigger Picture" epiphany, I often analyze any new well-meaning trend for its long term sustainability and its potential social impact and layers of complexity.
So far, within my limited scope of knowledge, I have come across the following interesting situations that raise multidisciplinary questions -
1- Carbon offsets that are related to mono crop non-native tree plantations - how is that environmentally sustainable? What a missed opportunity to plant a diverse native tree forest, rather than a monocrop non-native species that cannot feed or adjust to local ecosystem - or that may even hurt it.
2 - Carbon offsets as a way for foreigners to buy up huge tracks of cheap land in hot spot conservation and tourism areas and effectively, make this a good investment opportunity because the land maintenance pretty much pays for itself and a profit can be made. Poor desperate farmers living in the rain forest are seeing more and more foreigners buy up their lands for pennies on the dollar - their displacement means that they will add to the swarm of migrant labor moving to developed areas and their carbon footprint will probably triple or more (need more studies here). In addition to the social and ecological impact of mass migration and land being concentrated yet again in the hands of the few, landless peasants are considered to be one of the top causes of deforestation (~40%- need to look up my source_) because they go and squat on other lands - clearing and burning them to create a new rural settlement. We know that deforestation is one of the main reasons for climate change so what is the carbon footprint of this story being played out globally? And if farms are being converted to tree plantations and local agriculturla production goes down, where will the food come from to feed the people? Will they have to import the food from afar? Doesn't importing food from afar mean more carbon footprint vis a vis the transportation of the food? Carbon offset purchasers who are genuinely interested in curbing climate change or have social justice values, must consider these factors.
3- On the above point - not sure if this is a guideline already being used, but it makes the most sense for the carbon offset of an activity to be offset as near to the source of the carbon "footprint" as possible - this in part to give back to the local community where damage is being done and to also assure that the carbon offset activities are in alignment with local community development plans, include local stakeholders, employ locals for carbon offset related activities, etc.
(End of Draft)
Should Corporate Social Responsibility be a voluntary response to customer and societal demands? Or, if it is as important as many are suggesting, should it be a legislated requirement? On December 16, 2008, the Danish parliament decidedly found in favor of the latter option. Now, 1100 of the largest companies in Denmark must include CSR information in their annual financial reports...More
University of Barcelona, Spain - Master's Programs in 'Corporate Social Responsibility,...
Originally posted on Wed Jun 18, 2008 8:50am EDT
University of Barcelona, Spain - Master's Programs in 'Corporate Social
Responsibility, Accounting and Social Auditing', and 'Social Economy and Third
Sector' - Degrees from the University of Barcelona
BARCELONA, Spain, June 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The University of Barcelona
(UB), in collaboration with the Economy and Society Research Center Foundation
(Fundacion Centro de Investigacion de Economia y Sociedad - CIES), offers
Master's degrees in Corporate Social Responsibility and Third Sector Company
Management, providing online training in combination with campus-based
classes. Admission requirements include a university degree and professional
experience in each degree field. The academic staff is made up of professors
from four universities, including Georgia State University....More
Relevant Event Notice: A Cultural Conversation: Aldo Leopold, the Southwest, and the Evolution of a Land Ethic for the Future
Time: February 13, 2008 at 8am to February 14, 2008 at 6pm
Location: National Hispanic Cultural Center
City/Town: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Event Website: http://www.aldoleopold.org/...
Event Type: Opening
Organized By: The Aldo Leopold Foundation
As the opening event in the Aldo Leopold Centennial Celebration 2009, this “cultural conversation” is intended to foster creative discussion about the Southwestern roots of Leopold’s land ethic, the roots of an environmental ethic in Hispanic and Native American traditions, and the historic and potential connections among them. The event is open to the public and welcomes participants from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and perspectives....More
Socially responsible investing reaps rewards in an uncharitable market
By Sam Mamudi, MarketWatch
Last Update: 12:03 PM ET Nov 2, 2008
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The market's meltdown has left every category of stock mutual funds in the red this year, but one area that has held up better than most is socially responsible investing.
As of Oct. 30, a total of 15 out of 91 faith-based and secular socially responsible funds that invest in stocks had outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average, some by more than 10 percentage points, according to investment researcher Morningstar Inc.
