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George Rupp has been president of the International Rescue Committee since July 2002. As the IRC’s chief executive officer, Dr. Rupp oversees the agency’s relief and rehabilitation operations in 25[…]

The refugee expert has some ideas for reforming finance.

Question: How has the recession impacted emerging economies?

George Rupp: Well, there’s no question the financial cataclysm worldwide also has its impact on poorest countries, those who have just begun to have a minimum level of self-subsistence, largely by exporting products, all of a sudden are caught up in an economy were exports are cut back and that’s major tragedy because they’re on the threshold of being able to support themselves and now are going to have a much more difficult time of doing that.  The very poorest countries are even poorer and they are not on a point where they have major benefits from international trade, they still have to get to do that point and that makes it really imperative that the international community continue to give assistance of a sort that the IRC implements in places after conflict.  Again, basic water and sanitation, basic healthcare, basic education, all in the interest of having people get to a point where they can support themselves.


Question: How can global governance help?

George Rupp:Well, I think the most important agenda for the G20’s is going to be get enough stimulus into the world economy in order to begin… to unfreeze the credit markets and get trade reestablished in the rest and that… if that happens, that will benefit, not only the developed world but will also be crucial to the developing world and I think it’s appropriate that that be the focus of attention.  I’ve very pleased that both Barack Obama and Gordon Brown have also focused on the need to have increased funding for the International Monetary Fund because that will target directly those countries who simply can’t raise credit themselves, especially in this market and as you know, the talk is about raising another trillion dollars or at least 500 billion dollars preferably a trillion dollars for this kind of further lending which will be critical in helping to jump start the economies for the poorer parts of the world.  So I would say fixing the overall… the global economy, injecting money to the IMF which will allow to work with the poorest countries are both very important priorities and then developed world, as a whole, has to continue to make progress in achieving the goals of financial support and development support for the poorest countries in the world.  That all of the developed world has committed itself to but only very imperfectly achieved.


Question: What role can higher education play in developing new business values?

George Rupp: Over a period… in the last 15 or 20 years, finance and economics have become the single largest majors in many of the most selective colleges and universities.  That was a trend that I wasn’t terribly sanguine about when I was at Columbia and I think it will no longer quite so much the case.  The notion that majoring in Economics and Finance is a certain way of moving forward in terms of one’s career and I think that’s a gain.  I think that the value of 2… I’ll speak only about Columbia but 2 deep traditions at Columbia are only… the value is only clear in the current climate.  The first is the insistence on need blinded mission which Columbia has been deeply committed to and continues to be committed to, namely, the very best students are admitted irrespective to their capacity to pay and applications for financial assistance or even the knowledge if there is an application from financial assistance is only considered after the admission decisions are made.  I think it’s very important because Columbia has been an engine of upward mobility for generations of people, not only in New York but across the world and it needs to continue to do that.  So that’s one tradition that I very much hope will continue to be affirmed.  The second is the… has to do specifically with undergraduate education at Columbia College and it’s the core curriculum and the core curriculum is very old-fashioned, it’s very much a luxury in the sense that we are convinced that it is viable for all students to learn history, philosophy, literature in a way that too often doesn’t happen in colleges and universities anymore.  That… the value of that commitment, I think, is only the clearer when the kind of economic meltdown that we’ve experienced happens, it doesn’t necessarily lead immediately to high-powered jobs but at least the kind of resilience and the ability to see broader patterns which I think is extremely valuable when the going gets tough on a society like this.