2020 Goi Peace Award Acceptance Speech

Thinking and Acting to Create a Better World

Jacques Attali

Jacques Attali

I was very surprised and honored when I learned the news that I was receiving this very well-known award. It’s a great honor for me to follow the other laureates. I must say that it is true that I spent large part of my life and of my time today working on what could be a better world and how to do it.

I work on it on two dimensions: one by thinking and writing, and the second by acting and doing. I think it’s difficult to do only thinking or only acting, because if you act without thinking, then you are a kind of puppet in the hands of someone who is thinking on behalf of you. And if you are only thinking, then you don’t really try to check if your ideas are relevant to the real world.

Therefore, I first try to understand and conceptualize what can be a better world, and then to act on it. As you said, I wrote many books, and now I am working on two specific concepts which I think are important to understand what can be a better future.

The first concept is the concept of ‘positive society.’ What is a positive society? It’s a society which is working in the interest of the next generations. If we don’t work in the interests of the next generations, we are bound to create a very terrible nightmare for the future. The next generations will live in a nightmare in terms of climate, in terms of waste management, in terms of poverty, in terms of pandemics, and many other dimensions, if we do not prepare for a better future now, if we do not invest in what is needed. ‘We’ means governments, individuals, private companies, NGOs. Everyone has to work in that direction.

I explain that working in the interests of the next generation is not only a kind of naïve altruism. It is a very selfish behavior, because we—people living today—have an interest in the survival of the next generations, because the next generations will finance and will work for us. When we get older, the world of our old age will not be livable if we have not trained and prepared the new generations to take over managing and developing the world. Therefore, it is in the interest of the existing generations to prepare the next ones to do a better job, and have a good future.

The second concept is the economy of life. I do think that if we want to focus on developing a really positive society, we need to focus the economy on the sectors of economy of life, the main sectors of which link to a better world for the next generations—health, education, digital security, clean energy, clean water, hygiene, food and agriculture, and some of other sectors that I mention in my writings.

The second thing is that I try to act in these directions. I try to act first at a national level, and then at an international level, because I think that nothing can be done without creating law and order at the international level. It’s why I try my best to participate in the creation of international institutions. I did that when I had the idea and I founded the first European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to ‘hook’ Eastern Europe and Russia into a ‘reel’ of rule of law and market economy.

And I did the same when I founded Action contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger), which is now one of our largest institutions to help to fight against hunger around the world; when I founded Eureka, which is one of the largest programs of European institutions working for the development of technology around the world; and when I founded the foundation which I chair today, Positive Planet, which is working in trying to develop a positive society around the world.

Positive society’s meaning I explained before, but what we do in the foundation is we first evangelize the concept of positivity by doing forums around the world—we have one in Japan, in Hiroshima, and also in France—where we try to gather people who can exchange experiences and ideas of what is a positive society, and where we also do actions to develop positive companies. We push governments to become more positive by measuring their positivity. We measure positivity of all the countries of OECD, including Japan, France and others, and we measure positivity of companies, private funds, securities funds, and portfolio management.

At the other side of the scale of wealth, we help very poor people to create and develop sustainable, positive companies, which means companies that are sustainable economically, socially, ecologically and democratically. We did that first in France, but also in many countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where we provide programs, sometimes with the help of JICA and other Japanese partners, to develop potential activities for people to get out of poverty, to get out of charity, by creating their own businesses and by becoming real actors of the world.

We believe that positivity is not only a concept. Altruism is not only a concept—it is a matter of fact. And we realize that when we do that, we create a better world in reality. We are helping millions of people, millions of families. And that also creates joy for us, because we realize that helping people is one of the best ways to be happy—that altruism is a kind of selfish interest, not only because we serve our interests, but because it’s a great privilege to be in a situation of being helpful to others.

In the world where we are today, where the fight is mainly between the ideology of selfishness and the ideology of altruism—between the ideology of intolerance, where each one wants to think what they think is good for the other, and of altruism, where we think that we can understand and tolerate the fact that the people are thinking differently than us—it’s better to be in the world of altruism. It’s the only way that we will avoid the creation of a nightmare around the world.

Therefore, I’m very happy that your foundation is highlighting what we are doing and what I am thinking, and I do hope that we will have other opportunities to work together.

Thank you very much.

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