The first visitor was Martin Wolf Andersen, a Dane who works with the CONGO (Conference of Non-governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations). He was here to talk to US nonprofits and learn more about how we operate. I was very interested to talk with him as I had been a part of the CONGO process in 2005 in Geneva. I had gone because I wanted to see if there was an international connection to the work I was doing in the United States in creating a national coalition dedicated to media reform. Media companies are multi-national so to me it made some sense to go when I heard about the World Summit on Information Society. I told him that I thought the groups I met there were very dedicated to their work but I didn't see a natural connection to the work I was doing, and that it wasn't clear to me how the civil society groups were going to leverage the work they did at the UN to affect change in their respective countries. Martin shared that the CONGO is currently evaluating how they can enhance the role of civil society groups in the UN process and be more deliberate about expected outcomes. Martin is a smart enthusiastic guy and it sounded to me like his team is asking the right questions. He was headed off to Jackson, Mississippi next and I shared with him that former Common Causer Scott Albert Johnson (an advocate turned Blues Man) was doing a concert tonight. Hope he makes it to what Scott describes as a "hutananee".....sounds like fun.
The next visitor, Miguel Hilario Manenima, is a member of the Shipibo-Konibo nation from the Amazonia of Peru. He studied politics and economics at Oxford University, and holds two MAs and Ph.D from Stanford University in Anthropology and Latin American Studies. Some more interesting facts about Miguel, he was born in a canoe, he didn't learn Spanish until he was 11, he launched his impressive academic credentials by convincing some tourists to sponsor him at a community college in the US, and now he is running for President of Peru. Miguel is a very charismatic guy...and what an interesting life story. If he wins, he would be the first indegenous person to hold the office. While I wish him well, given my role at Common Cause I can't endorse his candidacy but I am very intersted in working with him and others in Peru who are focused on developing the nonprofit advocacy sector and enhancing government accountability measures. Regardless if Manenima wins this round I think he is someone we will be hearing a lot more about.