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close this bookThe Self and the Other: Sustainability and Self-Empowerment (WB, 1996, 76 p.)
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View the documentThe individual in today's global society Ismail Serageldin, World Bank


Afaf Mahfouz,
Conference of Non - Governmental Organizations

When government delegates met in San Francisco in 1945 to establish the United Nations, they were joined and strongly supported by many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). NGO representatives worked with the delegates on provisions for human rights and fundamental freedoms and other measures concerning economy, society, and culture in the United Nations Charter. In recognition of the important contributions that NGOs were making, Article 71 was included in the charter. Article 71 enabled NGOs to attain consultative status with the United Nations, providing them with both access to the world body and the opportunity to participate in its deliberations. Resolution 1296 of the UN Economic and Social Council later elaborated on this consultative status. In light of the subsequent proliferation of NGOs, particularly in developing countries, a debate on this resolution is under way as part of broader discussions on restructuring the United Nations system.

The Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO) was created in 1948. It will soon celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. CONGO helps a variety of nongovernmental organizations both those with and without formal consultative status with the United Nations to promote their common aim of supporting the United Nations Charter.

Largely through standing committees CONGO works in such areas as the status of women, disarmament, aging, human rights, and sustainable development. CONGO and its committees provide fore for nongovernmental organizations, when their common interests bring them together to study and plan, to support the principles and programs of the United Nations and act in accordance with them, and to attend UN world conferences. NGO's membership and committees are extremely diverse in composition and outlook, and with growing membership and participation from developing countries, they have become even more so.

Turning to the subject of this seminar, it is clear that confronting poverty, injustice, and violence requires a creative, interdisciplinary, holistic approach that cannot be provided solely by the old paradigm of unidirectional, hegemonical, limited rational thought and action. We need therefore to liberate the potential for creativity and to discover new ways of understanding, learning, and doing.

Some of us at this seminar think that the ways we listen, learn, and communicate are very important for the development of societies in which women and men share equal rights and responsibilities and individuals feel safe and accountable because transparency prevails at all levels. We came here today because we believe that we need a multidisciplinary approach to development and that the development of the individual, as well as of societies, should be considered in formulating this approach.

Confronting poverty, injustice, and violence requires a creative interdisciplinary, holistic approach that cannot be provided solely by the old paradigm of unidirectional, hegemonical, limited rational thought and action - Afaf Mahfouz

This seminar is jointly sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Environmentally Sustainable Development of the World Bank and CONGO. Our thanks go to Ismail Serageldin, World Bank vice president for Environmentally Sustainable Development. He is an urban planner, architect, engineer, banker, and economist, who has both academic and nonacademic credentials and is thoroughly versed in many cultures. He grew up in Egypt and has a profound understanding of the Arab Muslim culture that goes beyond that of many Arabs and Muslims. He also knows English and American cultures and French culture as a fluent Francophone. But more important is his ability to constantly listen, learn, and improve his skills. This makes the difference.

Since Ismail Serageldin came to the World Bank, whose programs many NGOs criticize, he has held and operated on the belief that the World Bank can and should use its lending resources and its capacity to mobilize the world's most creative thinking in a concerted effort to reduce poverty throughout the globe. We too are here today to see how we can reduce poverty and discover solutions that we can share to find better ways of promoting development.

Several years ago the World Bank organized a conference on culture and development. It was a turning point, because twenty years ago it was not appropriate to speak about culture at the Bank. During that conference I asked Mr. Serageldin, somewhat in jest, when a conference on psychoanalysis and development would be held. He said he did not know if such a conference would ever take place. Today, of course, the focus is not solely on psychoanalysis and development but on psychoanalysis among other approaches. We have come here to learn from one another how we can optimize the development of individuals and societies.

When we look at the self and the other with the goal of finding ways to improve environmental sustainability and ensure self-empowerment for each individual as well as for each society, we cannot do it without psychoanalysts.