Even the Indians find it hot in Cartagena
All along the watchtower Streetscape Graffiti Flowers in Hotel Santa Clara Heat and humidity at work on camera Flowers on roof of hotel Martín Burt of Fundación Paraguaya Carved apple Ruth Oniang’o speaks at the Forum Ruth and Maggie (Margaret Catley-Carlson, Patron of the Global Water Partnership) Apparent ghost ship in harbour, thanks to humidity
Flew in to Bogotá and then Cartagena on Friday, for the meeting of the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Advisory Board on Sunday and then the 2013 Creating Shared Value Forum today. A key part of the Advisory Board meeting involved reviewing finalists for the Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value. Great to hear an update from the last winner, Martín Burt of Fundación Paraguaya. The weather was very hot, to the point where even colleagues from India commented on it.
We were staying at the celebrated Hotel Santa Clara, where each of us were given a copy of the novel Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez. Had never read anything by him, but was enthralled by this book. It starts off in the ruined chapel of the nunnery that would later be turned into this 5-star hotel, and the building is a major character throughout the novel. Began reading the book on the flight from Cartagena to Bogotá, then finished it on the flight on to Frankfurt a few days later. Highly recommended.
The Shared Value vs Sustainability saga continued, to a degree, though Michael Porter’s framing of the potential contribution of Shared Value has softened considerably. Since the Advisory Board meeting was off-the-record, there is a limit on what I can sensibly say, but it is clear that the chasm between what win-win solutions can achieve in a dysfunctional economic system and what we will ultimately need to do is becoming a bit clearer to people. The question now is how we bridge that chasm, which is a question I have been working on for much of this year, with a proposal about to go out to companies and foundations.
For me, one of the highlights of this year’s CSV Forum was the presentation by J. Carl Venter of Circle of Blue, where I am also on the Advisory Board. Their impressive Chokepoint series of reports has covered China, India and the USA. Disturbing, but highly recommended reading.
Carl had visited a nearby slum and spent the day talking to local residents, finding out about how water and sanitation issues affected their lives. His photographs, shown at the Forum, were one of the most moving elements in the process. Apparently, the police escorted him out of the area later in the day, perhaps because they feared for his safety, but also perhaps because they feared that the authorities might be embarassed.
Overall, I was struck by the growing traction that the CSV agenda is now getting, with Colombia’s President Santos and his wife both speaking at the Forum. It was great to have some time to catch up with the extraordinary members of the CSV Advisory Board. And it was fascinating to see at least a little of Cartagena, with its amazing–and often grisly–history.
The ramparts I walked along had not a little to do with the raiding of Sir Francis Drake in 1586, while the slave traffic through the port was prodigious in the day, with only Cartagena and Veracruz authorised to trade slaves at one point. Among other things, these wretched people were used to cut cane, build fortifications, and work in the terrible mines of the West Indies, Venezuela and Peru. Ending the slave industry must have seemed an impossibility at the time, just as getting a grip on climate change often does today, and I met people who said that various forms of quasi-slavery are still endemic in some parts of Latin America. But I take some comfort from the fact that that infernal triangular trade was brought to an end.
At one point, apparently, Cartagena became a ghost city, but it doesn’t feel like that now. I didn’t get to see the Museum of the Inquisition, but it was hard not to recall the centuries of pain inflicted in this city of tourism and pleasure. Although Ann Veneman invited me to join her on a tour of the city, I had sadly brought a mass of work to do, and spent any free time pushing forward with that.
One natural highlight: the sound of the frogs in the hotel courtyard at night, though they had apparently had to be imported from some other part of South America. All in all, though, I think I’m beginning to fall in love with Colombia.