From Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker called on similar collaboration efforts to those under the Marshall Plan in post-World War II Europe.
Baker said with billions of dollars continuing to be spent in Afghanistan and its citizens losing trust in the government, more Afghans need to be engaged.
"This is an example that repeats itself over and over again. We need not to impose what we believe or others believe from the outside is important," Kassebaum Baker said Wednesday evening at Kansas University's Adams Alumni Center. Instead, the focus should be on what the country is engaged and committed to doing.
"If there isn't that commitment, then it does begin to fall apart," she said.
Kassebaum Baker's speech kicked off the next two days of the conference that looks at what role businesses can play in helping failed countries recover. The conference is the first of its kind for KU's Center for International Business Education and Research.
Coming from five continents, about 200 people are expected to attend the conference.
Melissa Birch, director of the center, said the intent is to have a conference that would focus on how in the face of terrorism businesses could harness the power of entrepreneurial and market forces to help solve the problem.
"Policy makers don't seem to be getting it done, and this seems to be the missing link," Birch said.
During her almost two decades in the senate, Kassebaum Baker served on the Foreign Relations and Budget Committees and a subcommittee on Africa. She is currently a board member of an international group that identifies problems in troubled countries before they become a full-blown crisis.
On Wednesday, Kassebaum Baker drew on examples in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Congo to illustrate her point that more collaboration is needed.
She said that in Iraq there were missed opportunities, such as not getting electricity in sooner.
As in Afghanistan, a plan was not in place immediately after the turmoil in Congo. High hopes were raised and not met, leaving a vacuum.
"Yes, the business community does have an important role to play," Kassebaum Baker said. "It's speaking out on the importance of better communication, a stable institution, the end of corruption in a post conflict world."