These results are encouraging for socially responsible investors because the odds are stacked against them. By screening stocks according to various ethical and moral standards, socially responsible funds by definition shrink their universe of investing options. In theory that makes it harder to provide market-beating returns.
But this year the reverse is also true: some socially responsible screens have helped their managers outperform the market and mute investors' losses.
"There are definitely some socially responsible screens that have helped in this environment," said David Kathman, analyst at Morningstar. "This type of market, which is punishing risk, is good for a lot of socially responsible funds."
Among the best performers is Parnassus Workplace Fund (PARWX) , which lost 25.3% through Oct. 30 versus a 29.3% decline for the Dow ($INDU) .
The fund was sprung from Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For," said manager Jerome Dodson. While the portfolio now also invests in companies not on the Fortune list -- and also avoids some that are -- the principle of companies which treat their employees well is still the driving force.
"As time goes on, I've become convinced that investing in a company that's a good place to work will do very well for you over time," Dodson said. "There's a connection. When you get this kind of socially good management, you get overall good management."
The fund's screening process includes gauging corporate governance and good accounting practices -- factors that also reflect better managed companies, Dodson said.
Among his non-Fortune picks are Baldor Electric Co. (BEZ) , a Fort Smith, Ark., based maker of motors and generators. The company has a literacy program for its employees, and 15% of its pretax profits go to its workers. The company's stock held up for most of the year, before falling hard in October.
Wells Fargo (WFC) is another company with a good management record that Dodson recommends.
Ahead of the crisis
TIAA-CREF is explicit about how its social screens have helped returns for its Social Choice Equity Fund (TICRX) , which is down about 33% so far this year. The fund's most recent fact sheet, from Jun. 30, lists poorly performing companies that were blocked by its screen. The list includes General Electric Co. (GE) , JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) , American International Group Inc. (AIG) and Citigroup Inc. (C) .
Amy O'Brien, part of the social and community investing department at TIAA-CREF, said that Social Choice Equity screens financial services companies based on factors that include corporate governance, predatory lending practices, transparency and executive pay.
"The themes that underpin the current crisis are themes that the socially responsible investing community and corporate governance people have been talking about for a number of years," O'Brien said.
Matt Zuck, part of a five-person management team of AHA Socially Responsible Equity Fund (AHSRX) , said that while screens can sift out some bad stocks, the discipline of tighter screening requires a manager to dig deeper. "In so far as it forces you to ask more questions about a company, it's valuable as an analytical tool," he said.
One factor that can't be overlooked is fundamental stock selection. A case in point is Amana Trust Income (AMANX) and sibling Amana Trust Growth (AMAGX) -- two mutual funds that are managed according to Islamic principles. Among those principles is a prohibition on usury -- any activity that is interest-bearing. As such, the Amana funds always avoid the financial sector.
Monem Salam, deputy portfolio manager at Saturna Capital, which manages the Amana funds, said that among the holdings are companies such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) , that pay steady and reliable dividends. (Exxon is a company that many socially responsible funds will not invest in because of screens that block oil companies.)
Amana Trust Income was down 22.8% this year through Oct. 30, with annualized three- and five-year returns of 3.5% and 10%, respectively. Amana Trust Growth, meanwhile, was down 27.6% so far this year; the fund's three-year annualized return was 0.3% and its five-year average yearly gain was 7.7%.
Parnassus' Dodson noted that he avoided some of the companies on the Fortune list, such as financials, including Goldman Sachs (GS) , and homebuilders because he thought they were overvalued. "We're paying attention to valuations and macroeconomic factors, too," he said.
The AHA fund had dropped financials for purely fundamental reasons, Zuck added. "In 2007, we owned Citigroup and AIG, but left them because we saw the emerging problems in the financial sector," he said.
Whichever mix of screens and stock-picking is used, socially responsible funds have shown that in tough times they're not a soft touch.
"It used to be thought that you had to give up returns to get those [ethical] screens," said TIAA-CREF's O'Brien. "But we see returns that are on a par with well-performing mainstream funds."
Top socially responsible stock funds
Fund Ticker YTD Return
Appleseed (APPLX) - 17.7%
Ave Maria Rising Dividend (AVEDX) - 20.2
Parnassus Equity Income (PRBLX) - 20.7
Parnassus Small-Cap (PARSX) - 21.7
Amana Trust Income (AMANX) - 22.8
Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) - 29.3
Data: Morningstar Inc. (As of 10/30/08)
Barak Obama's Election to U.S. Presidency Ushers in Tangible Globalization and A "We are all One" Mentality
He views the world through an interacial lens is the way Beale put it (ABC 5 o'clock News). Beale was one of the pioneers who helped make Alabama's schools racially integrated. Fifty plus years later, the first black president is elected into the highest office in the United States.
