Founex Conference: "One of the best intellectual exchanges"

by Maurice Strong

The most important single event in the run-up to Stockholm was an informal meeting we convened in June 1971 in a motel in Founex, outside Geneva, with twenty seven leading experts and policymakers.

The meeting was chaired by Gamani Corea, with Mahbub ul Haq as rapporteur. Others present included David Runnalls and Jim MacNeill, who have each gone on to hold senior positions in both Canadian and international environment and development organizations.

The discussions were intense and passionate, characterized by a degree of intellectual integrity and rigour that ultimately enabled the participants to find common ground despite diverging opinions and interests.

The meeting is inscribed in my memory as one of the best intellectual exchanges I have ever participated in. It had a profound influence both on the Stockholm Conference and the evolution of the concept of the environment-development relationship.

By now, both Corea and Huq had essentially bought into the thesis, and they had become the architects of elaboration, adding to it the logic that made it credible and persuasive.

The two of them co-operated in producing the report of the meeting. I regard this report as a milestone in the history of the environmental movement, an absolutely seminal document.

The report argued that while the degradation of the environment in industrialized countries, derived from production and consumption patterns, the environmental problems in the rest of the world were largely the result of underdevelopment and poverty. It called for the integration of development and environment strategies and urged rich nations in their own interests to provide more money and help enable the poorer nations to achieve the goal.