#world leaders forum
LectureHop: Financial Justice, Affirmative Action, and Columbia

Thursday evening the World Leaders Forum hosted US Attorney General Eric Holder, who defended the Department of Justice’s policies on the financial industry, affirmed affirmative action, and gave attendees the opportunity to compare his impressive mustache to PrezBo’s hair. Government Guru Brit Byrd reports:

Thinking of PrezBo

As PrezBo’s introductory comments waxed even more glistening than his own silvery mane, it became clear that Thursday’s World Leaders Forum event was going to be a bit different. The speaker of the hour, US Attorney General Eric Holder (CC ’73, Law ’76) was clearly at ease at his alma mater, and he gave what amounted to a stump speech on the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) efforts against financial crime. The speech was confident, delivered via teleprompter, and rather boring in comparison to the chummy Q&A with PrezBo that followed.

Referring to the Attorney General by his first name, PrezBo began by asking the most sensible follow-up to the speech’s talking points: what about the widespread perception that most, if not all, of the perpetrators of the financial crisis have been unpunished? Holder responded by saying he does not know why the DoJ’s efforts “have not set in to the American conscience.” Reregulation, he reiterated, is a step in the right direction, citing the frustrating reality that some of the most abusive practices that led to the crisis were not, in fact, illegal. As he would go on to repeat, sometimes “morally reprehensible” is not synonymous with “criminal.”


Attn: How to Attend the Address of the US Attorney General

This morning presents another opportunity to see a leading figure in world affairs. You might not exactly understand what it is that this person does, and you might not pay a whole lot of attention to what they’re saying, but you can definitely tell your parents that you actually can’t talk right now because you’re about to go hear an address by the Attorney General of the United States, and spend the rest of the evening feeling a hell of a lot less provincial than the average unwashed collegiate.

Or maybe you really care what the chief lawyer of the US government has to say! Either way, if you want in, you must be in front of a computer by 9:57 this morning and start hitting that Register button as fast as you can. Eric H. Holder, Jr., the Attorney General of the United States will be speaking in Low this Thursday at 6:00 p.m., on the topic of the efforts to combat financial fraud by the Department of Justice. Those with superior fine motor skills can try their luck for an invitation here.

LectureHop: Words, Words, Words

Thursday evening, the World Leaders Forum hosted its second-ever artist for a lecture. Issac Julien, famous in the art-world for his unique films and installations, gave a talk about his work and the mediums through which he expresses himself. Art School Dropout Briana Last eagerly sat through Julien’s musings and provides you with this latest LectureHop.

For a few Columbians, the excitement of Thursday night stemmed from their eagerness to make the trek to Miller Theatre to hear Isaac Julien discuss his most recent installations and the messages he hopes to get across through various media.

Installation artist, filmmaker, and Mellon Visiting Artist & Thinker at the School of the Arts, Julien is only the second artist to have been invited to a World Leader’s Forum (the first was invited to speak at last year’s Forum). He described this as significant, as “artists are also interested in looking at these questions of how the world comes to this point.”

Julien is known for his breaking down of artistic and cultural barriers. He uses film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting, and sculpture to tell his stories. At the same time, he utilizes unexplored images, language, and myths—fiction and nonfiction—to describe events.

Miller Theatre was far from full when Julien began speaking, and audience members began to file out as the artist waxed poetic about his own work in an often overly verbose and intellectual manner. Despite what sometimes came across as trying and heady attempts to make sense of his artwork, the pieces he displayed were ultimately moving anyway for their aesthetic beauty and the messages they conveyed.

The audience had the opportunity to watch excerpts from his installations “Western Union: Small Boats” and his most recent “TEN THOUSAND WAVES”. Both pieces focused on who “gets lost in globalization” and the untranslatability of languages on a deeper narrative level.

It was clear that Julien thinks carefully about his work, perhaps a bit too carefully for the audience members who took early leave. But his exploration of using entirely different “ethnographic frames” to understand the world and the role of aesthetics, “to move beyond the expediency of news,” as he called it, is innovative and fresh, and was a welcome addition to the typical Thursday night.

Julien via Wikimedia Commons

LectureHop: Islamic Development Bank at the World Leaders Forum

Jed and his fellow Columbians, dressed to impress, sitting eagerly in the lecture hall waiting for Al-Madani to begin.

There’s nothing that delights Bwog more than to show off the extensive vocabulary we’ve accumulated in our years sitting through Gulati lectures. And by that, we mean Art History lectures and Creative Writing seminars. But one of our newest (and bestest) staff members, Econ Enthusiast and Vocabulary Purveyor Extraordinaire Jed Bush, hopped over to the Islamic Banking lecture at the World Leaders Forum, and translated a few of the biggest words for us. 

