A Protégé’s Memoir: Professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann (JP), Founder of the prestigious Evian Group at IMD (the International Institute for Management Development) in Lausanne, Switzerland passes on

JP was a global leader and thinker who could tell how people and events will shape the world order. 

I am sure I can count myself as one of the very few protégés of JP who attracted his immediate attention when discussing global inclusiveness and how the new world order should make way for the less integrated global South to be active partners.

I first met JP during the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in December 2005. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Asia, Europe and North America had just concurrently published my commissioned article on strategies to reduce trade barriers in Africa. The Asian version was made freely available to all participants of the WTO ministerial in Hong Kong. For some fortuitous reason, JP was moderating an International Policy Network (IPN) session on breaking world trade barriers and I was a speaker on the panel. His references to my WSJ article made me feel quite important and limited at the same time, as he had virtually said in his introductory remarks about me what I intended talking about in the panel. JP ended his summary with a prediction that I was going to be one of five emerging young global leaders from Africa.  I was encouraged and believed it. 

I found out more about JP and kept in touch. And that was the beginning of my Evian Group’s journey and later as a distinguished member of its Brains Trust, hosted by the Lausanne-based globally respected IMD Business School.  JP made sure I was part of many Evian Group’s events on trade, development and globalisation held either in Lausanne or Geneva. JP ensued that I participated as a High-Level Speaker at the WTO Public Forum in Geneva in 2007. I remember his caution to the over 1000 delegates waiting to listen to me when he said ‘’ Franklin is an iconoclast when it comes established beliefs on development matters in Africa, and he should be careful, but it is never a dull moment listening to him’’ and he said to the audience after my speech ‘’ I told you’’.

He passionately believed that if we were going to revive the dying Doha Trade Round at the time, not only were we to theorise about the pathways, but we must be seen to be practicing the virtues of a globalised order by ensuring face-to-face dialogues with emerging leaders from the South who are denied critical information in order not only to hold their own governments accountable, but also understand the complexities of the state of things in order to be better guided in advocating reforms. JP demonstrated this avowed principle of the Evian Group when he personally got involve by writing protest letters on October 12, 2006 to everyone who mattered in World Trade at the time and the global media over the denial of Swiss Visas for my wife and another Pakistani young leader.   We had been invited to be part of one of those important Evian Group’s meetings on trade and development at a time deemed perilous for world trade.  

Parts of JP’s protest letter to the Swiss Government, the then Director-General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, every leader in the WTO community and the over 1000 global media actors read ‘’ access to information is the key to economic development, more important than any other, including capital, labour, technology, etc. The participation of the highly distinguished Inaamul Haque from Pakistan and the young brilliant opinion leader Franklin Cudjoe from Ghana at the Evian plenary meeting not only allowed them to gather information that would be useful to their countries, but also this allowed them to impart information to the other participants who would then be in a position to better understand the needs and objectives of poor countries such as Pakistan and Ghana. As you indicated yourself, Director General (and which presumably the Swiss consular officials are aware of), the big losers in the collapse of Doha are the poor countries. This attempt we are undertaking to do our best to rectify this situation is being thwarted by consular representatives from one of the world’s richest countries and one that benefits immeasurably from global trade and investment. This is one more illustration (if we needed any more) of a totally unlevel playing field. It is economically and morally nonsensical and scandalous… I wonder whether the official was aware of this, whether she even bothered finding out who Franklin Cudjoe is. It is another clear example of how the playing field is tilted against developing countries. Here we had an opportunity to hear from a young African on the means to revive the Doha Round, but the Swiss consular official in Accra decided this was a voice that should not be heard. Can Geneva claim to be an international city with this kind of attitude and policy? At the level of principle, I think we should all be alarmed by the way in which tyranny is now being exercised by minor officials. …This is the road to global fragmentation and possibly destruction’’

That was vintage JP!

Suffice to say, JP’s intervention and the global attention got the Swiss officials to immediately overturn the visa decision to enable my wife travel with me. Eleven years on, the think tank I founded and lead, IMANI has had excellent relations with the Swiss Embassy in Ghana, the zenith of this relationship being asked by the Swiss Government and the Embassy in Accra to host the current Swiss President, Doris Leuthard in Accra in July 2017 as she participated in a panel discussion we held on governance in the age of social media in Ghana. I became a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2010. My colleague, Bright Simons who was later introduced to JP and with whom as IMANI, supported the Evian Group to host a series of high-level workshops jointly at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, was also recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012 for his pioneering work in public policy and fighting counterfeits. Bright Simons and myself subsequently facilitated a number of key seminars and addressed audiences of high-ranking officials, business executives, public intellectuals and academics from across the European Union, the United States, and farther afield, the Evian Group brought together.

JP was a global leader and thinker who could tell how people and events will shape the world order.  All his writings in respected academic journals and global media never disappoint. May he rest in eternal peace.

IMD (www.imd.ch) is widely reputed to be the foremost business school in Europe.

By Franklin Cudjoe, President of IMANI Center for Policy and Education.