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“Fostering Leadership”: online talk with Sergey Guriev

Vladimir Potanin Foundation in partnership with The Bell Newsletter is launching a series of online talks with leaders of the humanitarian sector about values that will inform our future

(en) Текст новости

Professor of Economics of Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) Sergei Guriev was interviewed by the Bell Founder Yelizaveta Osetinskaya. Until recently, Sergei had been the Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He served as the Rector of the New Economic School (NES) in 2004-2013 and as the Board Chair of the Dynasty Foundation in 2010-2013.

In one of his recent interviews, Sergei Guriev said: “In Russia, there is respect for justice and also for mercy, which the Russian literature, in the 19th and 20th centuries alike, has consistently placed even above justice. In addition, there is universal respect for education in Russia. These are the ideas around which the country may be built, the country that will be competitive and successful in the 21st century.”

During the Fostering Leadership online talk, we asked Sergei Guriev what impact the current crisis situation had had on the global trends in education and philanthropy, what lessons we had learned and what we should take with us to the future. 

Below are the highlights from the stream with Sergey Guriev:

What we are seeing today in the global economy is, first and foremost, the modern society’s response to a threat to human lives and a deliberate decision to save lives at the expense of huge economic loss. Indeed, in terms of falls in the global GDP or developed countries’ GDP this crisis is the biggest since 1930s. Most societies and most governments have chosen these measures — lockdowns, limiting economic activities, accepting this huge recession — precisely because they decided to save human lives. (…) [T]he world today values lives over trillions. This is the new reality. This reality is based on the fact that the humankind has really embarked on a new stage of progress and enlightenment.

I do believe, of course, that the future of the humankind lies in globalization, in erasing the borders, even if not completely. So I tend to agree with those who are saying that the crisis has shown that we are unable to handle global problems without cooperation, without interaction, including shipping face masks to each other. Moreover, I would like to say that this is not the last pandemic, and during a pandemic no country can be an island, no country can say “it’s Saturday for everyone else but it’s Thursday for me”. No country can say “we are behind a wall”. Until we defeat the virus everywhere, we will not defeat it anywhere. 

One of the pre-crisis global problems, particularly in developed countries, had been the growth of inequality. (…) This is a huge problem which the European society is better at than the US. But the crisis, of course, has only deepened these challenges, and the post-crisis societies, governments, politicians — in the US, in Europe, in the developing world — are bound to pay more attention to education and healthcare. 

The answer to the question how the situation may be improved in Russia will be the same as in the US. We need to help ensure that wherever a Russian citizen was born, he or she has access to a good school, a chance to enroll in a good university, and access to good healthcare services. And if he or she needs to go to Moscow or San Francisco for that, that’s OK. But it will be even better if that citizen can attend a good school in his or her small town and a good university in the nearest city, where part of the curriculum is taught online by Moscow professors.

Everything is possible in Russia. People who are saying that Russia has its own cursed way are Russophobes. I am a Russophile. I consider myself a patriot. I believe that everything that can be done in other places can be done in Russia. And Russia is no worse than other countries. So when someone says “That cannot be done in Russia, that’s idealism”, I say that I consider myself a pragmatic idealist. What this means is that you should have your ideals but these ideals should and can become a reality.

Philanthropy organizations, formal and informal, are key institutions of the civil society. They are communities of people who come together around the mission of helping their country and their compatriots, the mission of creating the public good. In this sense, they are perhaps the highest order of civil society. Philanthropy organizations are the future, the development of the Russian society as a whole, not just the civil society. So as everywhere else, we are seeing that the third sector, non-profits and charities, are often ahead of the government and private sector in their idealism and in their standards.

Watch the video (in Russian)

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