28 July 2007

The Mali Project - Making a Difference in Africa

Some time ago in Australia I came across an exciting hands-on development project that empowers people in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world. The project is not only run by inspiring young Australians, foremost lovely Elise, but it is also a perfect match to my desire to make a difference in the field in Africa.

The project has established a successful pilot in a village by building a school and establishing a small Microfinance group near the capital Bamako. The people driving the project, Youchaou Traore in Mali and Elise in Melbourne, have big dreams. Every hand and dollar are needed, therefore, I have joined the team and we will travel to Mali and East Africa in December for some months.

Therefore, I will increasingly introduce Mali and the Mali Project as well as our plans and work on this blog. Also check out the Mali Project website.

Position and Population:
Mali is a landlocked country located in West Sub-Saharan Africa as shown in the map above. It has a population of about 11,9 million people growing at a high rate of 2.7%. The median age is just 16 years and over 48% of Malians are between 0-14 years old.

Legacy of Dictatorship:
Historically, Mali was a French colony and got its independence in 1960. The first President ruled the country for eight years and a military Coup in 1968 that established a dictatorship until March 1991. A revolution then threw down the dictator and Mali became a democracy. Since the events of March 1991, Mali is committed to the establishment of a democratic society which requires access of all citizens to a minimum education. The legacy of 33 years of dictatorship has been responsible for severe poverty and under-development, especially a lack of health and educational facilities.

Extreme Poverty and Low Development:
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world ranking 175th out of 177 countries with data in the United Nations Development Index 2006. With a per capita GDP of less than 1000 PPP US$ and an illiteracy rate of 81%, most of Malian communities live in extreme poverty lacking basic resources such as access to food, water, shelter and health facilities. As the World Health Organization reports, the health indicators are alarming which will be analysed in the following section of development needs.

Despite some progress, Mali has a Human Development Index (HDI) which remains starkly below the HDIs of other regions in the world. The HDI measures three dimensions of human development: 1) life expectancy), 2) literacy and school enrolment and 3) Income measured by purchasing power parity.

The Mali Project is very exciting, so stay tuned for more updates!

20 July 2007

Peace One Day - The Story of an Individual changing the World

Just finished watching the movie "Peace One Day". Have you ever wondered if individuals can make a difference? Then you will be amazed by the drive of Jeremy Gilles who in this documentary puts his life and passion behind his dream to globally establish a day of ceasefire and peace.

Jeremy writes to every head of state and Peace Nobel Laureates about his dream. He meets Kofi Annan at the UN, the Dalai Lama and many presidents. If you are somehow interested in a better world then this movie is for you! To see Jeremy's drive and the ups and downs of this campaign are incredible.

Until you get a copy of the DVD check out a video from Jeremy on the campaign website Peace One Day. And let's do something on Peace Day 21st September!

18 July 2007

Pictures from the Global Compact's Leaders Summit in Geneva

To complete my wrap-up of the inspiring Leaders Summit here a few self-made pictures:

The "broken chair" in front of the UN building in Geneva:

1000 leaders from business, civil society, UN and governments in the General Assembly of the UN Geneva building:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his way to the Gala Dinner:

Jeffrey Sachs gave a very inspiring keynote speech:

The "COP" team, Christopher Wickert, Jeff Senne, me:

For more (private) pictures see my Flickr account.
For more info on the Leaders Summit see the Official Blog or UN's video archive.

11 July 2007

"UN Global Compact Boosts CSR" from CSRwire

CSRwire just brought a nice summary of the Leaders Summit and some reactions:
"Corporate sustainability and responsibility got a shot in the arm last week at the second annual Global Compact Leaders Summit in Geneva, where the UN-sponsored coalition of corporations addressed diverse issues--from the water crisis to climate change, particularly in China. Companies adopted a Declaration on Responsible Business Practices, called for Responsible Business Education, released a best practices implementation tool, and issued three reports, including one from Goldman Sachs finding financial out-performance by companies with strong environmental, social, and governance practices.

Predictably, response to the Summit ran the gamut from gushing praise to criticism from both the left (the Compact is greenwash) and the right (the UN is co-opting business.) Peter Kinder of KLD Research & Analytics provided a more reasoned response."

Video: The Role of Business in Tomorrow's Society

Digging on YouTube to find a good video explaining Corporate Social Responsiblity (CSR) I just found this interesting video from the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD). It showcases businesses that try to find win-win situations where making business can address some of the world most pressing issues such as the water crisis. It follows the thinking of Prahalad's "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid".

What I like most is the example of Procter and Gamble (at around 4:30min) who offers a product that purifies water in developing countries to make it suitable for drinking and therefore avoids diseases and saves lives:

09 July 2007

Groundbraking Studies by McKinsey and Goldman Sachs Confirm "Doing Well by Doing Good"

Wow, the Leaders Summit in Geneva last week was full on! Where else in the world does the Coca Cola CEO speak with the Head of Amnesty or Oxfam? Where does the president of a major oil company sit at the same table with the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights?

Imagine over 1000 leaders of companies, NGOs, UN agencies and governments in the General Assembly in the UN in Geneva. Opening by the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, followed by business and NGO leaders on the most pressing problems of the world: Climate Change, Water Crisis, Sustainability, Human Rights etc. I am still in information processing mode (my god was this all intense) but here the first highlight.

How often have you heard the catch phrase "Doing well by doing good?" Ever wondered what's really behind it? Two studies released at the biggest UN gathering with business delivered some answers:

1. Goldman Sachs Study
  • One of the world’s leading investment banks analysed companies that are considered leaders in implementing environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies to create sustained competitive advantage.
  • These companies have outperformed the general stock market by 25 per cent since August 2005.
  • In addition, 72 per cent of these companies have outperformed their peers.
  • That's groundbreaking news to see that behaving good pays off financially too! See their full GS Sustain report.

2. McKinsey Study
  • Shows that CSR has grown out of its early stages when it was only considered More than 90 per cent of CEOs are doing more than they did 5 years ago to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into strategy and operations.
  • 72 per cent of CEOs said that corporate responsibility should be embedded fully into strategy and operations, but only 50 per cent think their firms actually do so.
  • Read the full McKinsey Report
Georg Kell, Executive Head of the Global Compact (great person who I worked for at the Summit, so I am biased) summarizes it nicely: "For an increasing number of business leaders, corporate responsibility is no longer an option, it is a necessity in order to compete successfully. At the same time, in order to fully maximize these benefits and increase their competitive advantage in the global marketplace, companies must adopt a broader and deeper approach with respect to implementation of corporate responsibility principles”.

Also check out the official Summit Blog full of great content!

02 July 2007

Companies valuing social factors better equipped to lead markets

This week the Leaders Summit of the UN Global Compact is happing. The Leaders Summit is the largest UN gathering with business ever, almost 1000 leaders here, sounds like CSR and sustainability are becoming mainstream!

In the run up for this major event that happens only every three years Goldman Sachs published some findings. Goldman Sachs links good performance in the environmental, social, and governance areas with competitiveness and stock performance. Sounds like a run for business case! Read on at UN News.

I just arrived in Geneva and will keep you posted with more soon. The agenda looks very interesting!