TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May08/11)
13 May 2008
Third World Network

UNCTAD XII: Supachai pledges UNCTAD as voice of developing countries
Published in SUNS #6465 dated 29 April 2008

By Martin Khor, Accra, 26 April 2008

UNCTAD XII closed on 25 April on a rather upbeat note with the adoption of a brief political Accra Declaration and a detailed Accra Accord, which gives policy analysis on four sub-themes and directions for the work of UNCTAD in these areas for the next four years.

At the closing session, UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi pledged that UNCTAD would continue to be a critical voice of developing countries, and would highlight the problems of globalization and not just the benefits. He added that globalization excludes millions of people from the benefits.

In his speech, he also stressed the need to review the role of the state, stressing that UNCTAD XII had recognized the concept of an enabling state to promote development.

He said that UNCTAD XII had highlighted the food crisis, with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announcing the creation of a UN task force to examine the issue. While there is an urgent immediate task of food provision by the World Food Programme, UNICEF and so on, the deliberations at UNCTAD XII point to the need for longer-term policy changes.

Supachai stressed the need to rebuild food supply capacity and boost agricultural production in developing countries as the major long-term priority.

Supachai also presented his summary of the conclusions of the UNCTAD XII discussions and outcome. He said that new concepts and understandings had emerged at UNCTAD XII.

The conference reaffirmed the need for economic integration but also stressed the qualitative terms in which this should be carried out, for example, how much value-added the developing countries are obtaining.

The conference also established the need for policy diversity, including the need for policy to take into account the needs and circumstances of each country. Supachai added that UNCTAD XII recognized the concept of an "enabling state to promote development."

Many delegates asked for a new vision of partnership. The Secretary-General mentioned the concept of a "second generation of globalization", which he had put forward to denote the rise of developing countries in the global economy and the need for more balanced outcomes.

Mentioning the issues of financial contagion, commodities and South-South cooperation, Supachai said "we are reviewing the role of the state." Governments must be engaged to ensure that market outcomes are optimal. The gender impact of trade policy also came up in the discussions, said Supachai.

He added that the Accra Accord reflects a new consensus on the challenges of globalization and on actions needed for economic growth and the spread of benefits.

On the global financial turbulence, there is need to address the volatility of capital flows. Monetary stability must be underpinned by an institutional framework.

UNCTAD XII had also examined the nature of the present commodity boom and the need for developing countries to obtain longer-term benefits including through diversification. The conference had relaunched a global commodity initiative. There is need for strategies including how to integrate commodity policy into development strategy.

Supachai added that the Accra Accord notes the growing importance of South-South cooperation. An achievement during the week was that the GSTP was given a big boost.

[The GSTP meetings at the sidelines of UNCTAD XII agreed on broad modalities for tariff reductions within the scheme of preferences among developing countries participating in the current GSTP Round.]

He said that the text had also stressed the development dimension of migration, and had also examined debt sustainability to underpin growth.

The Accord had also strengthened the mandate of UNCTAD, for example, in areas like migration, energy, climate change and commodities.

Following Supachai's closing speech, there was a ceremony of presenting awards to ten diplomats from various countries who were active in negotiating the texts in Geneva and Accra. Several groupings and countries then made concluding remarks. +