Obama's interacial lens is nothing to be glossed over as it is in great part the reason why many U.S. Americans voted for him - whether consciously or not. He is a great leader because he is a natural cultural broker & mediator - his background, his ancestral mix, his upbringing and his education in a multicultural society has helped form his "oneness" mentality and his ability to perceive multiple perspectives simultaneously.
In short, he represents a new era in many ways - a new period in human history that is racially integrated and where global citizenship trumps nationalism. Of course Obama could not speak about global citizenship while running for a national office in a highly nationalistic country - but there is no doubt that his identity goes beyond the U.S. borders - that his presidency ushers in a new level of global and interconnected consciousness. This is exactly what a country like the United States needed, given that it is made up of people of all backgrounds and is considered a leader in the world stage. Globalization has materialized in a tangible way through the new president elect of the United States. At Instituto Conexiones we will be following this presidency closely because of its relevance to the work that we do to advance global consciousness and peaceful co-existence among people of different cultural backgrounds.
Lets see what Barak Obama, one of the world's most influential cultural brokers does with his new power to change the world for the better for all.
Instituto Conexiones Launches a New Level of Cultural Brokerage for Latin American Organizations Needing a Presence in the U.S.
Helping Latin American organizations attract and retain U.S. clients, partners or donors.
At Instituto Conexiones we believe that equitable globalization begins with making sure all global players have an equal chance for success. In today’s world, that often times means having a presence in the U.S. and a partner that understand the U.S. culture and the English language. Without this, Spanish speaking businesses and organizations are oftentimes at a disadvantage even though their product or project is of superior quality. This why we offer Cultural Brokerage Services, which includes high-caliber U.S. Identity & Virtual Office Plans. Our goal with this service is to help our Latin American colleagues bridge the cultural gap so they can compete in the global marketplace and access the large wealth of resources concentrated in the U.S.
To learn more - click here
By Diana Verde Nieto
Founder and CEO
portugal-points-the-7332.jpgAs the world reels at the high price of fossil fuels, business and governments are increasingly casting about for renewable energy models. Portugal is happy to oblige.
Portugal? Yes Portugal. While most of the world remained mired in the old mindset of the fossil fuel driven economy, Portugal committed to leading Europe’s clean-tech revolution with some of the most ambitious targets and timetables for renewable energy adoption. That decision proved visionary. Portugal’s commitment to renewable energy provides an economic cushion at a time when other countries are feeling the pain of high oil prices.
“We have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas,” said Manuel Pinho, Portugal’s Economic Minister. “What seemed extravagant in 2004 when we decided to go for renewables now seems to have been a very good decision.”
Portugal expects to generate 31% of all its energy from clean sources by 2020. This represents increasing its renewable electricity share from 20% in 2005 to 60% in 2020, compared with Britain’s target of 15% of all energy by 2020. Portugal already exceeds its 2010 renewable energy targets.
While these commitments are exceptional, the most exciting part of Portugal’s drive to be a clean-tech leader comes from its rapid adoption of new renewable technologies. Traditionally, the country derived about 30-40% of its electricity from hydropower. While hydro is not a carbon-intensive energy source, it is not exactly cutting edge technology either. But now Portugal’s renewable energy plans include the world’s largest wind, wave and solar energy facilities, demonstrating that these technologies can be deployed at a massive scale.
Portugal’s plans capitalize on plentiful natural resources: the sunniest spot in Europe, a long coastline and abundant wind. The country intends to take advantage of what nature has given it, and are using its resources to establish Portugal as a global clean-tech leader.
Take wave energy. While experts identified the potential for generating electricity from wave power years ago, the technology to do so remained in its infancy. Portugal is now making a major play to both develop the technology and position itself as the world leader in its application. The world’s first commercial wave farm is set to go online this year. While this facility will provide only a modest amount of electricity to the grid, Portugal has set an ambitious generation target of 550MW by 2020. Backed by significant government incentives, the wave energy sector in Portugal is poised to take off.
