Nobel Peace Prize winner calls Trump win "a solar eclipse"…. But dawn is not far away
2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus reacted with emotion to the victory by Donald Trump in the US presidential elections by telling researchers and students at HEC Paris the win was “a solar eclipse…black days, which must not destroy us and suck our spirit.” As the keynote speaker at the opening of a two-day conference on social business, the Bangladeshi civil society leader warned that wealth concentration, both in individual countries and globally, is depriving 99% of the world’s population of planet’s wealth.
Capitalist system behind people’s frustrations
“This is the result of fewer and fewer people controlling more and more wealth. Those who have less wealth are angry, frustrated, blaming the other… It is a ticking time bomb. And these grievances are exploited by politicians promoting hatred. But,” he continued, “now we must examine the implications: is Trump the last, or is this the start of a long cycle (of such votes)? Will the bomb explode soon? How big will it be, limited or something we will never recover from?”
The veteran economist appeared calm and invigorated despite his call to arms: “Trump’s win has hit us so hard that this morning I could hardly speak,” he admitted to the 100-strong audience at the French business school. “I lost all strength. Should I even come here?” The 76-year-old paused. “Of course I should, we must not allow this lapse into depression, we will overcome these dark clouds. HEC Paris is so important in this fightback, it has been supporting our efforts for years, and these two days here will inspire us again.”
The founder of the Grameen bank, known for its groundbreaking concepts of microcredits and microfinance, insisted the US results and the Brexit results in the UK shared the same roots: “A capitalist system that forces people into jobs they don’t want to do.” “Jobs should be banned,” he explained, “Why work for somebody else? We have to turn the system around. All human beings are entrepreneurs, and with microcredits we help even the illiterate village woman to start a business which fits her abilities and knowledge.”
Paris and HEC at heart of new projects
The Nobel laureate reminded the audience that, beyond the business school, Paris has become central to his quest to universalize social business. “With Mayor Anne Hidalgo, we have agreed the Social Business Academia Network Conference in 2017 should take place in the capital,” he said. “This is part of a ripple effect which has reached out to the sports world, too. At the last IOC session in Rio de Janeiro (ed., on August 3 2016), I helped persuade the Olympic Games authorities to involve the sports world in social business. Its integration in our projects is a tremendous boost. Should the Games come to the French capital in 2024, as we hope, the construction of the Olympic village and venues,all its events, and its marketing, will be created around the concept of social business.”
“But how?” pursued the 76-year-old, “In this creative process, you must come up with the ideas and the design of the Olympic Village harboring 12,000 athletes. There is a social business way of doing it, and we are here at HEC Paris to reflect on its application to this project.”
The conference on the campus in the Paris outskirts also features the head of French Assistance Publique, Martin Hirsch, and Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone. Along with six multinational corporations, it is to culminate with the launching of an ambitious new initiative, the Movement for Social x Business Impact. This initiative, supported by Yunus and Hirsch, aims at contributing to a more inclusive economy, and maximizing both social impact and economic performance.
Daniel Brown, HEC Paris