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Conference Links Entrepreneurship and Human Rights


NEW YORK — Advocates for human rights and private business must unite to combat corruption and keep the call for corporate social responsibility at a fevered pitch, according to veteran entrepreneur Bert W. M. Twaalfhoven, a Fordham alumnus and founder of the European Foundation.

“The traditional [business]model equals profit maximization,” said Twaalfhoven, a featured speaker at the Conference on Entrepreneurship and Human Rights, held Aug. 1 to 3 on the Lincoln Center campus. “Now, in a global world, we are shifting to social responsibility. CEOs and boards of directors in America should be held more and more responsible,” he added, noting that community service should be a top priority of large international companies.

The three-day meeting brought together award-winning social entrepreneurs, economists, legal experts, representatives from non-governmental organizations and researchers representing a dozen countries to highlight common ground between human rights and pro-business initiatives and policies.

“If the two sides focus on what they agree [upon]and support a centrist position, they can become a formidable joint force in favor of higher living standards and improved human rights around the world,” said conference organizer H.D. Vinod, Ph.D., professor of economics at Fordham University. His paper, titled “Common Ground in Promotion of Entrepreneurship and Human Rights,” includes statistical results from a study on data for seven variables dealing with governance, corruption, entrepreneurship activity, human rights, capital markets and economic freedom.

Participants also developed a list of policy recommendations that they argue will extend human rights and employment opportunities to those traditionally excluded from the economic and political mainstream — the ultimate goal being the building of human capital in underdeveloped countries. The Journal of Asian Economics will publish these recommendations, along with selected research papers and transcripts from the conference in future publications.

Links to detailed biographies, photos, abstracts and many of the papers presented at the conference can be found online at

The conference was hosted by Fordham University in conjunction with Mexico’s Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA). Opening doors for the poor and disadvantaged has long been part of the Jesuit tradition that is a pillar of both universities.

Twaalfhoven, a venture capitalist who has created or bought 51 companies, knows firsthand the benefits of the Jesuit tradition. In 1948, he came to Fordham from the Netherlands, after his family lost everything in the World War II bombing of The Hague. The move was made possible by Robert Gannon, S.J., then president of Fordham University, who offered Twaalfhoven a scholarship to study at Fordham’s College of Business Administration. He graduated in 1952 and went on to Harvard Business School, where he earned an M.B.A. in 1954.

UIA combines pre-professional preparation with a strong liberal arts curriculum and the Jesuit commitment to service and social justice. Fordham University and UIA forged an academic partnership in 2003 that allows the two institutions to exchange faculty and students, collaborate on research, and build upon a global network connecting Jesuit institutions of higher education.


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