Alfredo Sfeir-Younis is an economist graduate of the University of Chile,
with a Master and a Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin and the
University of Rhode Island, USA. As an economist, he started his career
as an assistant professor at the University of Chile, the Catholic
University of Santiago and the Catholic University of Valparaiso. He
taught probability statistics, macroeconomic theory and policy, and
international trade and development.
macroeconomist, he worked in the Research Department of the Central Bank
of Chile, where he was in charge of setting interest rates ceilings and
supervising credit allocations into the private sector. His Commercial
Engineering Degree was awarded after a thesis on “Concentration of Credit
and Capital in the Chilean Private Sector: The Decade of the Sixties”. His
Doctorate was in environment and natural resource economics, with a minor
field in international trade and finance. His doctoral dissertation on
“Multi Objective Evaluation Techniques for Project and Programs” focused
on mainstreaming environmental concerns into macroeconomic policy
studies and career in Chile, Alfredo Sfeir-Younis held the positions of
president of his high school, vice-president, and later on, president of
the School of Economics. Then, he became elected Regent and Academic
Senator of the Catholic University of Valparaiso, and held the position of
Chairman of the Budget.
Sfeir-Younis works at the World Bank, where he as spent nearly 27 years of
his life. Now, as the Director of the World Bank Office in Switzerland,
he is The Special Representative to the United Nations and the World Trade
Organization. Just before this assignment, he was the Special
Representative at the United Nations in New York.
While at the
World Bank, he has held several positions in the areas of environment and
sustainable development, ex-post evaluation of projects and programs,
agriculture and rural development in the West Africa Region and human
rights. He has led a number of operational missions and has been the
principal author of policy papers and statements of the Bank in such areas
as forestry, fisheries, water management and irrigation, desertification
Sfeir-Younis has also made contributions in the areas of poverty
eradication, financing of development, gender and women issues, trade and
development, role of indigenous peoples, human rights and right to
development, culture in sustainable development, and many other important
Sfeir-Younis is the World Bank Institutional Focal Point on human rights
and related matters. He regularly participate at the Commission of Human
Rights as well as many international meetings and gatherings.
Mr. Sfeir-Younis’ interests go far beyond traditional economics.
He has been speaking for some time now on the important linkages that
exist between spirituality and economics, and on the role that human
values play in the decision-making process both nationally and globally.
During his stay at the UN, he made a number of presentations on peace and
economic development, human security, education, spiritual dimensions of
the globalization process, and the relationship between the material and
the non-material aspects of development and progress, including moral and
ethical dimensions. Recently, Mr. Sfeir-Younis has received several
international awards: The 2002 Peace and Tolerance Award, The Lifetime
Ambassador of Peace Award, The Supreme Advisor of the Buddhist Spiritual
Forum Award and The World Healer Award.
Humanity Has Another Option: Making Peace With The
Making peace with the environment is a central dimension of human
transformation and destiny. However, it is central to understand the
meaning and implications that environmental degradation and destruction
are having in the state of human welfare, both material and spiritual
welfare. In addressing this issue, several questions arise: What are the
spiritual consequences of environmental destruction? Why human beings
destroy the environment in the first place? Why are we numbed to the
existence of material and spiritual interdependence? As a specific example
of the negative consequences of the present approach to human welfare,
reference will be made to the type of diseases that are most prevailing
now as a result of the non-peaceful relationship with the environment.
Research shows that significant changes in the diseases’ profile has taken
place; all influenced by external activities –like economics and finance.
They determine also the state of synergy between environment and health.
At the end, a new paradigm of human transformation is suggested as another
option for human development and progress, whereby making peace with the
environment is an integral and inseparable dimension.
Economics and Environment: A Spiritual Form of Human Interdependence
The notions of productivity, competitiveness and comparative advantage
have dominated the relationship between economics and the environment. In
the past, these notions have invariably assumed that the environment is
infinite in resources, or it is an open sink for the disposal of all sorts
of wastes. In addition, in deciding what to do with the environment and
its natural resources –e.g., wildlife, forests, fisheries, biodiversity,
climate, ozone layer—the market (consumption) has defined most of the
trajectories. The market and its preferences, as set by economic market
instruments (e.g., prices, taxes, subsidies), have prevailed. This
economics dominated approach is responsible for a major process of
environmental destruction and the irreversible depletion of a large number
of natural resources. It is essential to bring economics and business into
the process of making peace with the environment. This demands a major
change in the fundamental framework of economics and finance, and a full
integration of spirituality and humanistic values into public
policy-making. This integration of spiritual and human values is needed
not just as an advocacy of those values but as a means of their
self-realization. A new vision of change and human transformation is
needed and a consensus on how to attain it indispensable.