Civil society says 'no' to moves to weaken UNCTAD's mandate

Civil society organisations added their voice to the opposition against the attempts to curtail UNCTAD's work.

CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) attending the Civil Society Forum of UNCTAD XIII expressed their concern over attempts by the developed countries to weaken UNCTAD's broad mandate and hobble its secretariat's ability to provide analytical and advisory work on finance and related issues.

The UNCTAD XIII Civil Society Forum opened on 17 April in Doha against the background of worrying developments within the official negotiating process arising from threats to UNCTAD's mandate from major powers and their opposition to the discussion and consideration of key issues of interest to developing countries.

In a press release issued in Doha, the CSOs said that UNCTAD was established to offer analysis and advice to countries on development issues related to trade, finance, technology and interrelated issues. UNCTAD XII in Accra had produced agreement on a broad mandate for the organisation.

'The importance of UNCTAD's work has been highlighted by the global financial and economic crisis and its continuing catastrophic effects on peoples and economies. Over the years while the Bretton Woods twins [i.e., the IMF and World Bank] led the cheerleading for unbridled liberalisation and deregulation of markets and finances which produced the crisis, UNCTAD's analysis has consistently pointed out the dangers of these policies. The economic turmoil provoked by the crisis makes UNCTAD's mandate and work even more relevant.'

The CSOs in Doha were concerned that the JUSSCKANZ group of countries (Japan, the United States, Switzerland, Canada, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand) and the EU were so opposed to UNCTAD's vital analytical and advisory work on finance and responses to the crisis that they were refusing to even reaffirm UNCTAD's mandate as agreed in Accra.

The CSOs called for a reaffirmation of the Accra Accord by UNCTAD XIII. They demanded that UNCTAD's crucial research and analytical work, especially on the global financial crisis and other development challenges including those arising from globalisation, be maintained.

'UNCTAD,' the CSO press release said, 'serves as an important countervailing forum where the interests of developing countries can be paramount when trade, development and interrelated issues are being discussed. This value and its proven track record is why the attack on UNCTAD's mandate has to be resisted.'

The JUSSCKANZ and the EU attack on UNCTAD's mandate is directly linked to their refusal to acknowledge the historical fact that the global financial and economic crisis originated from the global North as a result of policies advanced by a narrow section of the elite in those countries.

'The crisis has caused and continues to cause extensive suffering in developing and developed countries, pushing countries such as Greece to the brink of collapse and threatening the very survival of the euro bloc,' the press release said.

The CSOs expressed their 'unequivocal opposition to the attempt by JUSSCKANZ and the EU to destroy a vital institution of global governance'.

The Group of 77 and China had shown renewed solidarity and strength in opposing the developed-country demands in the negotiations.

And in a recent statement, more than 50 eminent former UNCTAD staffers (including a former Secretary-General) noted that developed countries had decided that 'if you cannot kill the message, at least kill the messenger' (i.e., UNCTAD)!

The CSOs contrasted the interest the major powers have shown in strengthening the IMF and World Bank (and in using bodies of questionable accountability such as the G20 to block truly multilateral responses to the crisis of neoliberalism) with their negative attitude to UNCTAD.

They noted that the IMF and World Bank continue to peddle policies which caused and have been discredited by the crisis.

In the view of the CSOs, 'it is the policies that engendered the ongoing crisis and widespread human suffering that need to be urgently changed and not organisations such as UNCTAD that have been working towards alternatives.' - TWN        


This article is reproduced from the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS, No. 7353, 19 April 2012), which is published by the Third World Network.

*Third World Resurgence No. 260, April 2012, p 23