The solar sector also benefits from similar support. By the end of this year, the world’s largest photovoltaic solar power farm will be in eastern Portugal. The facility, capable of generating enough power for 30,000 homes, represents a play by the country to become a global leader in solar technology.
The high price of fossil fuel energy presents global economic challenges. Although we’ve recently been given a slight reprieve from the record-high cost of oil, the higher prices have rippled through the global economy, driving up the costs of goods and services. But there is a silver lining: the high price of fossil fuels makes renewable energy look more and more attractive. If countries want to learn how to develop renewable energy on a large scale, Portugal points the way.
Diana Verde Nieto is Founder and CEO of Clownfish www.clownfish.co.uk a communications and brand agency dedicated to making sustainability tangible for business.
Consumers’ growing expectations of companies make corporate philanthropy more important than ever. But many respondents to this survey say their companies aren’t meeting social goals or stakeholder expectations very effectively. Companies that are doing well are taking a more strategic approach.
Corporate philanthropy can be an effective tool for companies that are trying to meet consumers’ rising expectations of the role businesses should play in society, say respondents to a McKinsey global survey.1 The survey also suggests, however, that companies aren’t using that tool as well as they could. Executives doubt that their philanthropy programs fully meet their social goals or stakeholders’ expectations for them.
About a fifth of the respondents say their corporate philanthropy programs are very or extremely effective at meeting social goals and stakeholder expectations. Their companies take a somewhat different approach than others do: their programs are more likely to address social and political trends relevant to the business and to be influenced by community and business needs. Executives at these companies expect their programs to become more global and say that efforts are already more likely to involve collaboration with other companies. Finally, these companies are much likelier than others to say they are achieving any business goals they have set for their philanthropy programs in addition to social goals.
A small group of respondents say their companies are reaching beyond traditional corporate goals for philanthropy programs—such as enhancing the company’s reputation or brand—to pursue more concrete business goals, such as gaining information on potential markets. Their approach to focusing the programs also differs from the approach at other companies.
Read the results here:
* Why give?
* What matters, who matters, and where companies are giving instead
* What effective companies do differently
1The McKinsey Quarterly conducted the survey in January 2007 and received responses from 721 executives around the world—74 percent of them CEOs or other C-level executives. The data are weighted to reflect the proportional representation of segments in the total population.
From Stanford Graduate School of Business News
Environmental Challenges are Profit Opportunities, Says Roberts of World Wildlife Fund
STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS — “Companies still thinking about the environment as a social responsibility rather than a business imperative are living in the dark ages,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Roberts delivered the annual von Gugelberg Memorial Environmental Lecture at the Stanford Graduate School of Business on October 23, describing how a new era of global threats is changing the work of the world’s largest conservation organization, an organization that represents the concerns of its 6 million members in 100 countries.
What started as a mission to save animals — associated with the widely recognized panda bear logo—has morphed, by necessity, into a broader mandate to address the economics, the science, and the politics of conservation around the world, Roberts said.
Increasingly people’s livelihood needs and the consequences on the environment of global warming and resource scarcity have to be considered along with measures for species preservation and biodiversity, he said.
Conservationists used to worry about getting people’s attention and keeping it, said Roberts, “but now the facts are in: Climate change and increased resource scarcity will likely be one of the most disruptive forces in business since the Industrial Revolution.”
Many businesses commit to do the right thing environmentally, and then under pressure to enhance the bottom line they see initial steps fade away unless confronted by regulation. Roberts said, “My vision for saving the planet holds that you not only need to work with communities and governments but also the forces … that are driven largely by business. We will fail if we don’t change the behavior of business and how it touches the places we care about.”
Under Robert’s leadership, the WWF is partnering with Wal-Mart, Google, Coca-Cola, Ikea, and others to work with government institutions and indigenous communities to address environmental challenges and sustainable growth needs. With large corporations controlling 70 percent of the choices consumers make, such partnerships are the source of greatest leverage, Roberts said.
“The world is finally waking up to the fact that our lifestyle (choices) are threatening the very fabric of the planet.” The WWF’s most recent Living Planet Report estimates that current demands on the earth’s resources are outstripping what the planet can sustain, Roberts said.
“Most people don’t know it but deforestation and land degradation contribute about 20 percent of all C02 emissions. Ironically at WWF, we realize if we want to save the Amazon, we need to head to China.”
