Maurice Strong

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The Honourable
Maurice Frederick Strong
PC, CC, OM, FRSC, FRS, FRAIC
Maurice Frederick Strong
Maurice Strong having received the Four Freedoms Award for Freedom from Want in 2010
Personal details
Born (1929-04-29)April 29, 1929
Oak Lake, Manitoba
Died November 27, 2015(2015-11-27) (aged 86)
New Edinburgh, Ottawa, Ontario
Nationality Canadian
Spouse(s) Pauline Olivette (m. 1950, div. 1980)
Hanne Marstrand (m. 1981, sep. 1989)[1][2]
Parents Frederick Milton Strong, Mary Fyfe
Residence Crestone, Colorado (1972-1989)
Lost Lake, Ontario[2]
London, United Kingdom
Beijing, China
Occupation Businessman, public administrator, UN official[3]

Maurice Frederick Strong, PC, CC, OM, FRSC, FRS, FRAIC (April 29, 1929 – November 27, 2015) was a Canadian oil and mineral businessman and a diplomat who served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.[4][5]

Strong had his start as an entrepreneur in the Alberta oil patch and was President of Power Corporation of Canada until 1966. In the early 1970s he was Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and then became the first executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. He returned to Canada to become Chief Executive Officer of Petro-Canada from 1976 to 1978. He headed Ontario Hydro, one of North America's largest power utilities, was national president and chairman of the Extension Committee of the World Alliance of YMCAs, and headed American Water Development Incorporated. He served as a commissioner of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1986[6] and was recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a leader in the international environmental movement.[7]

He was President of the Council of the University for Peace from 1998 to 2006. More recently Strong was an active honorary professor at Peking University and honorary chairman of its Environmental Foundation. He was chairman of the advisory board for the Institute for Research on Security and Sustainability for Northeast Asia.[8] He died at the age of 86 in 2015.[9]

Childhood and youth[edit]

Maurice Strong was a child during the Great Depression, enduring serious poverty. His father was laid off at the beginning of the Depression era and thereafter supported his family on odd jobs; his mother succumbed to mental illness and died in a mental hospital. He was born in Oak Lake, Manitoba, a town on the Canadian prairies on the mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway.[10] He is said to be related to Anna Louise Strong.[11] Strong later said that growing up during the Depression radicalized him and that he considered himself to be "a socialist in ideology, a capitalist in methodology." He was able to achieve so much while dropping out of high school at the age of 14 and never seeing a day of college. Despite the lack of formal education he was able to become CEO of many companies [12]

Business[edit]

In 1948, when he was nineteen, Strong was hired as a trainee by a leading brokerage firm, James Richardson & Sons, Limited of Winnipeg where he took an interest in the oil business winning a transfer as an oil specialist to Richardson's office in Calgary, Alberta. There he made the acquaintance of one of the most successful leaders of the oil industry, Jack Gallagher who hired him as his assistant. At Gallagher's Dome Petroleum, Strong occupied several key roles including vice president of finance, leaving the firm in 1956 and setting up his own firm, M.F. Strong Management, assisting investors in locating opportunities in the Alberta oil patch.[13]

In the 1950s, he took over a small natural gas company, Ajax Petroleum, and built it into one of the leading companies in the industry, Norcen Resources. This attracted the attention of one of Canada’s principal investment corporations with extensive interests in the energy and utility businesses, Power Corporation of Canada. It appointed him initially as its executive vice president and then president from 1961 until 1966.

In 1976, at the request of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Strong returned to Canada to head the newly created national oil company, Petro-Canada.[14]

He was slated to stand as a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in Scarborough Centre in the 1979 federal election, but chose to abandon the race, returning to private enterprise[15] to manage AZL Resources,[16] a Denver oil promoter that he had previously acquired.[16] A lawsuit had arisen as a consequence of the takeover,[16] which was later settled for $4.2 million.[17] AZL merged with Tosco Corporation,[17] from which Strong acquired the 160,000 acres (65,000 ha) Baca Ranch in Colorado which would house Strong's Manitou Foundation.[17]

Strong later became chairman of the Canada Development Investment Corporation, the holding company for some of Canada’s principal government-owned corporations. In 1992, he became Chairman of Ontario Hydro.[17]

Charles Lynch noted that Strong "tended to fare better than the companies and institutions that have used his talents."[3] He was said to have become a billionaire as a result of his several ventures,[18] but in 2010 he said that he had "never been anywhere close to being [so]."[19]

American Water Development[edit]