Greed, for lack of a better, uh… cliché, is good. That’s how it’s understood, at least, in the world of Western finance.

So as Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani spoke on the benefits Islamic Banking can bring to western markets, the recent financial crisis was at the forefront of the discussion. Jeffery Sachs handled the introductions for Dr. Al-Madani, briefly discussing their partnership in efforts to combat global poverty through the Millennium Villages and Drylands Iniative programs.

Al-Madani has been front and center at the Islamic Development Bank, having been its president for all but two years of its existence, since 1975. The Bank has 56 member nations, with a combined 1.5 billion people encompassing nearly 20% of the world’s population, and retains a AAA credit rating with the main rating agencies.  Yet despite the impressive resume, Al-Madani’s proposals were surprisingly rudimentary and underdeveloped when it came to their application in the western world of finance.

When Al-Madani took to the podium, he began by discussing some alarming facts regarding the 2008 financial crisis.  It singlehandedly wiped out “30% of the world’s gross output,” he said, creating rising unemployment rates around the globe and bringing growth to a halt in most corners of the world.  Most troubling about the financial crisis is that, as funds are being diverted towards kick-starting economic growth in domestic markets, many funds devoted to fighting poverty have been the first to be slashed—undermining years of work and further increasing the suffering of the poor and disadvantaged. However, he then abrubtly veered from discussing humanitarian efforts and dived into the issue of debt in western markets. Because that’s what really matters.

Read more of this LectureHop after the jump.

LectureHop: Rafael Correa at the World Leaders Forum

"You criticize the president, and nothing happens to you. You mistreat your dog, and you go to jail. Very interesting country."

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is a polarizing figure—he brought political stability to a country that had cycled through eight leaders in just ten years, but his record on free speech remains spotty at best, which has not endeared him to PrezBo. Bwog Daily Editor and resident expert on 21st century socialism, Jed Bush, reports on a World Leaders Forum discussion of freedom of the press in Ecuador.

President Bollinger (an old hand at this free speech stuff) opened the event praising Correa as a popular social reformer, noting the marked increase in the standard of living in Ecuador as well as improvements to infrastructure during his presidency. He then went on the attack, calling into question the censorship of the Ecuadorian press and the many human rights complaints that have been lodged against Ecuador. Correa smiled and shrugged at the various plaudits and accusations thrown his way, but quickly fired back once he took the stage. “Mr. President Bollinger, you’re wrong,” Correa announced, denying the accusation that it is illegal in Ecuador for the media to criticize the government.

That key distinction between “opinion” and “lie” was a recurring theme in Correa’s speech, which argued that the media may have opposing views, but “lies” are not tolerated and should be punished with jail time. Citing the American Convention on Human Rights signed in San José, he noted that in Latin America, every citizen, public or private, is entitled to their dignity and honor. His infamous lawsuit against Ecuador’s largest newspaper for libel, he explained, was not about censorship of the press, but protecting the rights and dignity of public officials and the upholding of common law. He acknowledged that slander is not punished by jail time in the United States, but emphatically denounced the idea that the United States should set the moral compass for the world, garnering enthusiastic applause from the audience.

LectureHop: Not the President of Haiti

An anonymous tipster sent us such a goofy and curt chronicle of yesterday’s scheduled event, we thought it was too good not to share…

Man of mystery

President of Haiti Michel Martelly did not arrive to speak at his scheduled WLF event. Around 3 pm, half hour after event [was] scheduled to start, introductions and comments by Jeff Sachs and Earth Institute director for Haiti cut off by Bollinger saying President would not arrive, [and that] they had hoped foreign minister would arrive, but didn’t. Many people leave.

Jeff Sachs continues fielding questions about Haitian recovery and development.

Around fifteen minutes later, foreign minister arrives and gives speech while Jeff Sachs and ambassador to Haiti/Fugees member Wyclef Jean, stand behind him. Speech focuses on bringing investment to Haiti. Wyclef Jean then summarizes minister’s speech and talks about how he used to sneak into Columbia dorms as a teenager. Jean and Sachs hug awkwardly after Jean calls him ”the original rock star.” Foreign Minister then talks about the last time he was at Columbia, 1971, when he came down from Boston and partied.

Foreign minister then fields a few questions about Haitian agriculture and court system, as well as investigation of former president Duvalier before Sachs says that he needs to wrap up the event.

