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The Interaction Between Poverty, Growth and Democracy

05/03/2010 12:00 PM Wong Auditorium
President Alejandro Toledo, President of Peru 2001"2006

Description: Alejandro Toledo has remained a passionate advocate of reform since departing the presidency of Peru in 2006. In his home country, he embodied the possibility of transformation, having risen from poverty in an Andean village to top political power, where he initiated a process of economic and social change for Peru. Now he serves as a kind of roving ambassador on behalf of the most deprived populations in Latin America.

Toledo is advancing a particular initiative, the "Social Agenda for Democracy in Latin America," which asserts an inextricable link between effective, inclusive political institutions, and economic justice. "If we're not able to reduce high levels of poverty, inequality and social exclusion, then poverty can conspire against democracy," says Toledo. Natural resources are not a solution, but actually a burden, he believes. Many nations rich in mineral or agricultural wealth, including Peru, have very low standards of living. Inequitable foreign exchange and trade, buttressed by corrupt leaders, often robs these nations of their treasure, and of any chance for investing in development at home. The poor remain poor and, with no way of achieving a decent income or meeting their basic needs, hopeless. They "lose faith in democracy," says Toledo.

The path out of poverty and corruption represents an opportunity and challenge for Latin America, says Toledo. Citizens must demand that their institutions be accountable, and political leaders must provide a plan for economic development that incorporates "explicit social policies that go beyond trickle down." Topping Toledo's agenda is quality education. Investing in the minds of people is a long"term proposition, acknowledges Toledo, and many politicians "don't have the patience, when they know the return will take 18 to 20 years before the kid turns out to be an engineer." But only education can "bring a family, a region, a nation, into a world of opportunity." Educated populations create citizens "with a sense of solidarity," who can work their way out of indigence and engage meaningfully in a democracy.

Toledo also wants sustainable development in Latin America, so future generations can enjoy clean water and healthy forests. He is a fan of microfinance as well: "You give me $1 to invest in a poor woman ... and we begin changing the face of the world." He encourages fellow Latin Americans in the audience to return: "Latin America is a promising continent, but ... it will only play a crucial role in the world economy and democracy if you are there."

About the Speaker(s): Alejandro Toledo was born in a remote village in the Peruvian Andes, one of 16 brothers and sisters from a family of extreme poverty. At the age of six, he worked as a shoe shiner and sold newspapers. By chance, he had access to a decent education, and went on to earn a B.A. in Economics and Business Administration from the University of San Francisco, and two masters degrees and a Ph.D. in the Economics of Human Resources, all from Stanford University.

He worked as the Director of Peru's Economic Development Institute, and in positions at the World Bank, the Inter"American Development Bank in Washington, and the United Nations in New York before running for president of Peru.

After his presidential term, Toledo left Peru and served as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University from 2006 to 2008. During this period, he was also a Payne Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a CDDRL (Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law) Visiting Scholar. More recently, Toledo was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., and also a Non"Resident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution < br>
Toledo founded and continues to serve as the President of the Global Center for Development and Democracy, which is based in Latin America, the United States, and the European Union.

Host(s): School of Architecture and Planning, Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship

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