The very oldest national federations of Catholic employers were those formed in :
• The Netherlands, 1915
• Belgium, 1921
• France, 1926
Several of the leaders of these national federations have played a role in the Catholic Church's Social Doctrine, such as Léon Harmel who led his family's textile firm in the North of France (Val des Bois). He influenced Leo XIII in the encyclical Rerum Novarum.
Since 1926 some mutual contacts and invitations to each other's meetings were undertaken among these national associations.
In 1931 an International Comité d'Initiative was set up to have Catholic employers as a group be represented at the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum in Rome.
To continue international contacts the decision was taken on that occasion in Rome to organise further 'Conférences Internationales des Associations Patronales Catholiques' on a regular basis.
This was the first step of creation of UNIAPAC : 1931 - Foundation of UNIAPAC in Rome with the name of "International Conferences of Catholic Employers" by already existing associations of Catholic Entrepreneurs from France, Belgium and The Netherlands and observers/delegates from Italy, Germany and Czechoslovakia.
These regular Conferences of this nature were held in :
• The Hague 1932 : On cooperation of capital and labour
• Paris 1933 : Just salaries and money
• Brussels 1935 : Activities of national associations
• Paris 1936 : An examination of a general action programme
• The Hague 1937 : Social service within the enterprise
• Antwerp 1938 : Social insurance in the professions.
Secretarial needs for those beginning international contacts in the 1930's were supplied first by some of the national associations.
After the war, more national associations came into existence, like in Switzerland (VCU) and in Germany (BKU) and in Italy, where Giuseppe Mosca in 1949 took a leading role in the formation of UCID and UNIAPAC as an international federation. Later on other associations were formed in Europe and Latin America.
In 1946, A.H.M. Albregst became General Secretary. He prepared the final establishment of UNIAPAC as an organisation "Union Internationale des Associations Patronales Catholiques". After serving as Netherlands Economic Minister for a few years, he came back as General Secretary on a part-time basis.
A second important step was made with the beginning of the successful implementation of UNIAPAC in Latin-America, starting in 1948 in Chile first : 1948 - First Latin American association (USEC - Chile)
The following year, the final and still current acronym is adopted : 1949 - The 'International Conferences' change their denomination in 'International Union of Catholic Employer's Associations', in French 'Union Internationale des Associations Patronales Catholiques', with the initials UNIAPAC.
This was the start of a fruitful period of expansion for UNIAPAC and, because the international contacts grew in importance and load, in 1958 the post of General Secretary was made full-time, with a fixed office in Brussels : 1958 - Installation in Brussels of UNIAPAC's permanent international secretariat, under the international Presidency of Giuseppe Mosca (Italy), with the backing of Léon Bekaert (Belgium) and Peter H. Werhahn (Germany).
From this time, after a first successful edition in 1957 in Montréal of a World Congress about “the Christian Business Executive” (following the previous “International Conferences…”), UNIAPAC begins to organize every three to five years, regular World Congresses (the list of wich you will find hereafter).
UNIAPAC was then recognized by such international organizations as FAO, Rome; Council of Europe, Strasbourg; International Labour Organization in Geneva, the European Community, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Geneva; UNESCO , Paris, etc and joined the committees of Catholic International Organizations…
The Holy See took as well great interest in UNIAPAC and appointed in 1957 Cardinal Siri as a spiritual guide, and Father Georges Dubois, S.J. as first chaplain (nowadays UNIAPAC has two spiritual advisers : R.F. Rafael Braun (Argentina) for Latin-America, R. F. Edouard Herr, S.J (Luxembourg) for Europe and International).
But some years after, with the double purpose to facilitate its implementation and to show unity among Christian Business Executives, UNIAPAC becomes a Christian, and not solely Catholic Organization : 1962 - UNIAPAC becomes an ecumenical association under the new denomination "International Christian Union of Business Executives", conserving its initials.
This will allow UNIAPAC to enter into a fruitful dialogue with the Christian Churches…
For example, in 1968 - Rotterdam – Netherlands : Uniapac takes part in a Joint Conference UNIAPAC - World Council Churches (WCC) on the theme of 'International Economic Development'.
And in 1975 : UNIAPAC launches the "Churches-Transnational Corporations" Dialogue in Europe. The origin of these Dialogues is to be found in the development of a consciousness, on the part of business and the Churches, of the role of business in society.
In 1991 UNIAPAC commemorates in Rome the centenary of "Rerum Novarum" - the first social Encyclical (1891) - and presents to His Holiness John-Paul II on March 9, 1991, the book "The Churches facing the enterprise - A Hundred Years of Social Thinking".
In 2004 , on 5 th and 6 th March, in Rome, UNIAPAC co-organized with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace an International Conference about : “The Business Executive : Social Responsibility and Globalisation” - download here the published report.
For the coming years, given the great issue of combating Poverty by decent development and of giving back the necessary place to the persons within the Economy, UNIAPAC decided to focus its work and reflection on the Social Responsibility of the Christian Entrepreneur (which includes a Special Attention to the Poor ) and on the pedagogy of Entrepreneurship as a tool for the development and dignity of the human being. This has been the axis of the recent XXIInd World Congress of UNIAPAC: "Empowering Business Leaders to serve Mankind in the Modern World - How to improve a responsible leadership as Christian executives in a complex global world?".
It will go on with the coming XXIIIrd World Congress of UNIAPAC which will be held in Mexico in 2009 on "Christian Corporate Social Responsibility".
Successive Presidents of UNIAPAC in the new set-up have been :
Giuseppe Mosca (Italy), 1956-1959
Peter H. Werhahn (Germany), 1960-1964
Léon de Rosen (France), 1965-1968
Reinier A.H.M. Dobbelmann (The Netherlands), 1969-1972
Romuald Burkard (Switzerland), 1973-1976
Carlos E. Dietl (Argentina), 1977-1981
Antoine Bekaert (Belgium), 1981-1985
Philippe de Weck (Switzerland), 1986-1987
Ernst van den Biggelaar (The Netherlands), 1988-1990
Michel Albert (France), 1990-1993
Guy de Wouters (Belgium), 1994-1996
Domingo Sugranyes (Spain), 1997-2000
H. Onno Ruding (The Netherlands) 2000-2003
Etienne Wibaux (France) 2003-2006
José Ignacio Mariscal (Mexico) 2006-2009
Pierre Lecocq (France)
Successive full-time General Secretaries :
Rik Vermeire (Belgium), 1958-1964
Thom Kerstiëns (The Netherlands), 1965-1972
Jacques Detours (France), 1973
Domingo Sugranyes (Spain), 1974-1981
Lubomiro A. Chomyszyn (Argentina), 1982-1983
Josef M. Mertes (Germany), 1984-1999
Benoît Meessen (Belgium), 1999-2002
Benoît Bonamy (France), 2002-2007
Laurent Mortreuil (France), 2007-2009