Haitian president via Wikimedia

Kosovar Superstar: Atifete Jahjaga at the World Leaders Forum

The World Leaders forum is held every year to coincide with the UN General Assembly. Bwog will hop in and out of the forum throughout the week. On Tuesday night, a former Bwogger and current Bwog Balkanization Fellow ventured to Low to hear Atifete Jahjaga, President of Kosovo.

Atifete Jahjaga does not have an easy job, to put it mildly. The country she leads has been to hell and back, and it controversially declared independence just over three years ago. Despite the challenges her country faces, President Jahjaga used her talk to voice optimism about the progress and future of her young democracy.

After an introduction from Dean/Interim Provost Coatsworth, Jahjaga spoke about her background as a leader in Kosovo’s police force, striving to create a “multiethnic and inclusive” organization that she called “the most respected institution in Kosovo.” The fight for fair and just law enforcement was a struggle with deep personal roots. Her father was born in jail because her family criticized the communist regime.

“I grew up at the height of police oppression,” she explained, “and I wanted a different police.” (more…)

LectureHop: Global Health with a Touch of Lance Armstrong

The World Leaders forum is held every year to coincide with the UN General Assembly. Bwog will hop in and out of the forum throughout the week. On Monday night, Disease-free tag team Zach Kagan and Evelyn Warner hit up the Lance Armstrong opening event.

Lance Armstrong looked a little out of place among the doctors and global health experts that made up Monday’s World Leader’s Forum on preventing and Treating Noncomminicable Diseases in Developing Countries. In fact, throughout the event Armstrong had very little to say. CNN chief medical correspondent and moderator for this event, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, only asked one question of the cyclist, about his experience working with governments for his non-profit, Livestrong. In answering Armstrong said that the same year he took Livestrong global he also decided to bike again. “Only one was a good idea,” he quipped, and then after waiting a beat he added, “going global was the good idea.”

And that’s all Columbia really got out of Lance. The discussion itself was largely dominated by Harvard Medical School professors Paul Farmer and Lawrence Shulman. Sanjay Gupta started the discussion by going over some quite troubling statistics: 80% of all cancer deaths are in the developing world, killing more than AIDS, TB, and malaria combined. Gupta remarked that the assembled panel, “the A-Team of world health,” as he put it, would try to discuss how such problems could be addressed in the developing world.

Columbia professor Wafaa El-Sadr took on most of Gupta’s hard questions. She explained that the rise of NCDs (noncommunicable diseases) in the developing world is the result of increased fuel consumption, pollution, dietary changes, and a variety of other factors. El-Sadr advocated for a balance between treatment and prevention when developing strategies to combat NCDs.

More about the event and photos after the jump

Set Your Alarms: Register for the World Leaders Forum

He will not get to see Lance Armstrong. Bummer.

Registration for the World Leaders Forum opens tomorrow morning at 10 am! When it comes to anything involving Sundial, “you snooze, you lose.” Or rather, “by the time the page refreshes, it’s already full.” But if you don’t play you can’t win.

For the unknowing, the World Leaders Forum is a star-studded lecture series that features some of the most influential people in the world. We’re especially excited for legendary cyclist and cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong, and TV medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.  Full list of speakers below—note registration for a few events are on a different schedule.

Update, 10:18am: Multiple tipsters tell us that Sundial is down!

Monday, September 19

Discussion with Lance Armstrong, Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Dr. Paul Farmer, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Dr. Lawrence Shulman
Delivering Hope: Preventing and Treating Noncommunicable Diseases in Developing Countries
4:00 p.m., Low Memorial Library
Co-sponsored by the Mailman School of Public Health.

Tuesday, September 20

President of the Republic of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga
Kosovo’s Road Ahead
5:00 p.m., Low Memorial Library
Co-sponsored by The Harriman Institute.

Thursday, September 22

President of the Republic of Haiti, Michel Martelly
Moving Beyond Crisis Recovery towards Lasting Development
2:30 p.m., Miller Theatre
Co-sponsored by the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity, The Center for International Earth Science Information Network, and The Earth Institute.

President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff
Low Memorial Library
Co-sponsored by the Institute of Latin American Studies and the School of International and Public Affairs.
Please note, the time of this event will be listed in the coming days. Please visit www.worldleaders.columbia.edu for updates. Registration for this event will open on Monday, September 19, at 10:00 a.m.


Friday, September 23

King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Abdullah II bin al-Hussein
10:30 a.m., Low Memorial Library
Co-sponsored by the Columbia University Middle East Research Center.

