To this day, ICPE remains the sole intergovernmental organization headquartered in Slovenia. Over 45 years ago, on 24 April 1974, ICPE was established as the International Center for Public Enterprises in Developing Countries by the Government of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, following the initiative of the United Nations (UN) and with the support of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Today, ICPE’s role and potentials are being timely rediscovered. ICPE now acts as a hub which brings together the knowledge from the diverse corners of the world and is at the same time an open network which can provide meaningful support to the internationalization of national economies.

24 April 1974

It was the time of rapid changes in the world, a time of decolonization and a vision of economic progress. In 1961, the Non-Aligned Movement was formally launched in Belgrade (Yugoslavia) as an alternative to the existing networks of the super-powers. It was a time of enthusiasm, emerging new states in the wake of decolonization and an orientation towards the “New International Economic Order” which strived to reach fair and economically balanced relations between the “developed” and the “developing” worlds. Strong and efficient public enterprises proved to be one of the key pillars of good governance and building of the economies in the relatively fragile and weak countries of the global “South”. ICPE,  then the International Center for Public Enterprises in Developing Countries, grew on these ideas. In March 1976, 30 countries and 9 observers participated in an international conference in Ljubljana where it was decided that ICPE would transform into an intergovernmental organization of its member states.


From the very first years, ICPE's story was one that promised success. Its initial programs, seminars and trainings had a high participation rate. Already in 1974, representatives of 32 countries were present at the seminar on Planning in public enterprises, urging ICPE to become an intergovernmental organization. There was an obvious need for knowledge sharing among the developing countries, in the field of public enterprises in particular.

1974: “Planning in Public Enterprises”

1975: “Education in Public Enterprises”

1975: “Financing and Management in Public Enterprises”

1976: “Self-management and Participation of Workers in Public Enterprises«(comparatively in 14 countries)

1977: “The Role of Public Sector in Developing Countries”

1977: “Women as a Factor of Development in Public Enterprises” (comparatively in 12 countries)

1978: “Management of Development and Transfer of Technologies”


ICPE has been publishing the quarterly journal Public Enterprise for over 30 years. Research results, conference proceedings and thematic issues were regularly printed and distributed among the member states, international organizations and wider. ICPE has produced over 50 other publications, several of them in cooperation with other organizations, e.g. International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the World Bank.

In fact, the publishing activities were recognized as so important by the member states and the public enterprises, which made most use of them in an applied manner, that a special division within ICPE was focusing on ICPE's deliverables and dissemination of research and project results. Furthermore, the member states urged ICPE to translate its findings and for a period of time, the Public Enterprise was published in all four official languages of ICPE at the time (Arabic, English, French, and Spanish).


Strong cooperation with other international organizations helped ICPE to maintain the high level of expertise, gain additional trust from its member states and widen the scope of its influence.

Especially during the first 10 years, considerable support was provided to ICPE by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). In 1982, ICPE received the status of UNDP executive agency.

In 1978, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between ICPE and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO),  and cooperation thrived throughout the 1980s (trainings, seminars, workshops).

ICPE established strong links with other agencies, inter alia with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), International Trade Center (ITC), jointly organizing a high-profile conference on State Trading Organizations in 1982, which led to the establishment of  the International Association of State Trading Organizations of Developing Countries (ASTRO).

Continuously, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) extended its support to the work of ICPE, mentioning it explicitly in the NAM Summits and encouraging the NAM members to join ICPE.


Most of the projects from the initial period of operation were continuedor even expanded. The number of funding sources also increased in the early 1980s. Until then, the operation of the Center was mostly financed by the Government of SFR Yugoslavia and the Government of the SR Slovenia with the support of UNDP. After 1980, in addition to membership fees, funds were still available from UNDP and UNIDO, while additional grants were received from supporting countries such as the Netherlands, Canada and Sweden.

The OPTIMA Program was launched in 1981 as a series of activities for improvement of public enterprises and was delivered in 14 countries in Africa, Asia and South America. OPTIMA was the ICPE’s flagship program in the 1980s.

Public Enterprise Management and Development Planning programs (6—18 months duration) were conducted by ICPE in the framework of the Nationhood Program of the UN Council for Namibia, and between 1980 and 1984 over 200 Namibian students attended training at ICPE.

