Nelson Mandela

Discreet help in times of crisis

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 December, 2004, 12:00am

Recently, I agreed to become one of the founding members of a group called the Global Leadership Foundation. The non-profit group comprises former leaders with a collective government experience of more than 100 years, and was established under the initial patronage of Nelson Mandela, George Bush Snr and Lech Walesa.

The foundation is not another talk shop or high-brow think-tank. Its modus operandi will be hands-on and solution-oriented. It was formed so that leaders in crisis can access confidential advice, tapping into an unparalleled network of experts with real-life political and government experience. It will be a source of discreet advice and will concentrate especially, but not exclusively, on the developing world and emerging markets.

Its chairman, former South African president, F.W. de Klerk, knows a thing or two about governing through crisis. After all, it was Mr de Klerk who, along with fellow Nobel Peace laureate, Mr Mandela, navigated the perilous transition from apartheid. Other foundation members include Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic, who oversaw the Velvet Revolution.

Another member, Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, understands the challenges of finding peace in the Middle East, often acting as a bridge between the west and neighbouring Islamic states. There are representatives from most regions, each bringing to the table vast and diverse experience. Former Hong Kong chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, for instance, knows about the interface between business and governance.

You may wonder why this is necessary. Isn't this the job of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank?

The foundation's relationship with these institutions is vital. We will act as another tool in the box for the UN and others as they attempt to help countries and leaders find a way through crisis and conflict.

The rationale behind its formation is that, in a post-cold-war age, where the fortunes of countries and regions are interlinked like never before, the complexity of the international challenges for national leaders can only grow.

In developing countries, the supporting political, state and economic structures will often be ill-adapted to tackling modern challenges, and reform, as ever, will come up against vested interests.

However, the increasingly open nature of international interaction offers scope for new ways of supporting those national leaders.

It is here that the foundation can perform a useful role - focusing on the need for effective and accountable political leadership as a key ingredient for progress. We can speak from experience. We know, because we often made mistakes.

Perhaps it is difficult to envisage how the foundation will work in practice. Take the example of a developing state whose economy is on the brink of collapse, and whose leaders are reluctant to act and do not trust external advice. The global institutions would approach the foundation to informally engage the country's leadership to establish a basis of trust.

The foundation will work with the leadership on a confidential basis, offering guidance and support, utilising its extensive networks and working in conjunction with international agencies to find solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

The foundation has a unique combination of knowledge and experience. This is a chance for those of us lucky enough to have served our countries or on the world stage to help the new generation of political leadership - to promote democracy, progress and good governance in places where it is most needed in a private, discreet manner.

Mike Moore is a former prime minister of New Zealand and was director-general of the World Trade Organisation