“If China catches up to U.S. standards of consumption it will require two planets to sustain our livelihood for the long run, and if the rest of the world catches up, it will require eleven,” he adds.
Instead of pointing fingers at countries such as China and India, the better choice is to help them invest in technologies and practices that will reduce their respective footprints. “The developed world is going to have a difficult time telling the developing world that they won’t be allowed to enjoy the same fruits of economic success and higher living standards,” he said.
The United States needs to view its own behavior in the mirror, Roberts said. “Consider a simple cup of latte. If we think about Starbucks’ footprint, we have … the amount of water to grow the sugarcane to make the sugar, process the milk, harvest the coffee, make the cup, the lid, and to produce the wrapper. If a company looks at the actual numbers, the water to produce a latte adds up to 208 liters per cup.”
“Add energy to transport the raw materials, electricity to grind the beans, brew the coffee, power the lights, the WiFi internet connectivity (in every Starbucks), the gasoline burned getting customers and employees to the store, and the message for companies is clear. They cannot just consider their own business operations when it comes to environmental impact. The way any business buys and sells products has repercussions around the world,” Roberts said.
“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, the supply chain will include products from all around the world,” Roberts emphasized. “Whether we’re talking about fabric made in China, soybeans grown in the Amazon, palm oil harvested in Indonesia, biofuels created in Africa—companies will have to know how their products and the raw materials they use in their operations are affecting places, people, biodiversity, and the environment.”
These facts underscore the solid business reasons why sustainability is no longer just a nice thing to do, Roberts said. More importantly, conservation is a way of protecting business. “The smartest, most strategically focused companies are calculating climate change and resource risks into their operations. True visionaries know that if their business practices aren’t sustainable long term, their businesses aren’t either.”
2008 Dates: September 14 - 20
Limited spaces available
Please contact Brett Cicerone or apply directly online
Program Tuition: $9,000 USD
*Additional funding for applicants from nonprofit/education/government organizations available on a limited basis.
Location: Stanford Sierra Conference Center
True innovators set the bar. They redefine the terms of competition and dictate the future of industries. The Stanford Center for Social Innovation introduces a pioneering new executive program for leaders in business, government, nonprofit, and political action organizations. Drawing from a multi-disciplinary curriculum designed and taught by professors at Stanford Business School, this five-day program delivers innovative approaches to advancing environmental sustainability across organizations.
Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability, hosted at the Stanford Sierra Conference Center, offers executives a camp-like retreat where they can explore what it means to turn sustainable business practices into competitive advantage. The program is designed to cover a range of issues on the topic of sustainability that are central to those who are leading sustainability initiatives in their roles as leaders in business, government, public agencies, and environmental advocacy organizations.
This program was recently highlighted by the Graduate School of Business.
* Frameworks to understand how organizations can strike a balance between business and environmental objectives while managing complex stakeholder relationships
* Strategies to gain competitive advantage through environmentally sustainable practices, including product and process innovation and sustainable supply chain management
* Deeper awareness of best practices across industries in the area of environmentally sustainable business and leadership skills to enable action as an internal change agent
Today, environmental sustainability has become an objective both in our public policies and our business strategies. Consequently, best practice in environmental sustainability needs to be understood by business executives, environmental activists, public administrators, and regulators alike. The goal of our program is to bring together executives from each of these worlds, to expose them to state-of-the-art knowledge on environmental sustainability in business, and to facilitate their learning from one another. The program aims to be a watershed event in each participant's career, accelerating the development of those who will shape tomorrow's sustainable business and public policies.
William P. Barnett
Programs, dates, fees, and faculty are subject to change.
More info at:
Associate Director, Programs
Office of Executive Education
Stanford Graduate School of Business
Toll Free: 866.542.2205 (US and Canada)
The Laikipia Predator Project
It’s called the Laikipia Plateau. It sits along the equator in central Kenya, in the shadow of snow-capped Mount Kenya. Laikipia’s vast grasslands, riverbanks, and watering holes attract a rich array of wildlife, including some of Kenya’s largest numbers of rhinos, elephants, leopards, and buffalo. Researchers say the area — about 2 million acres — also supports nearly 200 African lions.
