TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct06/11)

12 October 2006

Report 10 on UNCTAD meetings

UNCTAD Board adopts Mid-Term Review Outcome

On 10 October, the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board adopted the outcome of the UNCTAD Mid Term Review, after several days of negotiations among the member states.

Below is a report on the outcome and its adoption.

With best wishes
Martin Khor


By Goh Chien Yen (TWN), Geneva, 11 Oct 2006

The UN Conference on Trade and Development's Trade and Development Board concluded on 10 October the final leg of the organisation's Mid-Term Review, with the adoption of the document "Agreed Outcome of the Mid-Term Review" - TD/B(S-XXIII)/7 (Volume 1).

Members had agreed during UNCTAD XI in 2004 in Sao Paulo, Brazil to conduct this mid-term review in 2006.

The report "Agreed Outcome of the Mid-Term Review" will steer and provide directions for the organization till UNCTAD XII, which would be held in Ghana in 2008.

The report is made up of three main sections: Stock-taking in respect of the implementation of the Sao Paulo Consensus; Strengthening the three pillars of UNCTAD; and UNCTAD, development and the way forward.

Member countries affirmed UNCTAD's central role in the UN system on trade and development issues. The TDB wants UNCTAD, "in accordance with its mandate as the focal point in the UN" for such matters, to continue in the "coordination of UN-wide activities on trade and development." (Para 18(a) of TD/B(S-XXIII)/7)

Countries want to see UNCTAD assist them "in ensuring that trade-related policies and processes, as well as efforts to resolve trade and development problems associated with commodity dependence, help maximize development gains and contribute to poverty eradication, including through support of efforts to reach a development-focused outcome of the WTO's Doha Work Programme."

In particular, UNCTAD shall in its three pillars of work:

* "support the full, effective and beneficial participation of developing countries... in international trade and trade negotiations;

* assist LDCs to increase utilization of duty-free and quota-free market access granted for their products in the developed countries and in developing countries declaring themselves in a position to do so, in line with the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration; and,

* assume an important role in providing assistance to developing countries under the Aid for Trade initiative." (para 46. e)

Members also decided that UNCTAD should pay more attention and "strengthen its work on South-South cooperation, including through GSTP." (para. 46. f). In this respect, UNCTAD should monitor and analyse the "changing patterns of developing countries' participation and share in international trade;... identifying success factors... encouraging South-South trade and economic integration: and supporting a more comprehensive GSTP." (para 18. j)

UNCTAD is also requested to "resolve the trade and development problems associated with commodity dependence, and... work towards operationalizing the multi-stakeholder consultative process on commodities mandated by UNCTAD XI..." (para 18. c)

However, as pointed out by the Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD in his report to the TDB on multi-stakeholder partnerships, the commodities issue has not received the requisite funding.

The functioning of the International Task Force on Commodities established at UNCTAD XI, "continues to be delayed because of lack of extra-budgetary funds," he told the TDB on Tuesday.

So far, this task force has not even met since its creation in 2004, although a first meeting is being planned for by the end of this year.

The TDB also agreed to call upon UNCTAD to continue its work on the "development dimension of intellectual property, in close cooperation with relevant organizations." (para 8. l)

The concept of policy space in development and UNCTAD's contribution in providing policy options for development, has been an issue of long-standing contention between the developed and developing countries.

Nonetheless, member countries were able on Tuesday to agree on consensus language for the report.

Accordingly, the TDB "recognizes that national development strategies reflecting the diversity of the ways to progress must take into account the specific priorities, needs and circumstances of each country. It is for each Government to evaluate the trade-off between the benefits of accepting international rules and commitments and the constraints posed by the loss of policy space. It is particularly important for developing countries, bearing in mind development goals and objectives, that all countries take into account the need for appropriate balance between national policy space and international disciplines and commitments." (para. 45)

Therefore, it was agreed that UNCTAD shall "contribute to increasing coherence for development between national development strategies and the international monetary, financial and trading systems, taking into account the need for developing countries to identify and choose appropriate policy instruments and taking into account country-specific priorities, needs and circumstances and their international commitments and within the framework of international disciplines and commitments..." (para 46. a)

In the final section of the report, "UNCTAD UN reform and development", the TDB agrees that "UNCTAD's intergovernmental machinery should play its full role in contributing to the outcome of the UN reform process and in addressing its implications for UNCTAD..." (para 48. a)

In this respect, ... intergovernmental consultations will start before the end of the year on possible ways of enhancing the development role and impact of UNCTAD, and this will include the report of the Panel of Eminent Persons, " in the light of its mandate and in accordance with the agreed outcome under the section on strengthening the three pillars of UNCTAD in this document." (para 48. a)

The EU has been insistent in getting the Panel report included in this document. It had threatened to walk out of the negotiations, if it had not been reflected.

According to one developing country diplomat who was actively involved in negotiating the current document, this has soured the otherwise positive spirit that the G77 had towards the Panel's report, and will make its subsequent consideration of it more onerous.

Finally, "UNCTAD shall, within its mandate, contribute substantively to the implementation, follow-up and review processes of the outcomes of recent global conferences. UNCTAD's work in this regard shall contribute to the preparatory work for UNCTAD XII." (para 48. b)

The G77 has been fighting hard to get UNCTAD involved in the UN Financing for Development process. While it was unsuccessful in getting it explicitly mentioned in the document, the reference to "recent global conferences" was regarded as sufficient at this juncture.