Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul16/12)
20 July 2016
Third World Network
UNCTAD-14: Ministerial Conference gets underway in Nairobi
Published in SUNS #8285 dated 19 July 2016
Geneva, 18 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- The fourteenth ministerial conference
of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-14) got underway
at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) on Sunday (17
July) afternoon, with opening addresses by amongst others UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-Moon and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Speaking first at the opening ceremony, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General
of UNCTAD, said that 40 years ago, the UNCTAD membership for the first
time elected to host the conference on African soil and the choice
of Kenya was very significant at that time, and today 40 years later,
this country is accorded the privilege again, not only to become the
first African developing country to host the UNCTAD conference twice
but also to be holding it at a certain critical historical moment.
[At UNCTAD-IV, held in Nairobi in 1976 (the late Gamani Corea was
then the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, and the focus of that conference
was on Commodities. Henry Kissinger, as US Secretary of State came
to that meeting, and in his speech seemed to hold out the prospect
of US cooperation in tackling commodity problems, through agreements
and an UNCTAD Programme on Commodities, but made clear the commodities
basket in that programme must include oil, where the OPEC countries
had an export cartel. But OPEC did not agree, and Kissinger's offer
failed to be followed through, though UNCTAD-IV adopted the Integrated
Programme for Commodities (IPC), mooted by Corea. Developing countries
are once again facing commodity problems at the time of UNCTAD 14,
which again is meeting in Nairobi. SUNS]
"As we meet in Nairobi, the optimism of 2015, the optimism of
the Addis Ababa Action Agenda [adopted] in July, of the Sustainable
Development Goals Agenda 2030 in September in New York, and COP21
in Paris, set out the script for us, not to make any new promises,
but to seek to keep the promises already made," Kituyi said.
"We look to this meeting as the first major United Nations developmental
meeting since the triple promises of 2015 to start charting the way
of implementation - from decision to action," The UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-Moon said in his remarks at the opening.
Every four years since 1964, the UN chief said, UNCTAD sessions have
provided an opportunity for United Nations Member States to work together
to redress economic inequalities in trade, finance, technology and
"This is the second time that an UNCTAD conference has come to
Kenya. Nairobi played host to UNCTAD IV in this same conference centre,
just over four decades ago."
Ban Ki-Moon said that much has changed in 40 years, but many of the
challenges raised at UNCTAD IV remain on the international agenda.
The vulnerability of developing countries to volatile commodity markets
was a main focus at UNCTAD IV.
Today, with a global trade slowdown and declines in commodity prices,
this issue is again a hot button development issue. But beyond trade,
a bigger and more complex set of questions challenges the international
community, he said.
According to Ban Ki-Moon, vulnerability today derives not only from
volatile markets, or from social instability, but also from a fragile
global environment weakened by climate change.
UNCTAD XIV is the first major United Nations development conference
since last year's landmark adoptions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement
on climate change.
The 2030 Agenda will guide global collective action for sustainable
development over the next 15 years.
"The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals offer a blueprint
for how the global economy, society and the environment should look
in 2030, along with specific actions that will be required at global,
regional and national levels. And the Addis Agenda provides a comprehensive
framework for financing sustainable development."
Countries this year have just begun the challenging task of implementation,
said the UN SG, adding that it is therefore fitting that the theme
of UNCTAD XIV is "from decision to action".
"But the successful actions we will need over the next 15 years
– especially in the areas of trade, investment, technology and finance
– require that we tap the full potential of all actors, promote innovation
and correct unsustainable trends."
The UN Secretary-General further said that there are worrying signs
that people around the world are increasingly unhappy with the state
of the global economy.
High inequality, stagnant incomes, not enough jobs – especially for
youth -- and too little cause for optimism stoke legitimate fears
for the future for many in all regions.
The global trade slowdown and a lack of productive investment have
sharpened the deep divides between those who have benefited from globalization,
and those who continue to feel left behind.
"And rather than working to change the economic model for the
better, many actual and would-be leaders are instead embracing protectionism
and even xenophobia," he bemoaned.
"The vision set out in the SDGs – for people, planet, prosperity
and peace – will not succeed if shocks and stresses in our global
economic and financial system are not properly addressed. Trade must
provide prosperity in ways that work for people and planet and respond
to the challenges of climate change."
Ban Ki-Moon said that the regulatory frameworks governing trade, investment
in agricultural production, and technology related to agricultural
productivity, play a critical role.
There are more than enough savings in the global economy to drive
the transformation that the SDGs call for, but our investments need
to become better aligned with sustainable development.
"My message to you today is that the SDGs represent the change
we need to restore people's trust in the global economy. The SDGs
represent an enormous opportunity to make our economy work for dignity
for all, prosperity for all and a better planet for all."
