TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr12/16)
25 April 2012
Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

After intense negotiations delegates at UNCTAD XIII in Doha, Qatar agreed on Tuesday afternoon that: "The outcomes of UNCTAD XIII reaffirms and build upon the Accra Accord which remains valid and relevant."

This paragraph 16 of the draft negotiation text dominated the first few days of the conference that began on 21 April, with differences between developed and developing countries also marking other major areas.

The negotiations are taking place on two tracks, with heads of delegations (Ambassadors and other senior officials) negotiating on a category of difficult issues, while other delegates are working on issues where differences are categorised as mild.

Alternative texts on some paragraphs have been formulated by various delegations (including the G77 and China, and JUSSCANNZ) and distributed for consideration.

(JUSSCANNZ comprises Japan, the United States, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand.)

A new text was then issued by the Chair of the process, Ambassador Maruping of Lesotho, at 1p.m. on Tuesday (24 April), in which a few new paragraphs have been agreed to, while in a few other paragraphs, some new suggested texts were placed. Observers noted that this is already a watered down text.

However, while some progress has been made in easier issues, paragraph 16 of the draft text dominated the negotiations, in which the G77 and China wanted the UNCTAD XIII conference to build upon the Accra Accord adopted at UNCTAD XII and that its mandate remains valid and relevant, and that this conference reaffirms and builds upon them.

JUSSCANNZ wanted the sentence to only state that the outcomes of UNCTAD XIII build upon the Accra Accord.

The Chair's own language was that the Accra Accord pursued a constructive trade and development agenda, and the outcomes of UNCTAD XIII reaffirms and builds upon it.

Developing countries insisted that the Accra Accord adopted in UNCTAD XII in 2008 be reaffirmed, so that the mandate of UNCTAD's work for the next four years can include continuation of the work initiated in Accra.

As the draft Doha outcome document is relatively weak (weaker in many areas than the Accra Accord), the absence of reaffirming the Accra Accord could have meant detracting from the present UNCTAD mandate.

Several delegates believed that the reaffirmation (or not) of the Accra Accord was the biggest political issue in UNCTAD XIII and expected this issue to be the last one to be resolved, perhaps late at night on Wednesday, the very eve of UNCTAD XIII's closure on Thursday afternoon.

On Tuesday afternoon, the formulation of reaffirmation was agreed on.

Another issue emerging from the developed countries' proposed language is the "duplication" of UNCTAD's work with other organisations. It is believed that they are making use of the need to avoid duplication to prevent UNCTAD from having the mandate to work on a range of issues.

In the 16 April draft, which is the basis of the negotiations, JUSSCANNZ proposed that UNCTAD's activities should be delivered within its core mandate, within its existing capacities and resources, and without prejudice to the work of other international organisations. It also proposed that "these activities should deliver tangible results for specified needs and with measurable impact."

This language would already seriously constrain UNCTAD's work and tie its activities to specified needs and to show impacts that can be measured.

JUSSCANNZ reportedly proposed new language that UNCTAD should continue to work within its mandate, delivering results, utilising available resources and with a view to enhancing synergies and eliminating duplication with the respective mandates of other entities in the UN system and other relevant international organisations.

Several delegates, commenting on the new language, pointed out that the new language was even more restrictive of UNCTAD's mandate than the original JUSSCANNZ proposal, because the new language implies that UNCTAD's work in its mandate should eliminate duplication with the mandates of other organisations, while the original only states that UNCTAD's activities should be "without prejudice" to the work of other organisations.

In the corridors, developing country delegates and NGOs speculated on why the developed countries seemed so adamant in eroding UNCTAD's mandate and work.

Several senior officials believe that UNCTAD had been providing good quality analysis on the global economy, the financial crisis and the reform of the global financial system that is alternative and very different to the IMF and World Bank.

"It is now more and more evident that the Bretton Woods institutions' analysis has lost credibility because of the way the financial crisis has unfolded," said a senior diplomat.

"They do not want UNCTAD to gain more and more credibility by continuing its work based on its own analysis which has been shown to be more accurate and useful."

With best wishes,
Third World Network