The Partners for Development summit meeting in Lyon, France in November 1998 brought together some 2,800 representatives of the private sector, NGOs, academic institutions and governments, from 170 countries, in an unprecedented effort to forge development-related projects.
18 partnership agreements were finalised between the UNCTAD Secretariat and private and public organisations. They covered the fields of international transport, investment promotion,electronic commerce, the promotion of SMEs and of entrepreneurship, the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development, and agricultural commodities.
Unlike most intergovernmental meetings, Partners for Development was not concerned with the negotiation by participants of an agreed text. Instead, UNCTAD offered itself as a platform, or else as a catalyst or match-maker, to bring together interested outside parties, around established aspects of the organization’s work.The noticeable buzz of bilateral activity, involving developing country officials and the estimated 400 private companies present – meeting with and without the presence of UNCTAD staff – was testimony to the apparent success of this approach.Senior executives of some of the world’s largest transnational companies, such as AXA, Royal Dutch/Shell, Unilever, Siemens, Cargill International, and KPMG, rubbed shoulders with representatives of small enterprises and indigenous peoples from developing countries.
Mr. Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, said that the Partners for Development meeting had demonstrated that the markets and the profit motive could be allied to the causes of development and poverty eradication.