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  • Act Locally - Think Globally - Act Internationally

    Posted by Andrew Owens, 6 years ago

    Samantha Power, in her April 2008 interview with Heather Reisman suggested that we must take back to our neighbourhoods some roles we thought the UN would fill.

    The AIC Institute for Corporate Citizenship, Rotman School of Management , University of Toronto website states: “As governments and other societal institutions around the world retreat from social leadership, the private sector is increasingly expected to engage in unfamiliar responsibilities – to help solve the social problems of our time. Indeed, many members of the public and issue advocates explicitly want corporations to take responsibility for a broad spectrum of social issues, including ethics, the environment, education, poverty, etc. However, they give corporate leaders little guidance on how to do this”.
    See www.rotman.utoronto.ca/aicinstitute/about.htm.

    If governments and single-issue organizations don't serve us effectively then do we expect corporations to fill the bill?

    Leaders of organizations usually work to ensure ‘viability’, or the ability of an organization to stay in business. Whether it’s a corporation or not-for-profit, solving issues outlined in their written mandate threatens this larger, unspoken mandate of staying viable. For example, viability dictates that demand for a manufacturer’s products persists. A manufacturer won’t make products that remove a problem. A not-for-profit organization looking for 'the cure' will compete for donor dollars against other organizations also looking for the cure.

    So individuals paid to take care of a problem, automatically ensure the problem is not taken care of. There is no more funding for anyone else to take care of the problem either, because, “We already have an organization that handles that”.

    What evidence is there, since the cure for smallpox 30 years ago, of successful use of the ‘solve and disband’ option? Well, film production teams manage to disband.

    Most of us facing an uncertain future tend to stay around in an organization. We tend not to teach up-and-comers, or share our information and experience in cases where this makes us less necessary to an organization, or indeed, makes us redundant. To develop future leaders, coordinate, and disband, requires organizational governance and guidance from management. Governance is essentially, the means to ensure everyone contributes to the greater good of all.

    Many problems we face are cross-border problems that are not solved effectively one country at a time. For example, Dr. Devra Davis, at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute notes that, “We must recognize that pollutants do not need passports. Controlling cancer, like controlling global warming, can take place only on an international scale.” www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201648.html

    We’d think some cross-border problems could be dealt with effectively through representation at the United Nations. However in practice, the UN is a convenient scapegoat when individual nations do not respond to crises, such as genocide in Darfur. When UN member nations are asked to respond individually to cross-border problems they invoke national sovereignty. So, even though 1 in 2 people in Canada will contract cancer, and more again may die from the unforeseen effects of global warming, there has been no useful response from the UN.

    The UN was established in 1945 with the mandate to set-up two assemblies; a general assembly for member nations and, a people’s assembly for citizens. The UN, yet to fulfill its initial mandate, generated many documents to support an expanded role for itself at the turn of the millennium.

    Therefore the viability of society does not rely on the spoken or unspoken mandates of organizations. The messes we now face worldwide require governance for a creative economy, or what the European Union calls sustainable development.

    Some of us who expected life to improve under existing systems have repeatedly been disappointed and now deal with chronic depression. Therefore institutional attitudes that have tolerated deterioration of physical health also contribute to increased incidences of mental illness. There must be ways to solve problems other than attempting to redirect institutions we assumed were in place to protect the good of all.

    A series of neighbourhood governance circles linked over the Internet would constitute a sustainable and relatively low cost people’s assembly for cross-border governance, in line with the mandate of the United Nations. Coordinated responses are very important in nature; we recognize an animal is sick when its actions are uncoordinated.

    Governance circles will fill leadership gaps tolerated in manufacturing economies where growth relies on problems. Governance circles will identify, upgrade and promote local expertise in ways well-suited for a learning economy where growth relies on creativity and innovation.

    Please share comments & ideas to address local and cross-border issues like cancer & global warming.
    12pg discussion document available: biznouveau@gmail.com

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