Today’s globalised world constantly puts us in opposition with one another, highlighting our differences instead of what brings us together. Confrontation has replaced collaboration, while religion, ethnicity, and culture are used to justify hostility, conflict and war.
Here at Ahimsa Fund, we believe we’re stronger together. As such, the Ahimsa Forum has a single goal: bringing people together around ambitious, effective projects on a global scale. We believe that humanitarianism can and should unite, rather than divide us.
“Our differences are strengths on which we must build our future, not weaknesses behind which we can hide.” J.F. de Lavison
Cynics call us dreamers. We’re the first to admit it: we’re idealists, and we dream big. That said, we’re also intensely pragmatic – and our hands-on approach is already beginning to bear fruit.
The Ahimsa Forum was created as a space for dialogue, giving participants the chance to learn from one another in order to create a global network supporting humanitarian initiatives worldwide.
The event takes place once every two years, alternating between metropolitan France and various international locations. Below, we examine the Ahimsa Fund’s main objectives, as well as the 2015’s Forum, hosted in Cape Town, South Africa, and its 2017 counterpart, taking place in Annecy and welcoming around 120 participants from over 30 countries.
I) Innovative partnerships encouraging social entrepreneurship
What does the Ahimsa Fund do?
The Ahimsa Fund’s mission is simple: making good health contagious.
To achieve this goal, Ahimsa Fund’s organisation centres around two principal activities:
- Ensuring access to efficient, sustainable healthcare for the world’s poorest communities via grassroots public healthcare initiatives. Our projects are practical, effective, and financially and structurally viable across both the short- and the long-term.
- Organising a biannual Forum on an international level, intended to bring together leading global health actors, businesses and associations.
The Ahimsa Forum’s objectives
When looking to act at the local level, it’s essential to retain a global outlook. While globalisation has tended to magnify many of world’s existing inequalities, at Ahimsa, we believe it can also act as a solution. As such, our model of international collaboration aims to:
- Increase visibility of on-the-ground public health initiatives, on a global scale;
- Create and maintain a network of global partnerships working to reinforce these initiatives;
- Develop innovative economic and financial models via social entrepreneurship, in order to launch and support projects that are effective, sustainable, and self-sufficient – thereby ensuring their continued success after initial financing.
How is the Ahimsa Fund different from other public health organisations?
To put it simply, charity isn’t what we do.
As the saying goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” (Confucius). At the Ahimsa Fund, we don’t just want to teach the man to fish. We want him to build his own boat, and we want him to ask a local artisan to do it. In fact, we want our artisan to learn how to fish too. Ultimately, we’re looking for our two fishermen to go into business together, with a portion of their profits being used for the upkeep of the local hospital.
As part of our global vision, we aim above all to promote sustainable business models. We believe that local action and local empowerment go hand in hand. Supported by effective microfinance initiatives and guided by business experts, local artisans, innovators and businesses are encouraged to become wealth creators on their own account and at their own pace.
Who are the Ahimsa Fund’s strategic partners, and how are they chosen?
The Ahimsa Fund benefits from the expertise of several leading global health actors. Its founder, Jean-François de Lavison, boasts a career spanning 35 years at France’s Institut and Foundation Mérieux, working with some of public health’s most innovative individuals as part of the Institut’s commitment to combating infectious diseases.
Leading health figures from across the globe contribute to the Ahimsa Fund’s international activities, and are chosen not only for their local and regional experience, but also for their commitment to representing access to healthcare for some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities. Notable collaborators include:
- Tony Meloto, founder of the Philippines’ Gawad Kalinga Association;
- Countess Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, Japanese philanthropist, President of the Balthus Foundation and UNESCO’s Artist for Peace;
- Michael Moller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva;
- Burundi’s Marguerite Barankitsé, known as the ‘female Mandela’, founder of Maison Shalom;
- and many more…
II) 2015 Ahimsa Forum: a promising future for global health
In June 2015, Cape Town welcomed 90 of the world’s leading health actors for the 2015 Ahimsa Forum, including South Africa’s Minister for Health, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the WHO Assistant Director-General and the Global Fund’s Director of External Relations.
Organised in partnership with Dr. Renier Koegelenberg, director of the Ecumenical Foundation of Southern Africa, and Katherine Marshall, director of Georgetown University’s World Faiths Development Dialogue, the 2015 Forum examined several of the Ahimsa Fund’s leading initiatives, all of which significantly exceeded expectations.
a. Innovative projects targeting designated communities: a closer look at 2015’s success
The HPV project: promoting cervical cancer screening
Maison Shalom’s founder Maggy Barankitsé presented the results of her association’s collaboration with the Ahimsa Fund to fight cervical cancer in Burundi (in 2030, 95% of deaths due to cervical cancer are expected to occur in developing countries). The project’s objectives were as follows:
- Establish an on-site laboratory to screen for cervical cancer at Ruyigi’s Réma Hospital;
- Develop existing infrastructures (Réma Hospital, medical school, laboratories) to support cervical cancer screening;
- Ensure the financial stability of the project via sustainable business models.
