TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May08/10)
13 May 2008
Third World Network

UNCTAD XII: Agreement reached on Accra Accord
Published in SUNS #6464 dated 28 April 2008

By Martin Khor, Accra, 25 April 2008

A draft of the Accra Accord, which is the title of the main outcome of UNCTAD XII, was agreed on by a Committee of the Whole late on 24 April night and made available to delegations on 25 April morning.

It is expected to be adopted by the closing plenary of UNCTAD XII together with a brief Accra Declaration, later tonight.

The Accra Accord is mainly based on a draft consolidated Chair's text issued on 24 April morning. After discussions on various parts of the draft in smaller groups throughout the day and evening, agreement was reached on a final document at night.

The Accord comprises text on four sub-themes - (1) enhancing coherence in global policy making, (2) trade and development issues, (3) enhancing the enabling environment to strengthen productive capacity; and (4) strengthening UNCTAD.

One of the key issues in the Accord is the reform of the Commissions of UNCTAD. The final text states there will be two commissions, one on Trade and Development and the other on Enterprise, Business Facilitation and Development. This is a reduction from the present three commissions, but the topics covered by these three bodies are now taken over by the two.

The main UNCTAD body, the Trade and Development Board, will have a new agenda item "Development strategies in a globalised world", in its regular annual sessions. This is a compromise, as the proposal of the G77 and China to have a new Commission on Globalisation and Development Strategies was not accepted by the developed countries, and the placing of this topic in the agenda of the TDB was put in its place.

An issue given major prominence in the Accord is commodities. This used to be the ma area of UNCTAD's work in its first two to three decades of work, when it hosted the negotiations on several commodity agreements. The issue fell by the wayside after the agreements either were disbanded or became less active, and UNCTAD's work on commodities became only a shadow of its former activities.

Although UNCTAD XI (Sao Paulo 2004) mandated UNCTAD to set up a task force on commodities, it was unable to do so, as funds were not forthcoming.

With African countries taking the lead in pressing for a higher profile on this issue, the Accra Accord (para 183) urged the Secretary General of the UN to transform the existing Commodities Branch in UNCTAD into an autonomous unit reporting directly to the Secretary General of UNCTAD. This unit "should contribute more effectively to developing countries' efforts to formulate strategies ad policies to respond to the challenges and opportunities of commodity markets."

Several other paragraphs (50, 91, 92) deal extensively to the commodity problem and UNCTAD activities in this area.

On migration, the Accord did not ask UNCTAD to undertake work on migration and development issues, as the G77 and China wanted. However, two paragraphs (170, 143) highlighted the need to maximize benefits from migrant's remittances, and asked UNCTAD to focus on ways to expand access of migrants to financial services, maximize benefits from remittances and minimise costs through appropriate policies.

On the other emerging issues, para 98 says UNCTAD's work on energy-related issues should be addressed from the trade and development perspective, while para 100 says UNCTAD should consider climate change in its ongoing work of assisting developing countries with trade- and investment-related issues in development strategies.

On intellectual property, UNCTAD should continue to undertake research and analysis on trade and development aspects of intellectual property.

Policy space, which was the major issue at UNCTAD XI, was dealt with in several paragraphs, especially 4 and 5. Para 4 mentions global actions to expand developmental opportunities of developing countries while ensuring respect for national ownership, strategies and sovereignty.

Para 5, in an echo of the Sao Paulo Consensus, mentions the emergence of rules-based regimes for economic relations means that the space for national economic policy is now often framed by international disciplines, commitments and global market considerations.

It is for each government to evaluate the trade-off between benefits of accepting international rules and commitments and the constraints posed by the loss of policy space, and it is particularly important for developing countries that all countries take into account the need for appropriate balance between national policy space and international disciplines and commitments.

And in para 36, UNCTAD is asked to continue its analysis work, delivering policy analysis and identifying policy options, with several specific areas spelled out on globalization and development strategies.

On strengthening UNCTAD, para 171 reiterates that UNCTAD is the focal point within the UN for the integrated treatment of trade and development ad the interrelated issues of finance, investment, technology and sustainable development.

The Accord has sections spelling out in more detail the three areas of UNCTAD - research, consensus building and technical cooperation.

The adoption of the Accra Accord will be the central item in the closing session late on 25 April evening. +