June 2009: The Oslo Summit and Business for Peace Award

I just got home from the Oslo Summit and Business for Peace Award conference. Talk about an international event! Honorees and speakers came from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe to Oslo City Hall, site of the Noble Peace Prize Awards, to a spectacular room covered in magnificent murals. I’ll now describe the day’s three parts, but fair warning: I’ve saved the best for last!

Peace AwardPart 1: The Business for Peace Foundation, our sponsors, wowed us with welcoming videos from Nobel Peace Prize winners Muhammad Yunus and Wangari Maathai (of course, we all wished they were there in person). They then lined up Jan Egeland, Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and negotiator the 1993 Oslo Agreement between Israel and the PLO, to moderate the day.

Mr. Egeland faced an ambitious morning in the debut of The Natural Resource Charter, a set of principles on how resource-rich, but comparatively poor countries can harness these assets for the benefit of their people. How enlightening to hear from President Festus Mogae, Botswana’s recently retired head of state, describe the ins and outs of the diamond trade, including complex negotiations with De Beers and how Botswana set up a fund earmarked for future generations. Nigeria’s Nuhu Ribadu, an outspoken crime buster, and UNIDO’s Dr. Kandeh Yumkella rounded out the African perspective.

Next a team of resource experts headed by Stanford University Professor Michael Spence, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics, introduced the Charter, reviewed its guidelines and opening the floor for debate.

Part 2: The overall conference theme: “The World in Recession –- A Call for a More Ethically Aware Capitalism?” was certainly a perfect intro to Conscious Capitalism and I was thrilled to speak during Part 2, which began with a frank and enlightening keynote by China’s top trade negotiator Mr. Long Youngtu, Secretary-General of Asia’s Boao Forum (The Norwegians explained that Boao is a sort of Asian rival to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.) Mr. Long candidly reported that once China understood the potential of “win-win” negotiations – a foreign concept until recently – its trade relationships could really move forward.

In preparing my talk, I came across (well, actually, it was my researcher Joy Moloney) three green Norwegian initiatives that knocked my socks off and fit right into the Values-driven Consumer module. Here they are:

  • Norway vowed to be carbon neutral by 2050, then changed it to 2030!
  • 80 Oslo buses run on sewage & save half a Euro per liter. Emissions? Zero!
  • Norway is testing less expensive, “floating” wind turbines, which will revolutionize the wind sector with turbines in deep ocean waters.

Norway, home of solar pioneer REC, might be the green capital of Europe.

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, now president of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, offered the “Western” view. George Washington University professor Tim Fort, my colleague from Conscious Capitalist “Club,” spoke via satellite. In a lively panel after our talks, Professor Juan Carlos Echeverry from Universidad de los Andes and Borge Brende, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum and former Norwegian minister, joined in.

Part 3: The day culminated in our meeting the seven finalists for Business for Peace Award: Sweden’s Anders Dahlvig, CEO of furniture giant IKEA; Sudan’s Dr. “Mo” Ibrahim, founder the Prize for Achievement in African Leadership; Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Jameel, whose Grameen-Jamel Pan Arab Initiative focuses on micro credit; The USA’s Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric and the force behind green initiatives; Uganda’s Josephine Okot, founder of Victoria Seeds, China’s Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China’s Zhengrong Shi, CEO of Suntech Power. For more details on the finalists’ outstanding achievements, please visit: www.businessforpeace.no

It was my great fortune to spend time with finalist Josephine Okot, the dynamic seed entrepreneur, and to discover her awesome work transforming northern Uganda refuges into farmers (Talk about microfinance) and her devout supporter and friend the UK’s Alison Hall, IBMer by day, Victoria Seed enthusiast in her off duty hours.

Who “won?” They all did – and Business for Peace wisely emphasized this point. Nevertheless, the top prize and the exquisite sculpture entitled “The Just Man,” (pictured above) by Bruce Naigles, an American sculptor living in Norway, went to IKEA’s Anders Dahlvig. (Fun for me because in my remarks, I’d cited IKEA’s Value/Values proposition: “Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget.”)

The Personal Part: My time in Oslo was particularly rich personally. I made many Norwegian friends, like Inge, Kat, Anne Lise, Nicolai, Jon, Johan and Borge, Special thanks to Per Saxgaard and Anne Lene Hompland for inviting me and for their warm hospitality. Finally, I thank Bjorn Vestgaard, a Crimson Circle fan like me, and project manager for Oslo’s proposed World Trade Center. Bjorn recommended me to Business for Peace and made this whole, wonderful adventure possible.