The Pre-UNCTAD XII Asian Civil Society Forum organised by CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment (CUTS CITEE), Jaipur on 6-7 March 2008 in Hanoi, Vietnam provided room for discussion on the future role of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It was organised as a part of its project on trade-development-poverty linkages, which is being implemented with the support from the Department for International Development (DFID), UK and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINBUZA), the Netherlands.
In view of the upcoming UNCTAD XII Conference on April 20-25, 2008 in Accra, Ghana, the issue of how to redefine the organisation’s developmental role and strengthen its institutional effectiveness received special attention. While the significance of UNCTAD was widely agreed upon as the most relevant forum of South-South cooperation, it became clear that its effectiveness will vitally depend on the political willingness of the participating countries. With regards to the increased complexity of international relations in a globalised world, the revitalisation of UNCTAD’s role as an organisation representing developing countries’ views in international negotiations is a must.
Key points that emerged in the discussion included a closer cooperation of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the framework of UNCTAD. The conference addressed the vital aspects of aid effectiveness and food security, a closer cooperation of other UN agencies with UNCTAD and a rationalisation of funds, a deeper integration in accordance with developing countries’ needs and a budgetary contribution of developing countries to the UN bodies to stop the dependence on donors from developed countries.
Keeping in mind the high divergence of interests of developing countries, the most difficult task will be to define policy implications that are acceptable for all. The constraints to development faced by developing countries will not be solved under the framework of trade liberalisation, but under the development aspect. Possible strategies to revitalise the role of UNCTAD and restore the organisational balance (vis-à-vis other UN organisations and Bretton Woods institutions) were seen in the extension of its research capabilities.
Considering the currently highly imbalanced international trade system, it is vital for developing countries to face the upcoming challenges. A reformation of UNCTAD will vitally depend on the successful coordination of G-77 and further informal groupings. UNCTAD has to convince developing countries that it is willing and able to deliver the resources and expertise needed to transform the existing world economic order and ensure fair and equitable development for all.
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