UNCTAD - with its integrated approach to trade and development - has
a vital role to play in implementing the interdependent, holistic
sustainable development agenda.
This 14th UNCTAD Conference must now establish how UNCTAD will contribute
to meeting the challenges of achieving the SDGs.
The SDGs spell out an ambitious vision of how people and planet can
benefit from a vibrant global economy.
"Today, I call on Member States to agree here in Nairobi on deeper
cooperation on trade and development that will bring us closer to
this vision," said Ban Ki-Moon.
"This is my last UNCTAD as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
In my 10 years as Secretary-General, I have seen UNCTAD shift and
adapt to the new complex challenges our world faces. It is my hope
that UNCTAD XIV will provide the impetus we need to accelerate our
efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals," he added.
The Vice-President of Uganda, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, speaking on
behalf of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, said "we attach
great importance to this conference given the gravity of the concerns
it was set up to address which unfortunately still persist more than
50 years after UNCTAD was set up to specifically assist in tackling
these problems and define appropriate international action."
Ssekandi said that he is glad that UNCTAD-14 is meeting on the theme
'from decision to action'. The initial momentum set by UNCTAD seems
to have slackened somehow, and largely on account of ideological differences
on how to address the concerns of especially the Least Developed Countries.
While UNCTAD continues to undertake quality analytical work, implementation
of identified priorities is below expectations. "In effect, we
make decisions but do not move to action."
The Ugandan Vice-President noted with concern that in 2015, Foreign
Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to Africa declined by 7.2% and overall
FDI inflows to Africa accounted for a mere 3.1% of the total global
With respect to trade, another area of focus for UNCTAD and an undisputed
driver of global development, the figures are very telling, he said.
In Africa, the share of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern
Africa in world merchandise exports have remained at the 1995 level
of 0.5% while the Southern African Development Community increased
its share marginally from 0.9% to 1.1% in 2014.
He also said that whereas trade within Africa is on the rise reaching
18% of total regional exports in 2014, compared with only 10% in 1995,
it still remains far below intra-regional trade levels in other regions.
For example, in Europe, trade within the region has accounted for
more than 70% of the total regional merchandise exports on average
over 20 years, while in Asia over half of its total experts were sold
"What is preventing us from trading within ourselves," he
asked, adding that "we must be stead-fast in addressing infrastructural
constraints and promote peaceful co-existence of our people."
He noted that South-South trade has increased steadily since 2000,
reaching 52% of developing countries' total merchandise exports in
He however highlighted some disparities within this broad grouping
that continue to exist. For example, developing countries' exports
in 2014 were 45% of global exports against 54% for developed economies
and 1% for the LDCs.
"It is therefore a mistake to continue lumping least developed
countries and developed countries together and then prescribe the
same solution to the problems affecting the two clearly distinct but
related groups," he said.
No wonder, over the last 40 years, only four countries have been able
to graduate from the least developed category, none of which has been
seriously able to reduce economic vulnerabilities.
The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, in his address said that UNCTAD-14
is being held at this conference centre which was the same venue of
the fourth session of UNCTAD 40 years ago in 1976.
Since then, there have been momentous changes in the world economy,
changes which present both challenges but changes which also represent
opportunities. Many issues on the agenda in 1976 "still demand
our attention forty years later."
Now, as then commodities are still a key issue, he said.
"Since 1976, most of our nations have also undergone social,
economic and political transformation occasioned by the various forces
including those of globalization and the rise of information and communication
"But if our ultimate objective and aim is prosperity and freedom
for all our people, then we must accept that we still have much more
work to do," he said.
President Kenyatta said that UNCTAD-14 is the first major conference
after the adoption of some truly historic agreements in 2015, "agreements
which promise to secure the prosperity that we seek."
In this context, he referred to the third Financing for Development
conference held in Addis Ababa last July, the Agenda 2030 and the
17 SDGs and 168 targets adopted in September, and the Paris deal on
climate change in December, as well as the adoption of the Nairobi
package at the tenth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation.
"UNCTAD-14 is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to exchange
views on how these milestone decisions can be translated into action,
because decisions without actions are meaningless," he said.
Referring to the UNCTAD-14 outcome document, he said that this document
will outline UNCTAD's work for the next four years.
"Indeed it is our view that the mandate of UNCTAD should be strengthened,
so that it can play a more meaningful role in the implementation of
our new global agenda. The huge responsibilities which members have
entrusted UNCTAD in 1964 are even more relevant today than ever before,"
The Kenya President, in conclusion, said he remains confident that
"this conference will deliver successful outcomes for the global
economy and for our sustainable development." +