TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul16/16)
21 July 2016
Third World Network

UNCTAD-14: Will end with Nairobi Azimio and Nairobi Consensus
Published in SUNS #8287 dated  21 July 2016

Nairobi, 20 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- The 14th session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the end of its second day of work, has agreed on the names of the instruments it will end up with, but their content is anything but settled, and is an existential battle, according to several conference sources.

At a media briefing on Wednesday (20 July), Dr Amina Mohamed, the President of the Conference, speaking on the latest negotiations on the "draft outcome document" said: "we are doing well, we are progressing well, we're on track. Delegations are showing flexibility on many of the issues under discussion. We're hoping to conclude the negotiations in good time."

Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday (19 July), Dr Amina Mohamed had said "We expect to have two major instruments at the end of the UNCTAD-14 conference: a Political Declaration to be called the "Nairobi Azimio", and a negotiated text, expected to be called the "Nairobi Consensus." Both together will be called the Nairobi Outcome.

At the briefing on Wednesday, the third day of the Conference, she said the 'Nairobi Azimio' or the Political Declaration, is almost concluded. "We're doing it on our responsibility as the host country but we have had input from others as well," she said, adding that hopefully by tomorrow (Thursday), it will be ready.

"We are now negotiating the consensus document. The negotiations are ongoing. We're not there yet. We have a lot of areas already agreed. I think I can safely say that about 60% of the work has been done. We have 40% of the work that is ongoing right now. There is a lot of goodwill in the negotiating sessions and so we hope to get this done hopefully sometime tomorrow," she said.

The second, the negotiated text, is under negotiations at the Committee of the Whole (COW).

A conference source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said however, that while the names of the two expected instruments of the Nairobi Outcome have been sorted out, what appears not quite clear yet is the state of the negotiated text, and there is some worry that it could end up being diluted. The negotiations are proving to be difficult with the text now becoming too long, with over 100 paragraphs, said the source.

The European Union is leading the process, the source told the SUNS, expressing further worry that amongst others, there is no mention in the text of adequate resources for UNCTAD.

According to another source, the EU, during the plenary, was very clear that they want to convert UNCTAD into a technical assistance organisation, downscaling the intergovernmental process, and increasing the technical assistance.

The EU wants to take the organisation out of the controversial issues involving macro policy, finance and debt, and focus UNCTAD on so-called areas of comparative advantages only in trade facilitation, aid for trade, gender issues etc.

[According to European media reports, after the last meeting of the EU Council of Ministers, after the United Kingdom's Brexit vote, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with other EU Council members, has taken the delicate task of negotiating an outcome after UK exit, an existential crisis for the EU, out of the hands of the EU's Executive Commission (EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his fellow Commissioners), entrusting it to a former Belgian diplomat. And there is considerable on-going discussions among member-states and their political leaders, on the perceived public disquiet on the "democratic deficit" in the EU and how to take back some of the powers now being exercised by the Executive Commission. SUNS]

At UNCTAD-14 here, the Commission is trying to show its authority and basically behaving "in a pressurising kind of way", to try and squeeze UNCTAD out of the key issues, and that is now being reflected in their efforts at reshaping the text.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told SUNS that the European Commission is not even talking to the EU parliamentarians.

And this is now proving controversial because they have created a "Green Room" style process at UNCTAD-14. Fortunately, the G77 are pushing back on that, said the source.

However, said the source, the negotiations within COW are not going well and proving to be tense again on issues such as debt and policy space.

The tax issue is also pretty controversial, as the EU does not want UNCTAD picking up on this issue, even though it is an obvious question of development finance and is a major constraint on developing countries.

The source was of the view that the EU is a bigger stumbling block than the JUSCANZ group, which consists of Japan, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The EU (speaking and acting through the Commission here), would like to put a "take-it-or-leave-it text" on the table and then see what happens, and hopes developing countries will just take it.

However, the developing countries are saying that is not going to happen, with South Africa, for example, saying that it will not support any text that goes back on the UNCTAD Conference in Doha (in 2012). The EU seems to be more aggressive here than it was in Doha, said the source.

