, 17 March 2008
UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi told a special session of the Trade and Development Board (TDB) this morning that next month’s UNCTAD XII conference comes “at a time when the world is in a period of uncertainty, with credible fears of recession.” He urged national delegations to negotiate a strong text to guide UNCTAD XII and its outcome.
Mr. Supachai said it is hoped that the meeting can make valuable contributions to facing such challenges as lagging African development; difficulties in halving extreme poverty, as called for by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals; and rising oil prices, which “could offset any benefits that African developing countries are reaping from debt relief initiatives.” Also important, Mr. Supachai said, are enhancing growing trade between developing countries (“South-South” trade); helping to achieve a positive conclusion to the long-running Doha Round of negotiations conducted by the World Trade Organization (WTO); and strengthening the work of UNCTAD.
The Ghanaian Ambassador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Kwabena Baah Duodu, reviewed logistics for UNCTAD XII, scheduled for 20-25 April, and urged faster and more substantive progress in achieving a negotiated text, saying “trade and development are important for Africa, and indeed its own advancement.”
"Ghana will be ready," he told the TDB, UNCTAD's governing body. Referring to the text, he said, "I hope the Geneva process will be ready as well."
Some 45 paragraphs of the draft text have been cleared, while about 230 remain to be agreed upon, Mr. Supachai told the TDB. He noted that progress has been “slow” and urged “flexibility and more flexibility” during ongoing drafting sessions so that a final version is ready in time for the April conference.
Representatives of regional groups called for similar urgency. The Group of 77 and China said “constructive flexibility” is needed, as “we still lack convergence on major issues.” A spokesman for the Asian Group said developing countries are “extremely concerned with the slow pace of progress.”
A representative of the United States, speaking on behalf of Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey, said member States should “keep focused on UNCTAD’s role in promoting trade for development” and avoid producing an outcome document dealing with issues not directly related to the organization’s mandate. “We may have lost sight of our real objectives,” the representative said.
Following this morning’s meeting, the special session of the TDB will reconvene Thursday afternoon, 20 March.
The Accra UNCTAD conference, the organization’s 12th quadrennial meeting, will review trends in the field of trade and development and set the course of UNCTAD’s work for the ensuing four years.