September 30, 2005

London Speaks on Int'l Orgs

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Christopher London ’94, executive director of Educate the Children, presented a lecture entitled “Building Trust in International Organizations” to a crowded Caldwell 100 yesterday. The lecture featured a slide show focusing on both the specific work of Educate the Children and the more general idea of the processes by which international organizations can succeed.

Founded in 1990, Educate the Children is a small non-governmental organization (NGO), based in Ithaca, which works in Nepali communities. Nepal, known most notably for Mount Everest, is a very small, poor agricultural country land-locked between India and China. The national gross domestic product was $5.2 billion in 2003, with 82.5 percent of individuals living off of under $2 per day.

London shared that the NGO’s main intention is to improve lives in Nepal through the advancement of “children’s education, women’s literacy and empowerment, and agricultural development.”

Educate the Children focuses on scholarships for students, kindergarten education and the training of teachers to further the schooling of children. To help advance the power of women, the group emphasizes both “basic and legal literacy” and “gender relations”, including open meetings between members of both genders to help foster better treatment by men. With regard to agricultural development, Educate the Children teaches the Nepalese about kitchen gardens, livestock management, and newer technology.

London spoke about the success rates of Educate the Children in better educating Nepali children. In communities where the group has not aided in education, the rate of students passing the standardized national test was 13 percent. But communities with the help of Educate the Children have a success rate of between 53 percent and 92 percent.

London also addressed the more general idea of international organizations by breaking down “building trust in international organizations.” He defined each part of the phrase to better understand the overall meaning.

His presentation stressed that ‘building’ meant a “steady layering of increasingly complex activities, which concentrate on the process as opposed to the product,” while ‘trust’ was “the placement of confidence into a group.” London added that it is the responsibility of the international organization to “say what you mean and then do what you say.”

London claimed that the most important attribute an international organization can have is humility in dealing with the delicate situations which may arise in foreign places.

This presentation was the latest in the continuing colloquia series presented by the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. CIPA’s colloquia series draws government officials from Congress, the United Nations, State Department and Justice Department in addition to representatives of NGOs, journalists, and professors.

The colloquia are designed for the students in CIPA’s master’s program but all events are open to the public. Next Thursday’s lecture is entitled “Making and Breaking Policy in the NGO World,” and the guest speaker will be Linda Rabben, a Visiting Scholar in the Cornell Latin American Studies Program.

Archived article by Alex Lebowitz
Sun Contributor