Shakira speaks out

Shakira is the rising star of celebrity philanthrocapitalism. The Colombian pop star, who started her foundation at the age of 18 to help child refugees created by the country’s internal conflict, is currently in El Salvador, urging the presidents of 22 Latin American countries to develop a comprehensive plan of action to boost early childhood development across the continent.

In a press conference with Jeff Sachs, who we describe in the book as the world’s first “celebrity economist”, Shakira committed ALAS (“wings”), a new foundation founded by several Latin American artists, to monitoring the implementation of these plans, which she expects to be in place within a year, to achieve the goal of “the institutionalisation of space that defends the rights of children.”

Shakira goes about her philanthropy in a serious, professional way that could not be more different from the popular stereotype of celebrity philanthropy. As Sachs pointed out, the ALAS agenda for early childhood development is “moving forward with unique speed”. Shakira has “raised this to the top of the agenda very quickly and appropriately”, as she first obtained commitment in principle from Latin American leaders and then repeatedly challenged them to act upon it.

The global economic crisis has only added to the urgency of this campaign, she says, promising to raise a red flag to alert Latin America’s governments to the crisis and get them to “put plans in place to protect children in poverty from dying of hunger.”

In May, ALAS held an event in Mexico City at which over $200m was pledged to the cause by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and Howard Buffett, who runs a large foundation endowed by his father, Warren Buffett. She and her colleagues in ALAS clearly mean business.

Matthew wrote an article about the event, and how it demonstrated Shakira’s serious approach to effective philanthropy. Unfortunately, in the editing, what was intended as a light-hearted comment expressing Matthew’s amusement that he, Howard Buffett and his son, a lady from the Catholic Relief Society, and Shakira’s talented philanthropy advisor, Trevor Neilson of Global Philanthropy Group, made an unlikely bunch of “groupies” mutated into an unfunny and inaccurate reference to “hangers on”. Sincere apologies to all concerned. The article is here.