Alfredo Sfeir-Younis - Chile

Mr. 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.

As a 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 decisions.

During his 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.

Presently, Mr. 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 and biodiversity.

Mr. 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 topics.

Today, Mr. 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.

But 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.

“The External Effects of Modern Economics”

Economists have addressed the issues of externalities, and this presentation illustrates them through the “The Tragedy of The Commons”. This story says that if a community possesses some pasture lands in common and there are no rules regarding access, management and control of grazing animals, pastures will be depleted and wealth eliminated. Relevant concepts to consider: “the assignment of property rights”, the “Maximum Sustainable Yield”, and “the government interventions”. Today, instead of looking at pollution, we must focus on why people pollute in the first place. They do because of adaptation to higher and higher levels of toxicity and, thus, the more numbed we become to the reality around us. Thus,
in order to create positive side effects, we must create a new system to recover our senses.
The Tragedy of the Commons can be reversed by restoring some fundamental spiritual laws: the law of spiritual space; the spiritual law of interdependence; and the spiritual law of karma. Proposal: that this positive side effect consists of making the lives of children in war or refugee camps better off and, if possible, to give them a new home and shift deeply their process of human transformation. The restoration of human hope as the fundamental positive side effect.