Since 1986, a series of seminars was organized in cooperation with the Economic Development Institute (EDI) of the World Bank(now World Bank Institute).

In 1990, ICPE ran a UNDP management development program for high representatives of Mongolia.

1989/90 ICPE MBA

During the academic year 1989—1990, the ICPE MBA program was launched in partnership with the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana (FELU). In the 21 years that followed, more than 650 candidates from 45 countries attended the program. It was the first international program of this kind in the wider region of South-Eastern Europe and succeeded in bringing together promising cadres from Asia, Africa and Latin America, many of whom later took important posts within their own countries or in international organizations. In 2010 the existing MBA program was discontinued and a new, Green Industry MBA programme in cooperation with the Jozef Stefan International Postgraduate School was conducted in the academic year 2010/11. In the academic year 2013/14 the ICPE-FELU MBA program was re-established and was executed in the 2014/15 academic year also. In view of lack of response from countries other than India, the ICPE Council decided that programme is unsustainable and was discontinued. It was decided to launch another MBA programme in partnership with FELU and Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Hyderabad in 2015. The programme has since been postponed by ASCI and is scheduled to begin in September 2016.


ICPE would not be what it was in the past and what it might be tomorrow, if it were not for ICPE's people.

For over a decade, ICPE was run by Executive Director, Mr. Žiga Vodušek, while Mr. Anton Vratuša, PhD,  the then Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council of Yugoslavia, was one of the key initiators for the establishment of the Centre; he was first the Program Director and then the President of the ICPE Council between 1974 and 1982, while he remained the Honorary President of the Council until he passed away on 30 July 2017.

Many important statesmen from other member states occupied key positions within the Center, especially representatives of the Government of India, who ran ICPE from either of the two main posts for many years (Mr. V.K. Dar, Mr. C.K. Modi, Mr. C. Subramaniam and Mr. G. Parthasarathy).


Although it was already in the 1980s that the financial support from the UN agencies was ceasing and the membership decreasing, it wasnot until the 1990s, that ICPE had to dramatically adapt its programs. If officially ICPE still had 40 member states by the end of the 1980s, their membership was more or less pro forma in the 1990s when many of these countries were facing political and economic challenges.

After the break-up of Yugoslavia, the newly independent Republic of Slovenia took over the responsibilities and became ICPE’s host country in 1992.

ICPE has continued some projects in the fields of human resources development, SMEs management, and franchising. Still, several programs ran in cooperation with other international organizations (e.g. UNIDO).

The ICPE– FELU MBA program ran throughout the 1990s, though, continuing to attract students from four continents. 

21st Century

By the end of the first decade of the new century, important new steps were made in the direction of reviving the Center’s activities, and responding to the actual needs of its current member states.


ICPE organized several high-end events, e.g. the Symposium on Future Challenges of Public Enterprises (2010), and a High-Level Meeting of the State Ownership Authorities (2011), which managed to attract speakers from 26 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. ICPE also strengthened its long-term efforts focused to the principle of sustainable development (e.g. research and educational work on the project of Integrated Coastal Management, 1990s) with an International Conference on Integrated Environmental Management of the Adriatic/Mediterranean Black Sea Coastal Areas and the Danube/Sava River Basins in 2010 and a conference on Management of Protected Nature Areas (2011).


In 2012 ICPE has become a member of Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) of the International Telecommunication Union.


In the period of 2009-2014 ICPE organized three international conferences on Economic Diplomacy and Internationalization, held twice in Ljubljana, Slovenia and once in Sarajevo, BiH which in total brought together over 300 participants from more than 80 countries.


Since 2012, ICPE has been taking part in co-organizing the International Conference Africa Day in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Club of Former Slovenian Ambassadors, International African Forum and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia. The annual two-day event has initially been hosted at the ICPE headquarters but has since moved to a larger venue.


To commemorate 40th anniversary of ICPE the Center organized an international conference: “Corporate Social Responsibility: The good outweighing the costs” in partnership with FELU and Department of Public Enterprises, Ministry of Heavy Industry and Public Enterprises, India.


During the second decade of 21st Century, ICPE conducted in total 51 short term training and educational programmes for approximately 600 public officials of its Member States and other professionals in developing countries. 

International Center for Promotion of Enterprises - ICPE
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