Don Cheadle, Kristalina Georgieva and 6 More Global Leaders Share the Most Powerful Collaborations in Their Lives


Kristalina Georgieva

IMF Managing Director

In August 2021, the 190 member countries of the International Monetary Fund—working together to tackle the pandemic, a crisis like no other—delivered an achievement like no other: a historic $650 billion injection of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to help the global economy, and especially nations that are suffocating amid COVID-19 lockdowns.

SDRs are an economic asset created by the IMF to strengthen countries’ foreign-exchange reserves. It is very rare to get a new allocation. The last, which was in 2009, was intended for recovery from the global financial crises. Most people don’t know what SDRs are, but millions benefit from their existence. The IMF allocates more reserves to members because of their collective strength. Reflecting the unprecedented crisis, 2021’s was the largest allocation of SDRs ever. These funds will be used to fund critical imports and production in Senegal, Senegal, and Haiti.

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How did we do it? We first worked together with our member countries. Because there are so many countries involved, it is necessary to have a lot of dialogue and diplomacy. This is due to our spirit of cooperation. We all agreed that this was the right thing at the right moment to help the world.

We also worked closely with international organizations. This includes development banks like the African Development Bank with the regional expertise and capacity to help ensure the SDRs “hit the ground most effectively,” as its president, Akinwumi Adesina, has said.

Third, we worked with wealthier members to amplify the benefits of the SDRs, which are allocated by countries’ shares in the IMF. While about $275 billion went to emerging and developing nations—with new SDRs amounting to as much as 6% of GDP for some—the most vulnerable need more. That’s why we urge members with strong reserves to voluntarily channel SDRs to poorer countries. IMF members established a trust where SDRs could be used to help fragile countries recover and build better. This trust addresses critical challenges such as climate change.

This SDR allocation is a historic example of global collaboration at its best: countries coming together to help each other-—and to help people—in a time of need.

Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Director-General, World Health Organization

The pandemic, at its core, is about solidarity, sharing data, information, biological samples and other resources. COVID-19 demonstrated the value of quick and wide sharing information on pathogens to ensure effective surveillance as well as the development of timely medical-response tools such diagnostics, therapies and vaccines.

Pathogen sharing can be done bilaterally and on an as-needed basis. This could leave some countries out and lead to dangerous new pathogens being missed. That’s why we set up two new hubs: one to allow our 194 member states to voluntarily share novel biological materials, and another to detect new events with pandemic potential and monitor disease-control measures in real time. The two hubs will play a key role in responding to and preparing for future pandemics and epidemics.

Once a signal is detected, as well as responding to curtail spread, it’s important to develop critical health tools and share them effectively.

WHO, France, the European Commission and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation created the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator in April 2020 to accelerate the production and development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and to ensure equal access. The Accelerator has raised billions of money and helped increase access to innovative health tools around the world.

The Omicron version emerged because of narrow nationalism, hoarding and other factors.

In 2022, it’s critical that nations work together even more closely to vaccinate the world and equitably share all health tools. Pooling technology is one way to improve the production of lifesaving technologies.

WHO’s mRNA technology-transfer hub in South Africa will enable the development of a more affordable mRNA vaccine. The COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, and the Medicines Patent Pool, have recently signed their first licensing agreement with Spain’s National Research Council. This is a nonexclusive, transparent and global license that allows for the development of a serological antigen test. I hope it’s the first of many.

With talks about to begin for a binding accord among nations on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, it’s important that world leaders seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the global health architecture to protect and promote the well-being of all people.

Business Wire/AP

Christiana Figueres

Global Optimism Founding Partner. Former U.N. Executive Secretary. Framework Convention on Climate Change

The historic Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 countries in 2015. This is partly because their rational self-interest led to a global economy decarbonized that could withstand the worst effects of climate change. The agreement was made possible by the large network of stakeholders who came together around these governments in order to support them.

Only a few people knew about the underground effort code-named Groundswell. It was coordinated by the U.N. secretariat on climate change. Its goal was to create a “surround sound” effect around national governments so that no matter where they looked, they would find enthusiastic support for an ambitious, legally binding agreement that would guide the evolution of the global economy toward carbon neutrality.

It was of course the central focus of this effort that climate scientists played. But Groundswell also included sub-national governments, corporate leaders, captains of finance, women’s groups, youth, Indigenous authorities, farmers, spiritual leaders, academics and NGOs of all stripes and sizes. Stakeholders had different expectations. But rather than having to compromise on those desires, they were encouraged to join forces to promote and support the national governments in reaching the legal framework.