On December 31, 1986 American Water Development Incorporated (AWDI), a corporation controlled by Strong and his associates, William Ruckelshaus, Richard Lamm, Samuel Belzberg, and Alexander Crutchfield Jr.,[20] filed an application with the District Court for Water Division 3 in Alamosa, Colorado[21] for the right to pump underground water from the lands of the Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4 and other lands in Saguache County, Colorado in Colorado's San Luis Valley and sell it to water districts in the Front Range Urban Corridor of Colorado. The project was opposed by neighboring water rights owners, local water conservation districts, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service who alleged the project would affect others water rights and cause significant environmental damage to nearby wetland and sand dune ecosystems by reducing the flow of surface water.[20] After a lengthy trial, Colorado courts ruled against AWDI and required payment of the portion of the objectors' legal fees, $3.1 million, which were spent fighting AWDI's attempt to appropriate surface water for beneficial use.[21][22] While this was going on, Strong exited the company.[17]

United Nations work[edit]

United Nations flag

Strong first met with a leading UN official in 1947 who arranged for him to have a temporary low-level appointment, to serve as a junior security officer at the UN headquarters in Lake Success, New York. He soon returned to Canada, and with the support of Lester B. Pearson, directed the founding of the Canadian International Development Agency in 1968.

Stockholm Conference[edit]

In 1971, Strong commissioned a report on the state of the planet, Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet [23] and co-authored by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos. The report summarized the findings of 152 leading experts from 58 countries in preparation for the first UN meeting on the environment, held in Stockholm in 1972. This was the world's first "state of the environment" report.

The Stockholm Conference established the environment as part of an international development agenda. It led to the establishment by the UN General Assembly in December 1972 of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and the election of Strong to head it. UNEP was the first UN agency to be headquartered in the third world.[24] As head of UNEP, Strong convened the first international expert group meeting on climate change.[25]

Strong was one of the commissioners of the World Commission on Environment and Development, set up as an independent body by the United Nations in 1983.

Earth Summit[edit]

Strong's role in leading the U.N.’s famine relief program in Africa was his first in a series of U.N. advisory assignments, including reform and his appointment as Secretary General of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, best known as the Earth Summit, and held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3rd to June 14th, 1992.[26][27] According to Strong, participants at the Rio Conference adopted sound principles but did not make a commitment to action sufficient to prevent global environmental tragedy, committing to spend less than 5% of the $125 billion he felt appropriate for environmental projects in developing nations. He was seconded in that opinion by U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who stated to the delegates, "The current level of commitment is not comparable to the size and gravity of the problems,"[28]

After the Earth Summit, Strong continued to take a leading role in implementing the results of agreements at the Earth Summit through the establishment of the Earth Council, acting as co-chair of the Earth Charter Commission at the outset of the Earth Charter movement, his chairmanship of the World Resources Institute, membership on the board of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Stockholm Environment Institute, The Africa-America Institute, the Institute of Ecology in Indonesia, the Beijer Institute of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and others. Strong was a longtime Foundation Director of the World Economic Forum, a senior advisor to the president of the World Bank, a member of the International Advisory of Toyota Motor Corporation, the Advisory Council for the Center for International Development at Harvard University, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund, Resources for the Future and the Eisenhower Fellowships. His public service activities were carried out on a pro bono basis made possible by his business activities, which included being chairman of the International Advisory Group of CH2M Hill, Strovest Holdings, Technology Development Inc., Zenon Environmental, and most recently, Cosmos International and the China Carbon Corporation.

Strong lobbied to change NGO perspectives on the World Bank.[29] He is believed by some to have inspired the works of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on climate change. In 1999 Strong took on the task of trying to restore the viability of the University for Peace, headquartered in Costa Rica, established under a treaty.[30] The reputation of the University of Peace was at risk because the organization had been subjected to mismanagement, misappropriation of funds and inoperative governance. As chairman of its governing body, the Council, and initially as rector, Strong led the process of revitalizing the University for Peace and helped to rebuild its programs and leadership. He retired from the Council in the spring of 2007.

From 2003 to 2005, Strong served as the personal envoy to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead support for the international response to the humanitarian and development needs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.[31]

2005 Oil-for-Food scandal[edit]

In 2005, during investigations into the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food Programme, evidence procured by federal investigators and the U.N.-authorized inquiry of Paul Volcker showed that in 1997, while working for Annan, Strong had endorsed a check for $988,885, made out to "Mr. M. Strong," issued by a Jordanian bank. It was reported that the check was hand-delivered to Mr. Strong by a South Korean businessman, Tongsun Park, who in 2006 was convicted in New York federal court of conspiring to bribe U.N. officials to rig Oil-for-Food in favor of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Strong was never accused of any wrongdoing.[18] During the inquiry, Strong stepped down from his U.N. post, stating that he would "sideline himself until the cloud was removed."

