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Moody-Stuart speaks

Kaitlynn Riely | Monday, November 13, 2006

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chairman of the board of directors of the United Nations (UN) Foundation for the Global Compact, delivered the keynote address of a three-day peace conference that began Sunday night, organized by the Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business.

Moody-Stuart, who is also chairman of international mining company Anglo American PLC, called for businesses to contribute to the development of strong societies in fragile or corrupt countries.

“It is part of our responsibility, with others in society, to help create the kind of society in which we can do business,” said Moody-Stuart, who spoke in the press box of Notre Dame Stadium.

The role of businesses in society can be compared to a passenger on a ship about to crash, he said. The passenger who has paid his ticket in full has no real responsibility to aid the captain of the ship in averting a crash, but he should feel compelled to help.

“We operate as companies … in countries all around the world where we have an interest in assisting in developing sound governments, but we have absolutely no mandate to do it,” Moody-Stuart said.

The Global Compact, established by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000, provides a forum for companies and UN agencies, labor organizations, civil society and governments to work together to develop approaches and solutions to economic and societal problems, he said. It seeks to build trust between businesses and society to achieve real solutions. Achieving this trust requires open reporting on business’ progress, protecting human rights and working toward creation of responsible government oversight in every country, Moody-Stuart said.

Rather than overarching, international regulation, every country should develop a government that peacefully and justly controls its own society, he said.

“What we actually need – which is a dream – in each and every country, all over the world, is proper, well thought-out legislation, properly enforced,” Moody-Stuart said.

Right now, he said, corporations are falling short in creating sustainable development.

A UN commission in the mid-1980s defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs,” he said. In the past, this kind of development was achieved, but the current state of the world threatens future generations.

The UN Global Compact promotes the development of a sustainable economy, Moody-Stuart said.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, philanthropists like Rockefeller and Carnegie created businesses that interacted with society by making money and then donating it. That still continues today, with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates as examples, Moody-Stuart said, but the approach of the Global Compact is to look at how business is responsible to the society it affects.

The primary objective of a company should not be to make money, he said. The quality of its product and what their product does for customers, shareholders and employees should be the first concern, he said.

University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh welcomed Moody-Stuart and the other guests to Notre Dame for the conference. In his speech, he quoted Thomas Aquinas, who described peace as the “tranquility of order.”

“I suspect that as all of you talk about peace this week, you will be talking about justice, because without justice … there is no such thing as peace,” Hesburgh said.

Moody-Stuart referred to Hesburgh’s remarks when he talked about his former work as a field geologist in Oman. In the 1960s, Oman was a “truly medieval country” in terms of education, human rights, government and economy, he said. But now it has developed into a well-ordered society with good schools, a reasonably fair distribution of wealth and elected officials.

“The wealth for that came from oil, but it also came from the order and justice which Father Hesburgh spoke about,” he said.

Moody-Stuart closed his speech by asking conference participants to discuss how businesses in weak governments can achieve the delicate balance of contributing to the building of stronger governments without allowing the business to run the country.

“We have, as business, a very strong interest in the sound workings of society,” he said.

Moody-Stuart replaced Annan, who was unable to visit Notre Dame due to scheduling conflicts. Annan did send a message, encouraging conference participants to work together and with the United Nations to achieve a “fairer, more stable world.”

Annan said the UN, civil society and business have worked together in the past, and he encouraged their future collaboration.

“Innovative partnerships with the private sector are helping to solve many of the world’s most pressing problems including poverty, hunger, water supply and HIV/AIDS,” Annan said. “Yet there is a great potential to further deepen these collaborations.”

Conference participants included representatives from various companies, including General Electric, The Coca-Cola Company and Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, as well as NGOs like Oxfam and the Initiative for Global Development.

University representatives from schools including George Washington University, Wake Forest University and University of Dayton also attended.

The three-day conference, titled “Peace Through Commerce: Partnerships as a New Paradigm,” will explore the dynamics of partnerships between businesses and non-governmental organizations and discuss ways to collaborate in the quest for social development and world peace.

The “Peace Through Commerce” conference is sponsored by the AACSB, the United Nations Global Compact, the Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business, and Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.