President of the Republic of Ecuador, Rafael Correa
2:00 p.m., Miller Theatre
Co-sponsored by the Institute of Latin American Studies and the School of International and Public Affairs.
Please note, registration for this event is currently open.

Monday, September 26

President of the Islamic Development Bank Group, Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali
The Looming International Financial Crisis and the Excessive Reliance on Debt
12:00 noon, Low Memorial Library
Co-sponsored by The Earth Institute.
Please note, registration for this event is currently open.

Sleepyhead from Wikimedia Commons

Register for World Leaders Forum

Registration for Columbia’s annual World Leaders Forum opened this morning at 9. Attending this year are Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and President of the Islamic Development Bank Group, Doctor Ahmed Mohamed Ali. Spots are limited, register here.

George Soros on the Financial Crisis, Debt, and Other Stories

Mr. Soros

George Soros is currently the chairman of the hedge fund group Soros Fund Management, and is well known for his philanthropic support of liberal causes. Soros spoke at length about financial recovery, about what governments did right–and what they did wrong. He was introduced by Professor Joseph Stiglitz, who also quietly interpreted each question asked of him.

This Tuesday shortly before noon, a line stretched from the front door of Low Library nearly to the doors of Dodge Hall as those students lucky enough to be selected waited to see billionaire investor George Soros speak. The two-day conference the speech was a part of was called “Sovereign Wealth Funds and Other Long-Term Investors: A New Form of Capitalism” and brought former Vice President Al Gore to speak earlier in the day. Instead of a speech full of platitudes, Soros’ delivery was more like a lecture about his personal, well-considered views on the current outlook for the global economy.

In taking steps to alleviate the length and severity of the recession brought on by the financial crisis, Soros said, states generally made the correct move in the short run and were largely successful in mitigating the economic effects. In the long run, however, Soros argued that governments should take steps in the opposite direction: to decrease, rather than increase, the level of borrowing in the market, as the initial actions to prop up the financial system had only put global markets on “artificial life support.” However, they must be careful not to choke off economic recovery in doing so.

Soros highlighted the debt burden of nations as a metric for gauging both the involvement of the government in the economy and the risk of a nation defaulting on its financial obligations. The interest carried by national debt, U.S. Treasury Bills for example, shows the “risk premium” given by the market. That is, the higher the rate of interest on a government’s debt, the more likely the market thinks the government will not be able to pay back what it has borrowed. Governments, in turn, can use this interest rate to determine whether or not they have borrowed too much.

Overall, then, Soros said he believes that interest rates are too low: governments should do more to stimulate the economy in terms of fiscal policy, preferably in the form of investments instead of immediate spending. The greatest risk Soros identified to stop this is rising political pressure to lower deficits in both the United States and the European Union. “Budget deficits have been exploited for political and partisan purposes,” he said in his careful, almost aristocratic tone.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Al Gore Talks Climate Change, Isn’t Boring

Photo by DH

The Committee on Global Thought, a Columbia organization, hosted a conference called “Sovereign Wealth Funds and Other Long-Term Investors: A New Form of Capitalism?” yesterday and today. If you didn’t hear about it, you just must not be cool or something. Today the University hosted talks from former Vice President Al Gore and billionaire George Soros which were both oddly double-billed as being part of both the conference and the World Leaders Forum. Both stayed fairly close to the somewhat esoteric topic of SWFs, which made for some interesting, technical lectures. Bwog Lock Box Expert David Hu reports from the Inconvenient Man’s talk. Stay tuned for Soros coverage tomorrow.

At 8 this morning, a line of undergraduates snaked around Low, each one of them eager to catch a first-hand glimpse of the man that was going to be our next president. Even so, there were many people dressed up in suits, and before the talk started, Bwog noticed a man who even brought his own crumpets and tea platter to the event.

However, soon after 9, PrezBo and Al Gore walked out together, a hush fell over the crowd, and Mr. Bo took to the podium to introduce the speaker. He talked about the context of the address and personally thanked Joseph Stiglitz as well as other sponsors of the event. He wasn’t short on his lauds for the former Vice President either, mentioning his Nobel Prize and previous stints lecturing at Columbia. However, Bollinger’s introduction was brief compared to others he’s given at World Leaders Forum events, and he quickly bolted off stage after handing over the podium to Gore, leaving behind the iconic blue chair and a sad, lonely pitcher of water all by themselves for most of the lecture. Perhaps something else needed his attention.


An Inconvenient Time: Al Gore Is Speaking Here on Tuesday at 9 AM

Al Gore lookin' good

Holy smokes! Barnard students just received an email from Dean Denburg, saying that the World Leaders Forum will host an event with Al Gore this Tuesday.

