In memoriam of Dr Janez Stanovnik, former President of Slovenia
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Last week we bid farewell to Dr Janez Stanovnik, former President of Slovenia (1988-1990), recipient of the Doctor Honoris Causa at IEDC-Bled School of Management, and a frequent guest speaker at many international conferences. To commemorate Dr Stanovnik's life and remarkable achievements, we are sharing his contribution from the 2013 PRME Summit in Bled.
Before becoming the President of Slovenia, Dr Stanovnik was one of the most important Slovenian political leaders, recognized internationally, and has served as President of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe for 15 years. His last function was the President of the Slovenian Partisan Veterans' Association, which he led from 2003 to 2013.

In her LinkedIn post, CEEMAN and IEDC President Prof. Danica Purg said, "His knowledge in economics and international relations, the great network he built during his life and his great leadership in politics are clear examples of the leadership based on courage, wisdom, knowledge, honesty, and respect for diversity." 

Janez Stanovnik
Former President of Slovenia and former Executive
Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, Slovenia

Murphy´s law says “if something can go wrong it will”. As far as I am concerned today, everything is going wrong. First, there was a bad accident near Kranj and we had to take a big detour around the town. This explains why I have come late. My friend Danica Purg asked me to prepare a keynote speech. I will not do that now, at the end of this conference.

However, I will focus on your Declaration, a copy of which I got from my friend Danica. I see that this Declaration is about sustainable development. This concept was developed by the World Commission on Environment and Development of which I was a member. Therefore, I feel it my duty to address this issue, even though I am 91. With your permission, I will tell you briefly what happened within that Commission, established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1983.

The General Assembly appointed Mrs Gro Harlem Brundtland, the then prime minister of Norway, to chair this remarkable commission. She invited 20 individuals, including myself, to join her in producing a report on “Our common future”. This report served as the basis for the first Rio de Janeiro conference on a new concept, of sustainable development. Now let me tell you a little about how this whole concept of sustainable development came about.

There were two main groups within our Commission team. One of them was composed of so-called economists. The other one consisted of so-called ecologists. Let me first explain the approach of “economists’” group. The head of that group was Sonny Ramphal of Guyana. There were other members like minister Bernard Shitzero from Zimbabwe, Al Khalid from Somalia, and from India Nithen Desay. We also had Susana Agnelli with the group. Her name tells you something. She is the sister of the owner of FIAT.

We developed a concept of sustainable development on the basis of the evolution of ideas on development within the United Nations. Destiny decided that I, who am today physically present in this assembly hall, should have personally followed the entire development of the United Nations since 1947. I have attended in person the first 20 sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations. During this long period of half a century, the concept of development started from the demand for more capital. It was the first phase, much under the influence of the Marshall Plan. The countries of the South asked, "If there was enough money to destroy Europe and then to reconstruct it, how come there is not enough money to help the South, which has been gradually destroyed over centuries?"

I remember well that during one of these heated debates Eugene Black, the then president of the World Bank, came up to me and said kindly, "Look, brother, do not press solely for money. Give me good projects! If you have good projects, I will always find money for them". Today I think he was right!

In the second phase, the West said, "There is not enough money but we can provide technical assistance". As a result, they developed the UN Development Program. The first leader of that institution was Paul Hoffman, the administrator of the Marshall Plan. He was one of the greatest businessmen that I have ever met in my life. He invited Nobel Prize winner Arthur Lewis of Saint Lucia to act as his brain trust and Arthur accepted his invitation. They developed a new concept of how developing countries should mobilize their existing human capital. The idea was to educate these people so that they could serve as effective managers.

From this second stage of technical assistance, we came to the third concept, developed by Arthur Lewis: the Human Development Index. He felt that the gross domestic income index did not really serve the purpose of policy and action of development. At that time, all executive secretaries of regional economic commissions, including myself, were called together to develop the concept of environmentally sound development. Incidentally, our leader, a former chief of the cabinet of the French liberal prime minister Mandes France, would call the European commission "boutique de luxe" because it was the only one in the United Nations that was dealing with East-West problems rather than the real problem - North-South.

In our friendly discussions I argued "At some point, there is going to be a detente between the East and the West and I am working for that". But he was not convinced. He thought that this day is far away. I insisted that it would come and it did. Now we have a different world.

In the early 1970s, the United Nations General Assembly organized a conference in Stockholm. It was attended by Maurice Strong, a Canadian entrepreneur and deputy of the Secretary General of the United States. He was a self-made man; he became a millionaire from nothing. After becoming a millionaire, he devoted himself to the United Nations. His goal was to promote environmentally friendly development and he became executive director of the United Nations Development Program. This was the time of “club of Rome” and Meadow´s report on “limits to growth”.

That is how the whole thing got started. At the Commission for Environment and Development, we had a happy marriage of economists and ecologists. As a result, managerial thinking was oriented not only toward profit making but toward what you call responsible management. This kind of management takes the human element into account.

The Preamble of the United Nations Charter says that the organization strives not only for peace but also for social justice, economic equality, and greater freedom for all. These are its four basic principles. Sustainable development is a basic concept that needs to be taken into account in our common efforts to create a better world. Back then, we all worked under a moral slogan, invented by the International Labor Organization: "Poverty anywhere creates a danger for prosperity everywhere".

The question that you are dealing with is a question of managerial education. How can we educate managers so that they can deal with this important task? It is a managerial task, as well as a humanitarian one as it is about enhancing human dignity. It can be solved in two ways: by learning and by respecting previous experience.

Learning means transmitting to new generations the tremendous amounts of accumulated knowledge in different areas. Today, more people across the world work in scientific research than the total number of scientists that have ever been born before. We have thousands of scientific reviews and live in a world of science. Therefore, it is tremendously important to transmit all these research findings to the younger generation so that they acquire knowledge. They need a tool: knowledge. But they should also take into account experience because that will give them the wisdom of moderation.

The combination of knowledge and wisdom will enable them to take calculated risks. Every decision involves risks. But you can reduce this risk if you offset it with knowledge and experiential wisdom. This is what you should teach the younger generation.


Full text of 2013 PRME Summit proceedings is freely accessible at