Landmark UN Resolution on the Social Economy Passes with the Help of the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation and its Collaborators
On April 18, 2023, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first-ever resolution on the social and solidarity economy. The resolution, Promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy for Sustainable Development (A/77/L.60), calls upon member states to support the social economy through national, regional, and local strategies, policies, and programming. Importantly, it officially recognizes the critical role that the social economy has and will continue to play in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
On the heels of this great achievement, the Schwab Foundation hosted the Schwab Foundation and Global Alliance Annual Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. It was a well-deserved celebration for the many advocates who worked towards the adoption of the UN resolution for over a decade and marked a major milestone as the Schwab Foundation’s 25th anniversary. It was also particularly meaningful for the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation. Klaus Schwab, co-founder of the Schwab Foundation and founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum provided invaluable guidance to Dave Roll as he created the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation.
Schwab’s advice was instrumental in establishing the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation’s mission to support social entrepreneurs. This year’s event convened key partners and stakeholders from around the world, and Managing Director, Isis Bous, attended and represented the Foundation.
Many of the discussions revolved around the UN resolution, its recommendations, and ways to build on the positive momentum from its adoption. Rana Dajani, founder of Taghyeer/We Love Reading, a Foundation client, spoke on a panel about the resolution, where she highlighted the significance of the Global Social Enterprise Policy Report and other influential white papers like it in bringing the resolution across the finish line. The report, drafted by Alfredo Silva and his team at Morrison & Foerster LLP (member firm for USA, California) and described in the article below, was the culmination of over a year of effort and significant collaboration. It identifies laws, policies, and regulations that have allowed social enterprises to flourish and includes key recommendations for policymakers.
In a conversation with the Foundation, Dajani noted that “The SSE resolution will provide political awareness, legal recognition, business support and funding to social entrepreneurs.” Importantly, the resolution provides key strategies that governments can adopt to promote the social economy. Among them is identifying and implementing legal frameworks that support social enterprise. To this end, the Global Social Enterprise Policy Report will undoubtedly serve as an invaluable resource to governments around the world. We are excited to follow its use and the progress made in the months and years to come.
Congratulations to Alfredo Silva, an Incredible Lex Mundi Member Lawyer and Champion
We want to express our heartfelt congratulations to Lex Mundi member lawyer, Alfredo Silva, for receiving the 2023 National Public Service Award from the American Bar Association Business Law Section. This prestigious award recognizes significant pro bono legal services in a business context.
We couldn’t think of a more deserving recipient! Alfredo is a partner in the Corporate Group at Morrison & Foerster LLP and also co-chairs the firm’s Social Enterprise and Impact Investing Group. In addition to his robust practice, he serves as a member of Morrison & Foerster’s Pro Bono and ESG Strategy Committees.
The Foundation has had a longstanding relationship with Alfredo, and he noted, “The Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation has been a great partner to Morrison & Foerster in finding interesting and important pro bono projects for us, particularly for transactional attorneys where available opportunities are more rare.” Over the years, Alfredo has provided countless hours of pro bono support to the Foundation’s clients. From hosting webinars for cohorts of social entrepreneurs to advising on complex non-profit governance issues, he consistently uses his skills and expertise in the service of others.
In addition to directly supporting clients, Alfredo has made incredible contributions to the social enterprise movement at large. He led Morrison & Foerster’s involvement, in collaboration with the Foundation, on a year-plus-long project commissioned by Catalyst 2030. The goal was to identify legal structures and policies that nations can adopt to catalyze the advancement of social enterprises worldwide. Alfredo and his team ultimately drafted a comprehensive report that consolidates findings from over 60 Lex Mundi member firms across 83 jurisdictions, and provides clear, actionable, policy recommendations.
Nothing like it existed in the ecosystem prior, and Alfredo’s work has already reached key policymakers across the globe. The report has been cited in whitepapers written by the World Economic Forum and The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Geneva Centre for Philanthropy leaned heavily on its findings in their recently published International Handbook of Social Enterprise Law. Alfredo’s commitment to public service has been felt by many and we, and the team at Lex Mundi, cannot thank him enough.
Afghan Musicians Find a New Home Thanks to Lex Mundi Member Law Firms
When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, they stripped the Afghan people of all musical rights, banning both music and music education. As a result, when the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (“ANIM”) was founded in 2010, it was widely heralded as a major success in restoring the country’s culture and arts. It became Kabul’s first and only music school where Afghan children, regardless of their gender, social circumstances and ethnic background could train together in a co-educational environment.
The school’s founder, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, focused on providing opportunities to the most disadvantaged and impoverished groups of Afghan society, including orphans, street working children, women, and girls. Under his tutelage, ANIM became a renowned musical institution and its all-female orchestra, Zohra, performed a widely acclaimed world tour.
However, when the Taliban reclaimed power, all this success was in jeopardy. The school and those affiliated with it became targets and many feared for their lives. In 2021, Dr. Sarmast, along with 273 ANIM faculty, students, and family members made the difficult decision to flee their country. Of these 273 individuals, 57 were young people aged 12-17 traveling without family and an additional 15 children aged 8 to 16 traveled with family members other than their parents. They were first evacuated to Qatar, and eventually settled in Portugal where they were granted asylum. While the ANIM community was welcomed by the Portuguese government, they faced many obstacles upon arrival including language and cultural barriers.
A team member at Foley Hoag LLP (member firm for USA, Massachusetts) performed with ANIM in high school when they toured the U.S., and remains friends with several members of the orchestra. They connected the firm with Friends of ANIM, a US-based charity that has supported ANIM for several years. Through Friends of ANIM, Foley Hoag provided advice about applying for humanitarian parole and other forms of U.S. immigration relief and explored international and diplomatic pathways to bring the group safely to Portugal. The Foley Hoag team then reached out to our Lex Mundi member firm in Portugal, Morais Leitão, Galvão Teles, Soares Da Silva & Associados, and they quickly assembled a large, multi-departmental team to help.
Since 2021, Morais Leitão has provided pro bono legal support to the ANIM community and served as their representatives in interactions with all public entities involved including Santa Casa da Misericórdia, the Social Security office, the Red Cross and various governmental bodies. Importantly, they supported ANIM in the protection of minors that arrived without family members. Although the cases of each unaccompanied minor were handled separately before different courts and judges, the Morais Leitão team worked to obtain rulings in every instance that allowed the children to remain together. Their work also helped members of ANIM leave their temporary lodgings and find permanent residence in the North Region of Portugal, close to a renowned music conservatory where they have been able to continue their orchestra. You can hear from the students and watch them practicing in exile here.
The continued danger to Afghan musicians and their families is evident from the Taliban’s recent actions. Anyone making or listening to music is treated as a criminal and many musicians have been subjected to beatings and discrimination. On at least two occasions this summer, the Taliban publicly burned instruments in massive bonfires. Dr. Sarmast responded in an impactful interview earlier this month, where he laments that Afghanistan is now the world’s only silent nation. As ANIM works to preserve the country’s cultural heritage, the Portuguese government has approved family reunification. Morais Leitão plans to support the family members who will be arriving from Afghanistan soon.
The team at Morais Leitão said, “The support for ANIM at Morais Leitão has permitted a large group of lawyers, of all ages and many different areas, to contribute to a truly worthy cause where the courage, dedication and example of these outstanding musicians has been an inspiration to us all.” Their work demonstrates attorneys’ ability to change lives and is a wonderful example of the power of the Lex Mundi network!