The Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference

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Jeremy Hobbs
Jeremy Hobbs
Executive Director
Oxfam International
Jeremy Hobbs  

Excerpts from speech delivered to the Conference:

At Oxfam, our campaigns are aimed at the policies and practices which stand in the way of building sustainable communities and achieving a more equitable world. Because these obstacles exist at virtually every level of society, our campaigns take on a pretty wide range of issues. They can be very local, like the cultural traditions that keep girls out of school in Pakistan, or they can be national tax policies that punish the poor and exempt the rich.

These local and national campaigns also take on global targets such as the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO because some of these obstacles to development and sustainability really can't be solved by communities or nations alone. They require the cooperation of all countries.

I would say that sustainability is the core challenge for global governance, for national governments, for businesses, for NGOs and for communities. Environmental sustainability cannot be achieved if we do not address poverty and inequality, particularly for women. Much of this is for governments’ international systems to take on, but business, unions and NGOs must also play their part.

Business has a large responsibility to help address the problems we all face. Companies need to do the good that they can do, but that has to be more than just charity or philanthropy. Look to where your organization can contribute strategically and positively to sustainability.

Our experience around the world, is that building sustainable communities is part and parcel of the struggle of people to obtain freedom from poverty. It starts with people finding the strength to talk to each other about common problems, to organize themselves and enhance their clout and ultimately to engage in the political system, markets and business. In all of this, hope and confidence are critical.

Environmental and social sustainability is the big issue of our time. We live on a planet with constrained resources which we're not sharing equitably and we don't even realize quite how that's happening. More than ever, leadership is needed at every level if we're going to have a decent future for everyone and not just the rich minority. Achieving this is in all of our interests, and I hope you will bring your leadership and commitment to that goal.

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