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NEW APPROACH TO TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE FOR LDCS

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 7 July 2000 -- Six core agencies of the Integrated Framework (IF) for trade-related technical assistance to the least developed countries (LDCs) have agreed on new arrangements to ensure that trade policy, trade-related technical assistance and capacity-building are articulated in a broad development context, the World Trade Organization has announced in a press release.

The IF is an outcome of the Plan of Action for LDCs agreed upon in December 1996 at the first Minsiterial Conference of the WTO at Singapore. Since then, it has been a general complaint of LDCs and other competent observers that very little in fact has been done, but things have become worse as a result of the structural adjustment and trade liberalisation plans under them. A large number of their own domestic enterprises have had to close down, and the LDCs have not been able to benefit from market access provided to them.

Whether the new approach will bring any benefits will be judged by what happens on the ground.

The six agencies—the International Trade Centre, the IMF, UNCTAD, UNDP, World Bank and the WTO—met in New York on 6 July to discuss better ways of delivering trade-related technical assistance to the 46 UN-designated LDCs. The WTO Director-General Mike Moore chaired the meeting. Their deliberations were based on an independent review of the IF that had been commissioned to examine ways of improving the 3-year old cooperative inter-agency effort to help these countries.

The WTO press release said that as a result of the new arrangements, trade-related technical assistance would be assessed alongside a country’s other priorities and supported by the government concerned and the donor community.

A steering committee is to be established to oversee on a continuing basis the functioning of the IF. The earlier arrangements of the six agency heads playing an oversight role would be broadened by including the LDCs and donors—and ensure greater transparency, accountability and ownership.

Donor support is to be sought to voluntary contributions to an IF trust fund, to involve some $20 million over three years, devoted primarily to helping LDCs to develop necessary analytical and policy framework for ‘mainstreaming’ trade into national development strategies, and develop programs and projects. The fund can also be used for other activities relating to training and capacity building.

The press release does not say what this new jargon, ‘mainstreaming’ means.

Each agency is to focus on what it does best. The World Bank is to lead and coordinate the ‘mainstreaming’ process. The UNDP is to manage the trust fund. The WTO is to act in a coordinating and secretariat role for the working level inter-agency working group for the IF, with each of the agencies focusing in their areas of expertise in delivery of trade-related technical assistance. The ITC is to focus on support for trade services, including enterprise development. UNCTAD’s work is to involve capacity building and training, including for participation in trade negotiations.-SUNS4704

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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