Over 400 development professionals participated in the survey launched by Info-Cooperazione two weeks ago on the engagement of the private sector in development cooperation. The representative sample that responded to the four questions show a significant division: 58% of voters are opposed and 42% in favour. The debate on the role of profit in development cooperation, while open for several years, is now on the agenda both at national and international level. At European level a new publication of the Commission entitled “A stronger role for the private sector in inclusive and sustainable growth countries in the developing world” has been recently released.
34% of development practitioners claiming to be opposed emphasize their doubts on the possibility that enterprises can take advantage of grants and public funding. 24% instead show a complete opposition considering that the companies have divergent objectives with respect to the fight against poverty, their investment would only target profit and the exploitation of resources and cheap labor.
Even the majority of those who are in favor expresses a concern about the rules that will be put in place by the policy makers. 33% agree with the involvement of private sector, but believes that companies should be assigned specific roles and rules, even in the use of any funding.
Only 9% said they were completely in favor and would like that companies and corporations can be in all respects actors of development cooperation and take advantage of any grant and public funding.
The Italian government has recently decided to put this issue on the top of the development agenda of the Semester of Presidency of the EU. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has indeed marked his calendar of initiatives from July to December 2014 on the private sector in development.
The most significant event will be held as early as next July 15 in Florence. On that date the informal meeting of European Ministers of Economic Development will be held at the Palazzo Vecchio. The deputy minister Pistelli and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are organizing for the evening a “back to back” event on the issue open for discussion with all stakeholders. The meeting will be held in the evening of the 15th.
For NGOs and European civil society this is an important opportunity to represent the different positions, expectations and problems that arises on the development agenda. Within the NGO’s national and international networks no relevant internal debate has been started and in fact the few position taken in recent months are quite soft and generic. The EU acceleration and the interest that institutions are putting on this dynamic should call for a specific mobilization about the issue.
At the open event in Florence few representatives of European civil society have been invited to take the floor (Concord Europe, Eurodad and Transparency International).