The fifth World Chambers Congress, held July 4 to 6, drew more than 1,600 delegates to Istanbul, Turkey for three days of discussion, insight, business development and networking by chamber of commerce executives, other business representatives and top public figures from around the world.
The record turnout included a large number of Americans – the highest ever for this event – who together made up the largest national delegation after the host country. Over all, delegates from 116 countries took part.
Held under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce and its World Chambers Federation, the biennial congresses have established itself as essential dates on the calendars of chamber executives across the globe. By the time Rona Yircali, the Turkish chair of ICC’s World Chambers Federation Chair, brought the Istanbul congress to a close, chambers were lining up bids for future congresses well into the next decade. The sixth World Chambers Congress will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2009.
Next June, bids will be entered for 2011, when the event will return to the Western Hemisphere. (Quebec City hosted the 2003 congress.) Mexico City has announced its candidacy, and the United States is also considering a bid.
“I think everyone will agree that the 5th World Chamber Congress has set the benchmark for all future congress gatherings,” said longtime supporter Robert Recker, executive vice president with the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce and vice chair of the World Chambers Federation. “I was especially pleased with the high number of U.S. participants.” Mr. Recker also serves as vice chair of USCIB’s Chamber of Commerce Committee.
First-time congress-goers also came away impressed.
“I not only had the opportunity to meet a great number of interesting people, I made contacts that will be advantageous for future international missions,” said Winthrop M. Hallett III, president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. “I was impressed by our U.S. delegation, and I hope we will be able to grow that number in years to come.”
Other American delegates included senior representatives of chambers in Pennsylvania, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Orlando, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Chamber of Commerce Executives, the national professional association.
As ICC’s American national committee, USCIB coordinated the delegation and organized several side-events, including participation at a Fourth of July Party hosted by U.S. Consul General Deborah Jones.
“Our memories of the event and this city will stay with us for many years to come,” ICC Chairman Marcus Wallenberg told delegates assembled at the congress closing. “But, more importantly, the partnerships and connections made here will also continue long into the future. This is what the congress is all about: building the links that ultimately facilitate trade among nations.”
Mr. Wallenberg hailed a declaration that appealed urgently to governments to press harder for a global trade accord in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of trade negotiations. The statement was endorsed by all the delegates attending the congress.
“We are counting on you to redouble your efforts when you return home, to convince your government leaders to act swiftly to finalize an agreement in the Doha Round,” said Mr. Wallenberg, who is also chairman of the Swedish banking group SEB.
Other highlights from the three-day congress included:
An opening address by Turkish Prime Minister Reycep Tayyip Erdogan.
- An address by Mohammed Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank, on microcredit and reducing world poverty.
- An address by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
- Five plenary sessions on threats to multilateralism, managing global risks, supporting SME development, securing the future of energy and chambers and migration.
- More than 20 workshops covered a wide range of topics, including customer service, chamber branding, leadership versus management, intellectual property, IT and e-business for chambers, and empowering businesswomen.
- A Bosphorus cruise and banquet at the Ciragan Palace, as well as a dinner at the Rahmi Koc Museum.
- The 2007 World Chambers Competition for the most innovative projects from chambers of commerce (see below).
This year’s congress was hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Chambers Federation, and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey.
Staff contact: Jonathan Huneke
Chamber Competition Winners
Winners of the 2007 World Chambers Competition were unveiled at a gala dinner in Istanbul at the end of the 5th World Chambers Congress. Avijit Mazumdar, honorary chairman of ICC’s World Chambers Federation and head of the competition jury, announced the victors:
- Best Unconventional Project for a Small Business: Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka, which, following the 2004 tsunami, set up ten regional help desks to assist businesses in getting back on their feet. To date, more than 11,000 businesses have been restored.
- Best International Cooperation Between Chambers: Confederation of Brazilian Commercial and Business Associations, together with Essen Chamber of Arts and Crafts in Germany, which implemented a program northeastern Brazil that successfully changed the perception of chambers from social clubs to key parts of the business community.
- Best Skills Development Program: The Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bangladesh, which launched a training center with human resource development programs to help SMEs face the challenges of globalization.
- Best New Membership Recruitment Project: Vancouver Board of Trade, which leveraged its potential as the region’s best venue for networking, including publishing a book on the subject, and boosted membership by 30 percent.
- Best Project for a Chamber in a Developing Country: Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in the Caribbean, and Chamber of Economy of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, shared this new award recognizing outstanding achievement by chambers operating in a challenging business environment.
This year’s contest was the most diverse and most competitive in the history of the awards, drawing a record number of 55 entries from 38 countries.