Laikipia is also home to people, including Maasai herders, who often come into conflict with lions that have learned to prey on easy-to-catch cows. The end result, too often, is dead cattle and dead lions.
In hopes of protecting both lions and farmers, local communities have embarked on a model experiment in wildlife-friendly land management called the Laikipia Predator Project, sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society and an array of other conservation groups. One of its main goals is to help local farmers protect their livestock from lions so they don’t have to kill them.
“Our studies have shown, not surprisingly, that properties that lose fewer livestock to predators tend to kill fewer predators,” write project leaders Laurence Frank and Rosie Woodroffe of the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya. “This suggests that we can conserve predators more successfully if we can prevent them from killing livestock. Better management may not only reduce livestock losses today — it should also prevent young predators from learning to take stock in the first place.”
The science of predator management is in its infancy, the pair says, “and every livestock producer has their own opinions on which practices best protect stock.” So one aim of the project has been to test which approaches work best. So far, the tests show that the best solutions employ basic common sense and are not very expensive, project leaders explain.
For instance, the studies have found that the design and construction of “bomas” — traditional corrals for sleeping livestock — are key to protecting livestock from lions. “The stronger the better,” project officials advise, adding that bomas built from thorny acacia bushes work better than those made from solid posts or stone. The researchers also discovered that the height of boma walls was much less important than their thickness. “Thick walls were especially effective at preventing lion attacks, presumably because they prevented cattle from breaking out,” the researchers concluded.
The studies have also revealed some other tricks. It helps to divide bomas into several “rooms,” for instance, and to place them near human residences. An armed guard nearby, along with a dog or two, also helps, although dogs can sometimes transmit diseases to wildlife. (In the Serengeti, domestic dogs were the source of a virus that killed many lions in the 1990s.)
The Laikipia researchers are now testing the idea that lions are less likely to attack livestock where there is plenty of wild prey nearby. In The Vanishing Lions, for instance, viewers follow scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society as they track lions that are wearing radio collars. The collars are used to study the cats’ hunting patterns and to try to understand why some prides develop a taste for livestock while others do not.
Ultimately, project officials hope that the “predator-friendly management that we develop as a community in Laikipia will be a model for better conservation in the rest of Africa.” So far, the results are promising, as the Laikipia plateau continues to be one of the few places in Kenya where predator populations are growing, not dwindling.
To order a copy of The Vanishing Lions, visit the NATURE Shop.
According to the New York Times, a U.S. "federal appeals court panel ruled on Tuesday that the United States discriminates against the blind because the country’s paper currency is the same size regardless of a bill’s value."
This decision says a lot about the quality of care and amount of attention the U.S. society pays to even the smallest cultural group, as the blind could be termed. It also says more about how this group is using the U.S. judicial system to make sure its rights and voice is heard.
If the U.S. goes through with changing all its currency to make sure the blind are taken into account, we would be witnessing a very good example of a society shifting and molding according to higher values of equitable cultural integration.
Fair Trade Cities Initiatives Prove How Much Power Local Municapilities/Counties Can Have on Social/Sustainability Issues
Communication from Oxfam SF Action Corps-
What: World Fair Trade Day
When: This Saturday, May 10th, from 11 am- 4 pm
Where: Dolores Park in San Francisco
Why: Mayor and Board of Supervisors to Declare San Francisco a Fair Trade City,
live music and performances, community speakers, yummy fairly traded treats,
This event will feature speakers from the Mayor’s Office, the Board of
Supervisors, the Department of the Environment and the Bay Area Fair Trade
Coalition and highlight the broad community support for fair trade in San
Francisco and the cities achievement of the national guidelines to be
recognized as a Fair Trade City.
Entertainment will be provided by the Bayonics hip hop group, a Senegalese
dance troupe and local DJs. Free samples from Adina World Beat Beverages and
other local Fair Trade Certified retailers and licensees.
We will also join other Fair Trade cities around the country in attempting to
break the Guiness Book World Record for “World’s Largest Coffee Break –
Fair Trade Style” and invite attendees to bring along a Fair Trade coffee
from one of the many neighborhood businesses offering this option to help us
break the record.
More Info at: Bay Area Fair Trade Coalition
Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Wolfensohn Center for Development
A Communication from: The Brookings Institution
April 24, 2008 —
Two annual spring gatherings that shape the agenda for foreign aid have just been held. One of these is well known and was widely reported on while the other was largely ignored. Unfortunately, the world has gotten it backwards. The meeting that no one cared about is the one that offers the greatest hope for ending global poverty.