Six years on, the community has grown tremendously and doesn’t need to continue operating secretly as national governments recognize they are unable to address climate change by themselves. The Race to Zero campaign was launched at the recent COP26 climate change meeting in Glasgow. It brought together many cities, regions and businesses, as well as investors. All of them are determined to achieve net-zero emission by 2050. Collectively, these actors cover nearly 25% of global CO² emissions and over 50% of GDP, and they manage financial portfolios worth $130 trillion. Race to Zero sought to create more momentum in support of a transition to a decarbonized economic system so that countries could increase their official contributions to the Paris Agreement goals. It also created a resilient and inclusive global economy.

The collaborative architecture that has been built around climate-change efforts will continue to grow, and the “walls” that used to separate it from the work of national governments will continue to soften. The effective, timely and efficient reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is dependent on an “all-in” approach. This means that the private and public sectors within every country coordinate their efforts to maximise their potential and accelerate their response time. Collaboration is the ultimate test for collaboration.

Abdulhamid Hosbas—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Margrethe Vestager

European Commission, Executive Vice President for A Europe Fitted for the Digital Age.

Europe and the U.S. both have previously teamed up to defend democracy. Our liberties are being threatened by technology’s harmful silence, not bombs.

We see everywhere that democracy is being splintered into small bubbles driven by profit-making algorithm. The rioters at the U.S. Capitol, and terrorists in the Paris and Brussels attacks had their plans pre-planned via social media. Frances Haugen’s shocking revelations were a wake up call.

That’s how the E.U.-U.S. Trade and Technology Council was born a few months ago. Don’t get me wrong: the road remains long before we come up with tangible solutions. We have agreed to a common strategy to reduce the risk of artificial intelligence and combat illegal surveillance, as well as ensure fair tech markets.

It has been said that “the U.S. innovates and Europe regulates.” This conversation is changing: now we are joining forces. And when two such determined partners shift the rudder together, it’s likely the ship will eventually turn.

Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

Rose Marcario

Venture Partner, Regen Ventures. Former CEO, Patagonia

These days, some of my richest collaborations are with fungal networks—and with human organizations with the curiosity and vision to leverage fungi’s power. We have a lot to learn about fungi, including the interconnectedness and diversity of their systems, resilience and adaptability, as well as the power distributed, shared, and distributive nature. Under our feet is a vast fungal network 450 quadrillion km long, and it sequesters 5 billion tons of CO² per year, while also providing nutrient pathways to soils and plants. They are largely invisible. A new non-governmental organization, the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks is starting to explore these important networks around the world.

The important component of fungus is mycelium. It has many other fascinating applications. Properly fermented, it can create a nutrient-dense protein, capable of feeding the world; a brilliant young founder in Colorado named Tyler Huggins started Meati Foods to do just that. Mycelium can also be used in packaging materials, so it could help solve the plastic crisis. The potential for psilocybin herbals to treat neurological and mental disorders is also promising. AJNA BioSciences, a pharmaceutical company that specializes in earth-regenerating agricultural techniques, plans on producing psilocybin-based medicines. The possibilities are as endless as fungi’s weblike networks.

Whether we want to accept it or not, our world has been irrevocably changed by our human ignorance and inaction; we’ve fouled our own nest so inexorably that we face a troubled and uncertain future. The destruction of life support systems has been accelerated by us. We must all do our bit to get out of this mess. I now trust in the ability of natural systems to rebuild and restore our planet. But to do so, they’ll need stewardship from brilliant entrepreneurs, scientists who put their research into action, citizens and activists, and anyone who gives a damn about our future.

Though I spent much of the past decade as a retail CEO, I don’t believe in just selling stuff anymore. There is enough material in this world. Purchase used. Unless the stuff makes the world better and eradicates some old, bad polluting system, what’s the point? The next-generation customer is too world-weary and smart to be won over by fake, overprocessed food that is laden with pesticides and has no nutritional value; or by mea culpa commercials or rebrands à la Facebook, or Monsanto after its merger with Bayer.

There is good news: there are a new generation of entrepreneurs that understands the importance of creating new economies that value, respect and consider our planet. Those are the entrepreneurs I’m betting on.

The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP

Masatsugu Asakawa

Asian Development Bank President

A young student from university and I shared a few words at COP26 in Glasgow. The exchange was brief and she shared with me her thoughts about climate change and how it is impacting her country. A few hours later, Sri Mulyani indrawati, Indonesia’s Finance Minister, gave me a speech. It was striking to me how similar their perspectives were: both a sense of concern and optimism about solving this crisis.

Our generation’s most pressing issue is climate change. Climate change is affecting millions in Asia and Pacific. It threatens the sustainability of Tajikistan’s agriculture. It has a negative impact on the ecosystems of Vietnam and the Philippines. It poses a danger to the very existence of Tuvalu (low-lying atoll country) and Kiribati (low-lying island countries).

