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Civil society helps secure positive outcome of UNCTAD XIII

Added 04/May/12

By Carlos Villota,

The XIII United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) took place in Doha, Qatar between 21-26 April. The Final Declaration - approved by the developing and developed countries alike - acknowledges the impact of the financial crisis and highlights the need for adequate regulation of this sector. It also includes a strong mandate for UNCTAD's vital work which includes analyzing  the financial crisis and the related social crisis it has created.

The global financial and economic crisis and its continuing dramatic consequences for people and countries have highlighted the importance of UNCTAD´s work. ‘In fact, UNCTAD is well known for having predicted the crisis in advance, a fact that is to be commended, particularly given its paucity of resources compared to institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which failed to do so’[1]. It was UNCTAD and not the Bretton Woods Institutions who stressed the dangers uncontrolled markets and financial liberalisation and deregulation. These are precisely the problems at the root of the current financial crisis.

The final Declaration provides support for a strong mandate for UNCTAD's vital work on financial and related crises. Nevertheless, this was not easy to achieve. Throughout the negotiations leading up to UNCTAD XIII, the developed countries tried to rescind the important mandate of UNCTAD to work on issues of global macroeconomic and finance policies, and particularly to participate in global governance on these issues, which are so essential to global prosperity. Both the JUSSCKANZ group of countries (Japan, USA, Switzerland, Canada, Korea, Australia and New Zealand) and the European Union were opposed to UNCTAD´s mandate of conducting vital analytical and advisory work on finance and responses to the crisis. They were even refusing to reaffirm UNCTAD´s mandate as agreed in Accra (April 2008).

CSOs position during the conference was key in order to achieve a progressive final declaration. During the conference, civil society groups offered incisive analysis on key issues under negotiation within to the conference theme of inclusive and sustainable development conference. Some Eurodad members like ActionAid International and SLUG together with other allies like The International Trade Union Confederation, Tax Justice Network, Our World Is Not For Sale network and other groups convened side events on issues of investmentfinancial regulation, the WTO, debt, tax policy, food security, and the social protection floor. Moreover, CSOs closely monitored the official negotiations and so were able to take action to protect UNCTAD’s mandate and have its previous key achievements recognised in the final document with respect key areas of work -such as the financial crisis, macroeconomic policy, debt management, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other trade agreements, intellectual property, industrial policy, investment and other issues.

As a result, the outcomes of the UNCTAD XIII contribute to the transformations of the global economy that are necessary for true inclusive and sustainable development for all. One of the most contested paragraphs -17(d)- 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’. While this mandate could have been broader, negotiators in the G77 group of over 100 developing countries -together with civil society support- were able to push it through and wouldn't back down. Civil Society groups celebrate that this language gives a clear mandate to UNCTAD to continue its excellent and highly lauded work on the global economic crisis.

For the billions of people around the world who suffer the consequences of the current global economics system the final Declaration of the conference has been positive. This is an important achievement especially considering the determined opposition of some of the developed countries during the negotiation process.