From August 3 to 6, 2005, fifty preeminent international leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors came together at the Aspen Institute for a roundtable, “The Private Sector in the Fight against Global Poverty.”
The roundtable was hosted by Richard C. Blum of Blum Capital Partners and Strobe Talbott and Lael Brainard of the Brookings Institution, with the active support of honorary cochairs Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute and Mary Robinson of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative. By highlighting the power of the market to help achieve social and economic progress in the world’s poorest nations, the roundtable’s organizers hoped to galvanize the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to move beyond argument and analysis to action. Put simply, as Brookings president Strobe Talbott explained, the roundtable’s work was “brainstorming with a purpose.”
With experts hailing from around the world and representing diverse sectors and approaches, the dialogue was as multilayered as the challenge of poverty itself. Rather than summarize the conference proceedings, this essay weaves together the thoughtful observations, fresh insights, and innovative ideas that characterized the discussion. A companion volume, Transforming the Development Landscape: The Role of the Private Sector, contains papers by conference participants, providing in-depth analysis of each conference topic.
While the public agenda for global poverty alleviation has generally focused on boosting official aid assistance and canceling debt, the role of the private sector is also critical to economic development efforts. In 2005, the Brookings Blum Roundtable centered on the private sector’s role in global development, noting opportunities for further synergy, collaboration and impact, as well as challenges.