Free enterprise may be a quintessentially American concept — but it’s not an exclusively American one. Across the globe, enterprising individuals have the liberty to pursue opportunities and rewards based on their own efforts and initiative, not on their backgrounds. Their achievements support the world’s leading and emerging economies. In other pockets of the world, however, exercising this kind of economic freedom isn’t always encouraged, enabled or, in some cases, even allowed.
For 30 years, the mission of the Center for International Private Enterprise has been to spread economic freedom in developing countries and parts of the world where market-based and democratic institutions haven’t been able to flourish.
CIPE, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was founded in 1983 on the principle that there is an intrinsic link between free enterprise and democracy. Individuals who have greater economic self-determination also wish to have strong voices in their governments. They have vested interests in the decisions made by political leaders and lawmakers.
Through programs focused on anti-corruption and advocacy to entrepreneurship and corporate governance, and in partnerships with business associations and think tanks, CIPE is putting important tools in the hands of individuals, businesses and communities.
It helps businesses better advocate for their own interests. Through support of more than 100 associations in Ghana, it has enabled farmers to strengthen their advocacy skills and begin to engage in dialogue with their local government officials. In Pakistan, CIPE worked to revise the Trade Organizations Ordinance in 2006 to allow women to independently form chambers of commerce. Today, there are eight women’s chambers officially registered in the country.
Anti-corruption has been another area of focus and progress. By working with the business community to reduce corruption in Russia, CIPE is improving the economic competitiveness of small firms and raising transparency in public governance institutions. In Yemen, it sponsored the documentary film Destructive Beast to illustrate corruption’s damage to the economic, political and social fabric of society. Yemeni government agencies are using the film to train officials on anti-corruption efforts.
By improving governance in towns across the Philippines, CIPE is fostering democracy on the local level and creating a more solid foundation for economic development and entrepreneurship. And through civics courses in Afghanistan, it is helping the next generation of Afghan students understand democracy, entrepreneurship and their benefits.
CIPE’s work over the past 30 years has not only brightened the lives of individuals who are realizing new opportunities — it’s been a stabilizing force in the world. And we’re all better off for it. Learn more at CIPE.org.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.