The affair was said to have arisen from "the tangled nest of personal relationships, public-private partnerships, murky trust funds, unaudited funding conduits, and inter-woven enterprises that the modern U.N. has come to embody" in which Strong had a major role.[11] In reply, Strong stated that "everything I did, I checked it out carefully with the U.S."[18]

Shortly after this, Strong moved to an apartment he owned in Beijing, where he appeared to have settled.[18] He said that his departure from the U.N. was motivated not by the Oil-for-Food investigations, but by his sense at the time, as Mr. Annan's special adviser on North Korea, that the U.N. had reached an impasse. "It just happened to coincide with the publicity surrounding my so-called nefarious activities," he insists. "I had no involvement at all in Oil-for-Food ... I just stayed out of it."[18]

UN Secretary General's tribute[edit]

Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, near the end of his term, paid the following tribute to Maurice Strong:

Looking back on our time together, we have shared many trials and tribulations and I am grateful that I had the benefit of your global vision and wise counsel on many critical issues, not least the delicate question of the Korean Peninsula and China’s changing role in the world. Your unwavering commitment to the environment, multilateralism and peaceful resolution of conflicts is especially appreciated.

Later involvement[edit]

In 2010, Strong described the nature of his activities at that time:

I am retired from all my official roles, but I am still very active. I have close relationships at the UN. I don't have any role at the UN, but I'm still quite cooperative with a number of UN activities, in particular to China and that region. I don't have any government responsibilities or formal role. I continue to be active, though.[19]

In 2012 for Rio+20 he contributed to a book by Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss entitled Only One Earth - the Long Road via Rio to Sustainable Development, which reviewed the last forty years and the challenges for the future. He attended the conference, for which the United Nations Development Program paid all his travel expenses.[32]

Strong died at the age of 86 on November 27, 2015[33] in Ottawa.[34] A funeral service was held there in early December 2015, with a public memorial service to occur later.[34]

Impact[edit]

While unremarkable in appearance,[35] Strong was said to have "an astonishing network" that connected diverse interest groups.[35] One observer described his "scarcely-concealed delight in explaining his often Machiavellian political manoeuvrings."[35]

In the environmental movement, he was instrumental in promoting government funding and entry into international meetings for environmental non-governmental organizations.[35]

Honours and awards[edit]

Maurice Strong received a number of honours, awards and medals. He received 53 honorary doctorate degrees and honorary visiting professorships at 7 universities.

Honours appearing in the Canadian order of precedence are:

Companion of the Order of Canada 1999[36]
Order of Manitoba 2005
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977
125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal 1992
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal 2002[37]
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal 2012[38]
Order of the Polar Star (Sweden) 1996
Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil) 1999[39]
Commander of the Order of the Golden Ark (Netherlands) 1979

Other honours and awards include:

