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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr06/12)

20 April 2006


African Ministers warn against erosion of UNCTAD's mandate


African Trade Ministers have expressed their serious concern that some developed countries are making use of the process of reform of the United Nations to target UNCTAD to erode its mandate or even its institutional existence.

At the Conference of AU Trade Ministers on 12-14 April, the threat to UNCTAD was extensively discussed and the issue was included in both of the Ministerial Declarations adopted by the conference.

Below is a report on the issue.


With best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN

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African Ministers warn against erosion of UNCTAD's mandate

By Martin Khor, Nairobi, 17 April 2006


African Trade Ministers have expressed their serious concern that some developed countries are making use of the process of reform of the United Nations to target the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in order to erode its mandate or even its institutional existence.

At the fourth session of the African Union's Conference of Trade Ministers, held in Nairobi on 12-14 April, the threat to UNCTAD was extensively discussed at the Ministerial segment as well as at the meeting of senior officials.

A section on UNCTAD and the UN reform was included in both of the Ministerial Declarations adopted by the conference.

"We know that UNCTAD has come under pressure, and we need a vote of confidence on UNCTAD, and to send it a signal of solidarity," said the Kenyan Trade and Industry Minister, Mukhisa Kituyi, chairman of the Conference, during the debate on the Ministerial Declarations.

The paragraphs on UNCTAD had been proposed by the Zimbabwean delegation, which said that it had come to the attention of developing country Missions that the UN reform process taking place in New York could threaten the mandate or even the institutional survival of UNCTAD.

Its proposal to include a paragraph indicating concern and asking for strengthening the role of UNCTAD was supported by many other delegations, including Zambia, Lesotho, and Ghana.

The head of the delegation of Ghana, which will host the 12th session of UNCTAD, said that "we cannot afford the UN reform to diminish the role and mandate of UNCTAD. We should do all we can to ensure that UNCTAD's role does not dwindle but is allowed to grow."

The Ministers adopted a Nairobi Declaration on the Economic Partnership Agreements, whose paragraph 16 states: "In view of the cross cutting nature of UNCTAD's programmes and activities for capacity building, we are concerned with recent proposals by some developed countries to erode the mandate or even the institutional continuance of UNCTAD in the context of the UN reform process.

"We reaffirm that the UN reform process should not result in an erosion or diminution of the mandate or activities of UNCTAD. Instead, the reform process should enhance the role and activities of UNCTAD as the focal point in the UN system for the integrated treatment of trade and development and related issues. UNCTAD should continue its assistance to African countries regarding trade negotiations and development policies."

A similar section on UNCTAD was adopted in the separate Nairobi Ministerial Declaration on the Doha Work Programme. Paragraph 19 of this declaration states that the Ministers recognise the role and comparative advantage of UNCTAD in matters of assistance to African countries in their capacity building efforts and that they are concerned by recent proposals from some developed countries to reduce its mandate and also put in jeopardy the institutional continuity of UNCTAD with regard to the reform of the United Nations system.

The Declaration added that the process of reform should strengthen the role and activities of UNCTAD as the focal point within the UN system for the integrated treatment of trade, development and related issues. UNCTAD ought to continue its assistance to African countries with regard to trade negotiations and development policies.

These Ministerial declarations of support are being issued at a period when UNCTAD and many other UN agencies come under increasing pressures as the process of UN reform intensifies at the UN headquarters in New York.

Several developed countries are using their role as donors in an attempt to restructure the UN system's development activities and institutions, under the mandate given by the outcome of the World Summit held in September 2005.

A panel on UN system coherence set up by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is examining the roles of all UN organisations involved in development, humanitarian assistance and the environment, with a view to restructuring the organisations and their activities.

Several developed countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom, are proposing that many of the development agencies

(including UNCTAD, UNIDO and UNIFEM) be restructured or merged with other agencies.

In some versions of the proposals, UNCTAD would be merged into the WTO or with the UNDP, or into a single UN Development Authority.

Under these proposals, UNCTAD would lose part of its mandate, and its institutional integrity would be affected.

The Chairman of the Group of 77 and China in New York last month wrote to the Co-Chairs of the Panel on UN System Coherence, stating that the mandates and activities of UNCTAD and UNIFEM (which were both established by the UN General Assembly) should not be eroded but should instead be strengthened.

 


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