COP26 may go down as the moment a diverse group of actors—from farmer to fund manager to finance minister—all converged on the realization that this challenge requires a global response, a consensus that opens up space for groundbreaking collaborations. To recognize this fact, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) trust is being used to help create collaborative platforms that have high impact for climate action.

We have partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies and Goldman Sachs to use grant capital for low-carbon investments in South and Southeast Asia. We have partnered with Temasek, HSBC, and Clifford Capital Holdings in order to fund sustainable infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia. Our team is leading the new Energy Transition Mechanism, an innovative financing vehicle that uses public, private, philanthropic funding to help accelerate the removal of coal-fired power station and its replacement by clean, renewable energy.

ETM has the potential to be one of the world’s biggest carbon-reduction programs, but it would not be possible without the political will of countries, the capital of the private sector, the concern of philanthropies and the knowledge of organizations such as ADB.

If we continue to build upon these collaborations, I hope that students such as the one from Glasgow can focus more on their studies than worry about the future.

Daniel Garzon Herazo—NurPhoto/Getty Images

Claudia López Hernández

Mayor of Bogotá

Colombia is a vibrant and diverse country and our capital city, Bogotá, has become home to thousands of Colombians who have moved to the city from regions across the nation. These people bring with them a variety of cultural, political, and ethnic backgrounds, as well as a wide range of labor skills.

With 15% of the national population, Bogotá is responsible for 26% of the country’s gross domestic product. But it is sometimes said to be everyone’s city, and also nobody’s.

Most of Bogotá’s residents are perceived to have a greater affinity for their home regions than to the metropolis that has become their new home. However, this perception could be both false and true. It’s a myth because, when asked, most residents love the city that changed their lives. Anyone who lives in Bogotá is considered to be Bogotano. It’s also a reality because living in a big city like ours has its challenges. It is not easy to get city-wide agreements for long-term or strategic issues.

This reality is slowly changing. And the people of Bogotá play an important role.

Current and former mayors were able to work together to create a multimodal transport system that is built on the metro network and regional railways.

Another opportunity to collaborate has been the COVID-19 pandemic. This has given us a renewed sense of urgency in our attempts to find what unites all of us. Bogotá tripled its capacity for hospital care during the pandemic, and our vaccination efforts have brought protection to 80% of the population, in a joint effort between the national government and my office. We have succeeded despite our ideological differences and even being partisan rivals.

Our lessons from 2020 and 2021 are encouraging. In an emergency, competition becomes irrelevant.

These lessons can also be applied at the local level. Colombians will be electing a new president and a new Congress in the coming year. Sometimes, elections can exacerbate existing differences.

Governing in the midst of humanity’s greatest multisystem crisis forces citizens, leaders and governments to weigh the temptation of polarization against the need to promote collective action to survive. It is important to be able to lead this century by having the courage and wisdom to resist the urge to give in to the former.

This duty is not only an infraction of the law, it would also be a catastrophe for our species.

Stephen Lovekin—Shutterstock

Don Cheadle

U.N. actor Actor and U.N. Ambassador for the Environment Programme

Fame can be used for good. Serving as the U.N.’s global ambassador for goodwill, I am a great example of this. My support for people who are fighting for justice and freedom extends from the Environment Programme to campaigns against Darfur’s genocide. But over the years, I’ve learned that systemic change takes more than one person acting alone.

The sets of the were one of my greatest collaborations. Avengers movies—but it didn’t take place onscreen. After speaking with fellow cast member Mark Ruffalo about activism, I joined him on the Solutions Project’s board to spotlight communities at the front lines of the climate crisis.

Working with Mark and others at the Solutions Project, I’ve seen firsthand how communities of color —often hit first and worst by the climate crisis—are joining forces with neighbors of all races to innovate solutions. I’ve seen Black and Latinx communities fight oil drilling, Indigenous people and white farmers defend their land and water from pipelines, and Asian and Pacific Islanders power affordable housing with solar. These multiracial coalitions coming together around such diverse leadership give me hope—and clarity about what it takes to win.

Take the Solutions Project’s CEO, Gloria Walton. Gloria was a community organizer in South Central Los Angeles, and she brought the values of solidarity—of showing up for others in common purpose—to bear on the Solutions Project’s mission to fund and amplify climate-justice solutions. She leads with relationships and collaboration, and now we’ve got 139 grassroots grantees in communities across the country who can count on dozens of artists, industry leaders and philanthropists to show up for climate justice.

Climate change is the world’s most pressing issue, and it’s happening right now. We need all hands on deck—creatives, entrepreneurs and activists alike—to use our collective power to protect all people and the planet.


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