For many years, official development assistance (ODA) to low and middle income countries seemed incompatible with private sector initiatives. ODA had its roots in charity while the private sector was looking for profits. ODA interests were on the side of recipients; the private sector’s interests were on the side of shareholders.
Aid recipients knew better and tried to make the best of both sides, but the lack of trust between ODA and private sector actors resulted in a lack of coherence. Eventually, a number of donors, including the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs (DGIS), understood the message and made public-private partnerships a top priority.
Precedents for cooperation between the public and private sectors in an ODA context did exist and provided the opportunity for the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs (DGIS) and the Ministry for Economic Affairs (EZ) to learn from these earlier experiences and identify bottlenecks and opportunities for fostering such partnerships.
The seminar Making public-private cooperation work for development – Lessons from private initiatives in health & development was held on 17 March 2004 at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam. The idea was to link those with experience to those involved in implementation.. The occasion was the awarding of the Helffer-Kootkar Prijs 2004 to the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO/OMGE).