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History

Established in 1999, the Business-Humanitarian Forum has worked to bridge the gap of understanding and promote cooperation between humanitarian organizations and private business, encouraging both sectors to work together to solve complex development problems. During its first fifteen years of activity, the BHF participated directly in private sector development projects in poor countries, bringing together entrepreneurs from least developed countries with potential supporters and assisting with dialogue and training.  By doing this work, the BHF built awareness that business has strong, long-term interests in supporting the work of the humanitarian community by demonstrating that both the private and public sectors have common interests in the stabilization of developing and post-conflict societies.
 
The BHF has used the synergy of public-private cooperation to build sustainable economic enterprises in post-conflict and developing areas.  In this regard, the BHF built upon the business sector's corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to motivate and energize such projects.
 
When the BHF began its work in 1999, the concept of working with the private sector to enhance economic development in cooperation with public sector organizations was a new idea. There was much misunderstanding between the two sectors, with the consequent result that the resources of the private sector were not able to be appropriately used to alleviate humanitarian problems and create economic development. Public organizations and civil society in general simply had no idea of how to work with the private sector, whereas the latter remained deeply suspicious of the public sector and what was perceived to be its anti-business attitudes.
 
The BHF persistently worked to promote better understanding between the two sectors in the interest of showing how cooperation could result in both sectors achieving their goals. An extensive series of forums, meetings, conferences and workshops was specifically designed to spread this message. The BHF also engaged in practical applications of its philosophy and mandate, building specific concrete projects on the ground in post-conflict areas such as Afghanistan, the Balkans and southern Africa that demonstrate the benefits of public-private sector cooperation. These projects represent concrete expressions of cooperation between public and private organizations to reconstruct the economies of war-torn countries in a practical way, providing sustainable employment and locally-owned production facilities for these societies.
 
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan explicitly recognized the importance of the Business-Humanitarian Forum's objectives, stating to the Forum's first meeting in 1999 that the "business community has a crucial role to play" in humanitarian work since "expanding markets and human security and well-being go hand in hand." (For the full text of the Secretary General's remarks, click here.)

In 2014, the BHF revised its operating procedures and reorganized itself to concentrate on providing consultative services, including advocacy and research on special issues, to organizations operating in the private and public sectors.  With a streamlined organization and a leaner structure, the BHF has now repositioned itself to react rapidly to requests for assistance and advice as a more effective way to improve cooperation between the public and private sectors and to enhance prospects for economic development, especially in post-conflict areas. The BHF made this decision in light of evidence that its initial mission had already been successfully achieved, and that a better use of its resources would now be to advance its objectives by assisting other organizations to achieve theirs.

 
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Email:  bhinfo@bhforum.org