CIFAL Atlanta’s international economic development programs that utilize the city’s private-public partnerships to train developing countries are exceeding expectations, said Marcel Boisard, assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and executive director of the United Nations’ Institute for Training and Research.

CIFAL Atlanta is one of UNITAR’s 11 international training centers and the only one in North America. The centers create programs that share best practices on international trade, debt financing, financial management, information technology and other economic and social development topics with developing nations or countries undergoing significant transition.

“We are very happy [with Atlanta] because we have good support from the universities, the local authorities and private industry,” Mr. Boisard told GlobalAtlanta in an interview at Emory University on June 24.

Mr. Boisard, who was appointed UNITAR’s executive director in 1992, selected Atlanta to be a CIFAL location “for obvious reasons,” he said, citing Atlanta’s global connectivity, its concentration of academic knowledge and its international corporate headquarters.

“In a short period of time, Axel Leblois [CIFAL Atlanta’s executive director] and his team have been flexible, efficient, have responded quickly to requests and have developed programs on international trade… that can surely be shared with others,” Mr. Boisard said.

By the end of this year, CIFAL Atlanta’s programs will have trained 1,500 people, half of whom are from overseas, said Mr. Leblois, who has led the organization’s efforts since October 2004.

“CIFAL programs allow companies to contribute to the international leadership of the region, Georgia and Atlanta,” he said. “Corporations can take leadership positions in the hemisphere by sharing best practices for solutions to urban problems. We have found extraordinary support from companies in all sectors, and their participation brings in new ways of thinking and good networking potential,” he said.

CIFAL Atlanta programs have included seminars on free trade, especially the pending Free Trade Area of the Americas, and a seminar on the management of airports, which used Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as a model for developing nations from throughout the hemisphere.

The final aim of UNITAR and CIFAL programs is to increase the skills of individuals so when they return to their respective countries after a training seminar, they can improve the institutional settings there that support positive social and economic development, Mr. Boisard said. In this respect, CIFAL Atlanta’s training programs appear to have been successful, he added, citing positive feedback from at least two Latin American countries that said they were rethinking their airport infrastructure plans based on the training they received in the Atlanta seminar.

CIFAL Atlanta’s programs have also appeared to be successful because of enthusiastic participation from the private sector, Mr. Boisard added.

“The private sector is interested [in CIFAL/UNITAR training programs] from a variety of angles. Companies see it as a good thing to do for the city, the community and the world,” Mr. Boisard said.

Upcoming CIFAL Atlanta programs are to include the role of ports in international trade, eliminating international urban debt, urban water use issues, mass transportation and regional high-speed trains, as well as the role of private industry in low-income housing and homelessness management, Mr. Leblois said.

CIFAL Atlanta hosted a program in April on the Caribbean common market, a seminar on how local authorities can contribute to economic development and a program on Latinos’ role in the Southeast’s economic development that was held in Athens, Ga. Wireless technology programs were held in Philadelphia, Shanghai and San Francisco in conjunction with other organizations in those cities.

Mr. Boisard was a keynote speaker for CIFAL Atlanta’s most recent event, AIDS: Americas Leadership Initiative for AIDS Competence program June 20-23 at Emory.

CIFAL Atlanta programs are focused on the Western Hemisphere and are sometimes done in cooperation with the CIFAL office in Curitiba, Brazil, Mr. Boisard explained. The 11 CIFAL cities were chosen because of specific strengths of each city. Curitiba, for example, is strong in waste management and urban planning, whereas Atlanta’s expertise lies in information technology, private/public partnerships and commercial diplomacy, he said.

Atlanta is different from the other CIFAL cities, however, because it has multiple areas of expertise to share, Mr. Boisard added. The city is also strong in international trade, medical research and public health management, and it houses international headquarters of companies and serves as a transportation and logistics hub as well, he said.

CIFAL Atlanta was established in September 2004 as a joint project between UNITAR and Atlanta. UNITAR, created in 1965, is an independent organization within the United Nations whose research and training programs are self-funded with the support of private industry sponsors. The CIFAL network was created in August 2004 to help UNITAR train local authorities to solve urban problems.

Visit to learn more about Mr. Boisard and UNITAR. Visit for more information about CIFAL Atlanta’s upcoming programs, the CIFAL global network and UNITAR activities. Contact Mr. Leblois at (404) 214-9442 or