The Joint Development Committee of the World Bank and the IMF met on Sunday, April 13 in Washington, D.C. In their communiqué, finance ministers noted that “most sub-Saharan African countries are off-track to meet the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals]… we urge donors, including the World Bank Group, to increase their support for the poorest countries’ own development priorities.” During the meetings, donors such as the US, Japan, and the EU were encouraged to “harmonize” their development activities in poor nations.
A few days earlier in California’s Silicon Valley, as it has for the past seven years, the Global Philanthropy Forum held its own annual gathering. This community of donors and social investors committed to international causes aims to promote a new kind of global philanthropy that often blurs the line between “non-profit” and “for-profit” approaches. True to many of their Silicon Valley roots, this new generation of philanthropists uses new technologies to link donors and recipients together, to provide better access to information (whether about microcredit availability or rainfall forecasts), and to build social networks in poor communities.
Approximately 800 press credentials were issued for the World Bank-IMF “Spring Meetings,” as they are called. A Nexis search yields over 400 news articles reporting on the meetings. Meanwhile, at the Global Philanthropy Forum few, if any, members of the press were on hand; Nexis turns up not a single major news story on the proceedings (although one blogger did report on the forum’s discussions).
This lopsidedness is unfortunate. In fact, the attendees who came to Silicon Valley last week will likely give more aid to world’s poor this year than the institutions that convened the Spring Meetings. In 2006, the IMF and World Bank disbursed about $24 billion in loans and credits, not counting debt relief. In the same year, American foundations, charities, and philanthropies gave almost $34 billion to international causes. The best hope for the world’s poor lies in the ability of private aid givers to transform the current system of foreign aid, and to develop partnerships with the public sector, to advance the common good.
The private sector has grown from a small player in development assistance to a major, dynamic force, but the world has little noticed. Since 1998 international giving by US-based corporate and independent foundations has doubled. Giving from “mega-charities” such as the Gates, Ford, and Hewlett foundations has been rising steadily but small foundations actually contribute twice as much, and their giving is growing even faster.
More importantly, there is reason to believe that private aid is more effective than official development assistance, and that larger portions of private aid reach the poor. The allocation of private aid is less likely to be based on geo-strategic considerations, and more according to the actual needs of recipients. Because it deals directly with NGOs and civil society, private aid can avoid the corruption associated with developing country governments. Smaller portions of private aid are spent on overhead and administrative costs, and on “technical assistance”—money that often funds contractors and consultants in rich countries.
A word of caution: private aid can make a difference, but it is by no means a panacea for all that ails the world’s poor. For all the amounts that have been granted, there has been little evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of private aid, and there are few examples of privately-funded programs being expanded in ways needed to make a dent in global poverty. The history of global charity has also had its share of scandals involving misappropriations of funds and theft. And the universe of foundations, charities, educational organizations, and private and voluntary organizations may be too crowded and too fragmented to make a real difference on a large scale.
But the new reality of aid is one where private aid will become a larger and larger share of total development assistance. Along with the proliferation of non-traditional aid agencies, the spread of private aid from individuals and from large and small foundations will make “harmonization” harder to achieve.
So what can private aid accomplish? In a nutshell, it can transform the effectiveness of global foreign aid by making it more competitive. For decades, poor developing nations have faced a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude from international financial institutions and official donors, and were forced to deal exclusively with a particular official bureaucracy on development projects. Private aid now can change all that by providing an alternative channel for development assistance. But to make this competition work, recipient countries must be free to choose whether aid is channeled through an official government project, or through a more efficient NGO provider. Recipients of aid must also be able to rely on “benchmarks” that compare the effectiveness of private and official aid programs.
A competitive aid system also requires a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Neither the “demand” side—what the priority needs of the underserved are—nor the “supply” side—who is doing what and for which communities—have been mapped out at the country level. Without that, it is inevitable that both public and private aid providers will fail to provide systemic change, and will fail to help poor nations develop their own capabilities, both of which are needed for sustained poverty reduction. These are the efforts to which the Development Committee and the Global Philanthropy Forum should dedicate themselves, not to the maintenance of the current inflexible foreign aid system, but to its modernization.