The project’s significantly compelling results led to the establishment of similar operations outside of Burundi. The Tibetan community of Dharamsala, India (home of the Dalai Lama), as well as Runa Khan of Bangladesh’s Friendship Association requested information on developing similar projects in their own communities.
Professional training in food and hospitality
Another of the Ahimsa Fund’s projects, supported by the Paul Bocuse Foundation and operating in partnership with Tony Meloto of the Gawad Kalinga Association, works to establish a professional training program recognized by the food and hospitality industry. Aimed at young people living in some of the Philippines’ most underprivileged communities, this project is central to the core values of the Ahimsa Fund. Simply put, we believe it’s crucial to use our talents in order to help those around us.
As such, two students from the Paul Bocuse Foundation will participate in an internship program at Gawad Kalinga each year in order to share their knowledge with local young people. At the same time, scholarships will be awarded to two young Filipinos to allow them to undergo in-house training at a leading French restaurant nominated by the Paul Bocuse Foundation.
b. The Ahimsa Fund and social entrepreneurship: an approach supported by international organisations
The Ahimsa Fund is passionate about improving global health via social entrepreneurship – and we’re excited to see that more and more international associations are beginning to follow our lead! WHO, the UN, Gavi, Unitaid, and the Global Fund are just a few of the many organisations who expressed an interest in the Ahimsa Fund during our most recent Forum, approaching us on their own initiative to explore the possibilities of social entrepreneurship. We’re proud to welcome them to Ahimsa’s network of established global partners.
c. Founder Jean-François de Lavison on the 2015 Ahimsa Forum
III) 2017 Ahimsa Forum: more people, more ideas, more hope
a. Focusing now more than ever on affordable access to healthcare
When? June 27 – June 30 2017
Where? Foundation Mérieux's Les Pensières Conference Centre, on the shores of Lac d’Annecy
- Michael Moller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva;
- Nadia Isler, Director of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals;
- Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General.
On the agenda this year:
- Presentation by Michèle Boccoz, ambassador for HIV/AIDS-related issues and other communicable diseases;
- Presentation by Michel Camdessus, Honorary President of the Banque de France and former director of the IMF, introducing his book written in collaboration with the UN (“The World in 2050: Striving for a More Just, Prosperous, and Harmonious Global Community”);
- Discussion led by Alain Mérieux, President of the Institut Mérieux and the Mérieux Foundation;
For more information on this year’s speeches and presentations, please consult the 2017 Ahimsa Forum’s full agenda.
Key areas of discussion:
- Integrating leadership skills and social entrepreneurship;
- How innovation can provide solutions regarding accessible public healthcare;
- The Forum and the private sector: how business plays a key role in providing access to healthcare to disadvantaged communities;
- Incorporating social entrepreneurship in public health initiatives.
b. 2017 Ahimsa Forum: an extended event specifically requested by the UN and the WHO!
The 2017 Ahimsa Forum was initially scheduled to conclude on June 29, 2017. Following requests from the UN and the WHO, the event will be extended by half a day to allow for two extended conference sessions, one for each organisation:
- WHO: promoting community engagement and local health at the government level;
- UN: encouraging private sector engagement in achieving objectives set out as part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
c. Co-operative public health initiatives based on cultural exchange
This year’s Ahimsa Forum will also shine a light on the artistic and cultural heritage of the countries of origin of several of our participants. Representatives from Iran, India and Japan will attend this year’s Forum, discussing their work in their native language. This exciting programme of cultural exchange is animated by Boiron’s Omeoart Foundation.
Many of the major problems affecting today’s world operate as part of a vicious circle. At Ahimsa, we’re looking to overturn the current global dynamic of wealth disparity, dysfunctional globalisation and huge social inequality. We want that some of the world’s most disadvantaged societies can start to influence, direct and participate in today’s global challenges. We’re only just getting started – but the first results of our projects are already proving that realism and idealism aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.
The Forum is the cornerstone of what we hope to achieve at the Ahimsa Fund. A global gathering in every sense, this world-class event encourages dynamic interaction between leading global health actors, promotes collaboration and project development, and helps establish an international network of individuals, associations and businesses, with their efforts exclusively dedicated to improving the quality of life in some of the world’s poorest regions.
This year’s 2017 Ahimsa Forum looks to the future regarding international development and collaboration. If you’re looking to participate or simply learn more about what we do, feel free to get in touch. We look forward to seeing you at Annecy on June 27, 2017.