The world has become 5 percent less peaceful since 2008, according to the 2013 Global Peace Index presented at a USD conference last week by Steve Killelea (pictured, left), founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace, a nonpartisan think tank. The continuing war in Afghanistan, violence in Syria and a spike in global homicides are just a few of the reasons.
In fact, the total economic impact of containing violence is equivalent to 11 percent of the Global Domestic Product or $9.46 trillion, said Killelea, a successful high tech entrepreneur from Australia. But the good news, he explained, is that even a small reduction in violence could have a “massive impact on the economy.”
With that in mind, the Leadership for Peace and Prosperity Conference brought experts from around the world to look at the role that businesses can play in reducing poverty, contributing to a more peaceful world and extracting resources in a way that improves lives and communities.
“We don’t generally think of business as creating or being responsible for peace,” but maybe there is another side to the story, said Denise Dimon, USD professor and director of USD’s Ahlers Center for International Business.
Presenters for example, included Vidal Garza of the FEMSA Foundation, who talked about the role FEMSA, one of Mexico’s largest beverage companies, is playing in the Latin American Water Partnership to protect watersheds that supply water to 50 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean. FEMSA is also working to increase water access, sanitation and hygiene for people in the region, Garza said.
Eva Yazhari, CEO of the Beyond Capital Fund, outlined an investment that her public foundation has made in India for a business in India allowing rural residents to speak to a doctor via Skype. And Molly Gavin, senior manager of International Government Affairs at Qualcomm Inc., talked about the telecommunications industry’s efforts to support the use of conflict-free metals such as gold and tungsten from the strife-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.
All these examples generated a lively debate on just what practices are the most successful for promoting peace and economic growth. For example, is direct foreign investment, some type of stock or equity investment or a philanthropic donation more likely to result in the best return?
While that debate is needed, panelist David Stephens, special advisor to the Grameen Foundation, suggested a more basic philosophical notion is more likely to guarantee success. In Bangladesh, he explained, the Danone Group, parent company of The Dannon Company, the maker of Dannon Yogurt, has been successful in alleviating malnutrition by producing small cups of yogurt packed with additional nutrients such as protein and iron.
One reason for the success? Danone started at the ground level, encouraging female beggars to distribute the yogurt and generate a small profit for themselves. ”If you’re going to solve a problem, you’ve got to look at it from the view of the worm, not the bird,” Stephens advised.
– Liz Harman