Thursday, May 10, 2012

The debate around UNCTAD

Amid the controversy of a letter  written by former staff of the UNCTAD, the UNCTAD XIII Conference recently concluded in Doha. It produced what is called the Doha Manar. Stressing on development centred globalisation, the mandate, in the context of the importance of the multilateral trading system, stated:
"Our deliberations at Doha have clustered around four major themes relating to development-centred globalization. Firstly, we agree on the need to enhance the enabling economic environment at all levels in support of inclusive and sustainable growth and development. In this regard, international trade is an engine of economic growth and socio- economic development. The multilateral trading system must remain open, rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory and inclusive to serve especially as a bulwark against all forms of protectionism. The successful conclusion of the WTO Doha Development Agenda remains crucial. Accession to WTO by developing countries, in particular the least developed countries (LDCs), and countries with economies in transition, enhances the universality of the trading system. A robust and development-oriented multilateral trading system is essential. In addition, the efforts towards appropriate reform and continued improvement of the international financial system are, we recognize, as difficult as they are urgent, and are the shared responsibility of all.
It concluded by placing development of countries as the cornerstone of globalisation:
" Development is a universal concern today, and development-centred globalization is our common cause. We recognize the need to make our common economic life more conducive to progressive structural change, more productive of inclusive and sustainable growth and development, and more effective in fostering broad-based inclusion in a new and more robust social contract. We are also cognizant of the differences in capabilities and resources available to nations in different development circumstances, which mean that nations will have different roles in building our common future. But we must all participate equitably in shaping the global economy to support this new consensus for development-centred globalization."
News reports extensively covered the Conference as well as the salient features of the resolution. The issue of the relevance of UNCTAD and debate around the scope and mandate of the institution was widely reported here , here  and here . The Doha Manar itself, was apparently concluded after a lot of last minute deliberation. As one report put it:
"After intense negotiations, which ended at 05:00 on the last day of the Conference, developing countries managed to get agreement on a text that did not alter fundamentally UNCTAD’s mandate. The crucial paragraph calls for UNCTAD to “continue, as a contribution to the work of the UN, research and analysis on the prospects of, and impact on, developing countries in matters of trade and development, in light of the global economic and financial crisis.” Commenting on this, the participating NGOs stated that “as civil society, we celebrate that this Declaration language gives a clear mandate to UNCTAD to continue its excellent and highly lauded work on the global economic crisis.”
The intense debate  over the mandate of UNCTAD and its role in the context of other multilateral institutions is interesting. Is the UNCTAD more "development" oriented as compared to the IMF, World Bank, OECD or WTO? Does it represent the interests of the developing countries more? Do the other institutions represent a particular ideological position as compared to UNCTAD? Is the language and paradigm of the UNCTAD's world view more critical of trade liberalisation without barriers and without addressing developmental needs than other multilateral institutions? How does one view the rule based multilateral system in the context of UNCTAD's mandate? Are they compiimentary or contradictory? While Doha failed in the context of the WTO, it succeeded in reaching a conclusion in the case of UNCTAD. Is this because the latter was more to do with broad principles of guidance the former negotiations was involved in specific rules that would govern trade? Is it a case of institutional jurisdictional overlap?

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