Another source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, referred to the Committee of the Whole process on Tuesday and said that progress has been made on a number of issues. However, some issues still remain, and "we don't yet have the elements to finalize them." There are a lot of things poised on the edge, and if they fall the right way, progress can be made, said the source.

Referring to the negotiated text, Dr Mohamed told the media briefing Tuesday, "I think it is a very healthy negotiation that is ongoing, a very healthy debate and delegations have been working very, very hard into the late evening to make sure that they get it ready for adoption in time for the closing on Friday. And so we will just wish them well, encourage them and see whether they will be able to find the options that they need to get a consensus."

"Because at the end of the day we expect to have a document that meets the requirements and the agreement of all of us so that it is adopted, as is always the case with UNCTAD, by consensus," she said.

Asked to elaborate on the contentious issues in the negotiating text and whether they can be resolved in the coming days, Dr Mohamed said that she was not going to talk about the contentious issues.

"Actually, as we speak some are being resolved," she said. "I think there is a very healthy debate that is going on. The negotiations are on track, as I said before, and we're hopeful that in fact we'll get to an agreed text before the end of day, hopefully tomorrow, so that we're ready to present it to the final session on Friday," she said.

While declining to go into details, the President of the conference said that the number of areas (of contention) is decreasing and "it is decreasing fast."

Dr Mohamed also expressed gratitude to all the delegations attending UNCTAD-14, saying that they have been carrying out their deliberations in an exemplary manner and "I think we are on a very good track and we are already beginning to see good results."

She said that Monday (18 July) marked a fruitful day in the discussions with the key highlight being the convening of the World Leaders' Summit and the Heads of Agencies roundtable.

In addition, the World Investment Forum also kicked off, with this year's forum being the first major international meeting on financing the SDGs, following the UN summit on the post-2015 development agenda and the Paris COP21 climate change meeting.

So building on the outcome of the third International Conference on Financing for Development, the 2016 World Investment Forum seeks to tackle the future of financing challenges facing the implementation of the SDGs.

Asked about how the possible effects of Brexit will be featured in the text, Dr Mohamed said that at the moment all the members of the European Union are here.

"As you know, the UK is still a member of the EU until it invokes procedures that are required for it to start its exit and so we haven't had any effect of that on the negotiations."

For these negotiations there is no cause for alarm. "We do not think it is going to affect our negotiations negatively," she said.


Meanwhile, at a separate media briefing by civil society, Jason Braganza, Deputy Executive Director of Tax Justice Network Africa, said that it is an open secret that there have been challenges in having a relatively easy week with regards to the negotiating text.

He went on to highlight several issues from the perspective of civil society.

Braganza said that on the global trading and financial architecture, the language that is currently within the negotiating text is extremely weak and "we are pushing very strongly to reassert the importance of having stronger language on a fairer global trading and financial system."

This is in light of and in the wake of the Panama Papers, which have revealed very strong weaknesses in the financial architecture with regard to tax evasion and tax avoidance.

The second issue is more about a global structural transformation agenda and not a structural transformation agenda just for Africa.

There are systemic flaws that are emanating from the global framework, and within the negotiating text "we are looking to have a bit stronger language in the reform of the global architecture," he said.

Again, this emanates from the global economic and financial crisis that has impacted not only developed countries but more adversely the developing world.

He said that the third issue is around a more inclusive development agenda (Agenda 2030). It is time after adopting Agenda 2030 to ensure that this agenda is all-inclusive - it takes into account issues around public services, gender, climate change, technology, the youth, natural disasters, political security, and the like.

According to Braganza, the fourth issue is around the role and mandate of UNCTAD. He said that the civil Society Forum has put very strong language to be inserted within the negotiating text around the continued importance and role that UNCTAD plays in supporting developing countries achieve their mandate.

"This cannot be underscored nor underlined even further within the negotiating text. We do not want a situation where UNCTAD is being given a mandate just to do monitoring and evaluation," he said. +