John Ralston Saul dedicated his polemic Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason In The West to Strong.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Raverty, Aaron Thomas (2014). Refuge in Crestone: A Sanctuary for Interreligious Dialogue. London: Lexington Books. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7391-8375-5. 
  2. ^ a b Strong Papers 2003.
  3. ^ a b Lynch, Charles (September 30, 1982). "Guy on the Street refinancing Dome". Montreal Gazette. p. B4. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  4. ^ E Masood (2015) Maurice Strong, Nature 528(7583), 480.
  5. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=rGxIAAAAIBAJ&sjid=xYIMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2928,8434969 Article in The Vindicator June 30, 2000
  6. ^ http://www.canadasworld.ca/timeline/19841993
  7. ^ http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/report_of_maurice_strong_environmental_dialogue.pdf
  8. ^ "Short Biography". www.mauricestrong.net. Retrieved 2014-06-03. 
  9. ^ "The World Mourns One of its Greats: Maurice Strong Dies, His Legacy Lives On". 
  10. ^ Strong, Maurice; Kofi Annan (2001). Where on Earth are We Going (Reprint ed.). New York, London: Texere. pp. 48–55. ISBN 1-58799-092-X. The Depression was one of the great shaping forces in my life... 
  11. ^ a b Rosett, Claudia; Russell, George (February 8, 2007). "At the United Nations, the Curious Career of Maurice Strong". Fox News. 
  12. ^ "WHO IS MAURICE STRONG? The adventures of Maurice Strong & Co. illustrate the fact that nowadays you don’t have to be a household name to wield global power", National Review, September 1, 1997
  13. ^ Strong, Maurice; Kofi Annan (2001). Where on Earth are We Going (Reprint ed.). New York, London: Texere. pp. 75–89. ISBN 1-58799-092-X. The Depression was one of the great shaping forces in my life... 
  14. ^ "Maurice F. Strong Is First Non-U.S. Citizen To Receive Public Welfare Medal, Academy's Highest Honor". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2008-01-20. 
  15. ^ Clarkson, Stephen (2005). The Big Red Machine: How the Liberal Party Dominates Canadian Politics. Vancouver: UBC Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-7748-1195-8. 
  16. ^ a b c "Victim of media — Strong". The Ottawa Journal. February 13, 1979. p. 18. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Machan, Dyan (January 12, 1998). "Saving the planet with Maurice Strong". Forbes. 
  18. ^ a b c d e Rosett, Claudia (October 11, 2008). "Maurice Strong: The U.N.'s Man of Mystery - WSJ.com". online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 
  19. ^ a b Hickman, Leo (June 23, 2010). "Maurice Strong on climate 'conspiracy', Bilberberg and population control". The Guardian (London). Retrieved November 29, 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Stephen Gascoyne. "The Grit of a Colorado Water War Plan to Pump Water from the San Luis Valley Threatens Future of a National Monument". The Christian Science Monitor (Quetia, subscription required). Archived from the original on October 3, 1991. Retrieved September 19, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Colorado Supreme Court (May 9, 1994). "American Water Development Inc. v. City of Alamosa" (Court decision). Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Rural area beats back water diversion plan" article by Barry Noreen, High Country News May 30, 1994
  23. ^ Ward, Barbara; Dubos, Rene. Only One Earth. May 25, 1972. Andre Deutsch ISBN 0233963081
  24. ^ http://www.unep.org Website of the United Nations Environment Programme
  25. ^ "A super agency?". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2008-01-14. [dead link] Member account login required to access full article.
  26. ^ Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio, 1992
  27. ^ Tribute Special Supplement: On the Road to Rio. (1991). World Media Institute, Ottawa, Canada
  28. ^ "Rio Organizer Says Summit Fell Short:" Environmental Principles Approved", article by Michael Weisskopf and Julia Preston in The Washington Post June 15, 1992, accessed September 8, 2010
  29. ^ http://www.mauricestrong.net/2008072115/strong-biography.html
  30. ^ "University of Peace Makes New Appointments and Agrees on Major Expansion". Science Blog. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  31. ^ "UN urges North Korea-US talks". London: British Broadcasting Corporation. April 4, 2003. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  32. ^ Russell, George (June 20, 2012). "EXCLUSIVE: Godfather of Global Green Thinking Steps Out of Shadows at Rio+20". Fox News. Retrieved November 29, 2015. 
  33. ^ http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/maurice-strong-climate-development-pioneer-dies-35463459
  34. ^ a b "The Honourable Maurice STRONG: Obituary". legacy.com. 
  35. ^ a b c d Foster, Peter (November 29, 2015). "The man who shaped the climate agenda in Paris, Maurice Strong, leaves a complicated legacy". The National Post (Toronto). 
  36. ^ "Order of Canada: Maurice F. Strong". www.gg.ca. 
  37. ^ http://www.gg.ca/honour.aspx?id=43398&t=6&ln=Strong
  38. ^ http://www.gg.ca/honour.aspx?id=104780&t=13&ln=Strong
  39. ^ Canada Gazette Part I, Vol. 132, No. 26
  40. ^ http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12032003
  41. ^ http://www.sfu.ca/dialogue/study+practice/blaney+recipients.html#strong
  42. ^ http://www.ewire.com/display.cfm/Wire_ID/1307 Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  43. ^ http://www.af-info.or.jp/index/index_e2.html Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  44. ^ http://mea.gov.in/pressbriefing/2004/07/09pb01.htm Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  45. ^ http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/headsup/archives/mar_1999.cfm?attr=20 Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  46. ^ http://www.unac.org/en/news_events/pearson/1989.asp Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  47. ^ http://www.lindberghfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=42&Itemid=55 Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  48. ^ http://www.mauricestrong.net/index.php/honours-mainmenu-20 Retrieved on July 16, 2014
  49. ^ http://www.audubon.org/local/index.html Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  50. ^ http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/tylerprize/previous.html Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  51. ^ http://royalsociety.org/page.asp?id=1737 Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  52. ^ http://www.rsc.ca/index.php?page_id=70&lang_id=1 Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  53. ^ http://www.raic.org/index_e.htm Retrieved on December 27, 2007
  54. ^ http://www.davidsuzuki.org/About_us/Board_of_Directors.asp Retrieved on January 13, 2008
  55. ^ http://www.iisd.org/about/staffbio.aspx?id=381 Retrieved on January 13, 2008

External links[edit]