DUBAI // Archbishop Desmond Tutu says "integrity and ethical uprightness" are the most important characteristics for leaders amid the prevailing global economic climate. In a speech at the Leaders in Dubai Business Forum yesterday, the emotional cleric said he hoped for a time when poverty would become history and the world would be compassionate and caring.
"The important characteristic of good leadership is integrity and ethical uprightness. I believe that ethics and morality must be at the centre of all business undertakings as it should be in all aspects of life," Archbishop Tutu said. "Ethical business is good business and profitable business in the end. Others will come down with a crash," he said. On the global recession, he said a "large measure of it was caused by unscrupulous leaders ready to cut corners recklessly in their lending policy".
The 78-year-old Nobel laureate from South Africa said that leaders in both politics and in business could decide the fate of people who depend on them. "Human rights and ethos apply to the corporate world as much as they are relevant to the world at large. You and I are created to be part of a delicate network of interdependence; this applies to every community and team of which we are a part," he said, adding that the bottom line was important but how you got there was even more crucial.
The archbishop praised leaders in the Gulf region who had used their oil income to benefit the entire populations of their nations. "I often feel jealous when I visit Dubai, Qatar and so on, and when I see what leaders have done with their oil revenue. My heart aches when I think that we have Africa, which is equally oil-rich, and yet [people] languish in debilitating poverty because of the corruption at the top."
In an interview with The National in the sidelines of the conference, the cleric and human-rights campaigner expressed hope for peace amid the efforts of the US President Barack Obama. "I think the president of the US has certainly helped to reduce the tensions," the archbishop said. "In his position with North Korea, Iran and others, there is already change in the political atmosphere. Now, UN inspectors have gone into Iran, which they had said they would never allow to happen.
"It's happening because the tune is different from the US. It's not belligerent, it's not one that makes other people react angrily." As the world prepares for the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Archbishop Tutu described the event as crucial for world leaders as well as corporate organisations. "I hope all of us are going to realise that climate change is for real and if we ignore it, we will not have a world to talk about," he said. "Most of all, one hopes that the developed countries who have been the greatest polluters will realise that it's just a matter of justice for them to have a fund available to assist developing countries to find alternative, green ways of fuelling their development."
Limiting consumption is a crucial point, he added. "If we don't take account of the emissions we produce, the so-called carbon footprint, then we won't have a world to worry about. It's a matter of self-interest. "So, it is a moral issue, it's an ethical issue. It is a matter of right and wrong." Archbishop Tutu said he hoped for lasting peace in the Middle East and called on all the key parties to participate in negotiations.