The full email is below. Columbia students still haven’t gotten the email, but this email says registration is open to Columbia, Barnard and Teacher’s College. Register tomorrow at 9 AM, we suppose!

Dear Barnard students,

Please see the following announcement regarding the upcoming World Leaders Forum. Note that registration
opens tomorrow, Thursday, September 30th, at 9:00 AM. Seating is limited.

Dorothy Denburg
Dean of the College

World Leaders Forum is pleased to announce the following events taking
place on Tuesday, October 5, 2010:

9:00 a.m.
Enacting Sustainable Capitalism
Rotunda, Low Memorial Library

Al Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, will deliver an
address to be followed by a question and answer session with the

11:45 a.m.
The Sovereign Debt Problem
Rotunda, Low Memorial Library

George Soros, chair of Soros Fund Management LLC and founder of the Open
Society Institute, will deliver an address to be followed by a question
and answer session with the audience.

Both events are co-sponsored by Committee on Global Thought and
Sovereign Wealth Fund Research Initiative

Online registration is required and seating is limited. Registration is
open to students from Columbia University, Barnard College, and Teachers

Registration for both events will open on Thursday, September 30, at
9:00 a.m.

To register, please visit www.worldleaders.columbia.edu

What Next? Turkey’s Global Vision for a Prosperous Future

Gül in 2007

Dane Cook was on hand to hear Abdullah Gül, the President of the Republic of Turkey, address the World Leaders Forum as the last speaker in the week-long series. Though Gül expressed sentiments of optimism and cooperation for the future, students pressed him on steps Turkey has recently made in the international scene.

While introducing President Gül, University President Bollinger expressed what he believes to be the American perception—or misperception—of Turkey as a “metaphorical bridge, linking the West and the Muslim world.” He pointed out, however, that Turkish citizens do not consider their nation to be a link, but rather a center in and of itself.

Bollinger also stressed the need for an open dialogue on the sensitive issues that the world currently faces, proposing the University as a fitting place for such a dialogue to develop. In his opening remarks, Gül praised University President Bollinger’s new book, Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open, which he claimed he saw in a NYC bookshop, and he assented to Bollinger’s emphasis on free press and free discussion.

The first half of his address focused on Turkey’s accomplishments over the past decade. Gül emphasized the liberalization of the media, cultural advances, dedication to human rights, and further democratization, as well as listed significant economic figures that suggest Turkey is stepping into an increasingly important role in the international community. He highlighted the fact that Turkey has the 16th-largest economy in the world, recently passed a liberalizing constitutional referendum that garnered majority support of 58%, and has the most Facebook users of any country in the world behind English-speaking nations. He openly acknowledged that Turkey has many issues yet to be resolved, but expressed his resolute optimism that Turkey is moving forward: “Today the Turkish influence is being felt in the most positive manner.”


Yes Way José: Sócrates On Portugal’s Energy Policy

Pensive and photoshopped.

Thursday, at the Rotunda in the Low Memorial Library, Prime Minister of Portugal José Sócrates spoke on “Energy Policy and the Portuguese New Growth Agenda.” Born in 1957,  Sócrates joined the Portuguese Socialist Party in 1981. He worked his way up governmental posts, and has been a civil engineer, a member of parliament, and a spokesman on environmental affairs for the Socialist Party. He helped organize the EURO 2004 cup in Portugal and that same year was asked to form a new government, after leading the opposition. In 2009, he was reelected. Bwog’s Conor Skelding reports.

Throughout his address, Sócrates displayed ample charisma and humor with quips like, “My friend advised me  not to speak in English, but in the international language. Bad English. So watch out, I will be speaking English.” This was all punctuated by heavy gesticulations and by the continuous click and flash of high-speed shutter cameras.

Sócrates began by describing Portugal’s economic landscape six years ago. In 2004, Portugal was suffering high unemployment, high debt, and a devastatingly large trade deficit (accounting for fifty percent of said debt). Portugal, having no oil of its own, was extremely dependent on foreign petroleum.

Today, Portugal is a different place entirely. A staggering forty-five percent of its energy is either wind, solar, or wave based, and it is the fifth most renewable European country, exporting more electricity than it imports. Each year, 100 billion Euros are saved on fossil fuels. More than twenty thousand Portuguese are employed in the renewable energy sector, with corporations forming frequently. Sócrates’ goals for 2020 are no less impressive. He aims for sixty percent clean energy by 2020, with another 3.7 billion Euros to be invested in doubling the wind energy output.