Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Corporate Solution to Global Poverty

Event Title: A Corporate Solution to Global Poverty
Sponsor: World Bank, InfoShop
Location: World Bank I building
Date: December 6, 2006
Time: 10am-12pm
Approximate number of attendees: 35-40
Intern attending: Ava Jones

Speakers: George Lodge, Jaime and Josefina Chua Tiampo Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus at Harvard Business School; Sujata Lamba, Manager, CSM Linkages, IFC; and Robert Hart, founder of Globeleq.

This event was a book launch for A Corporate Solution to Global Poverty: How Multinationals Can Help the Poor and Invigorate Their Own Legitimacy, by George Lodge and Craig Wilson. Professor Lodge began by describing the basic idea of the book before opening up the discussion to the other panelists and audience members. The authors suggest the creation of a UN backed World Development Corporation (WDC) that encompasses international development agencies, multinational corporations (MNC), and NGOs, as a solution to the problem of global poverty. MNC’s have the capability to implement policy initiatives to end poverty, but they lack credibility because of suspicion of the private sector. The partnership required for the WDC will not only be profitable for the MNC’s, but will also be effective in the struggle to eliminate global poverty. So far Toyota, FedEx, and Tata have expressed interest in joining this effort. He stressed that the UN/NGO connection is imperative.

Ms. Lamba cited several concerns she had about the efficacy of the WDC. In her mind the main problem is the core competency of the organization. Her first concern is the growing fatigue within the international community to continuing dialogue on decreasing poverty. Her second concern was that social value is difficult to calculate. Thirdly, “with more than one corporation, responsibility becomes diffused.”

Mr. Hart believes that the role of the private sector is critical as they are often absent from meetings. He also noted that the private sector is increasingly under attack because of opposition from certain governments and clientele who are afraid of losing their jobs. He thinks it is important to focus on only a handful of projects in a limited number of countries and develop them until they are ready to seek financing. He recommends the WDC bringing together different corporations working on separate aspects of the same project which he believes will likely be more effective.

There was a consensus that the idea of creating a WDC was a step in the right direction for ending global poverty, but many questions were posed about the make up and ultimate effectiveness of such a corporation.

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