Geneva, 24 October 2008 - UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, will sign a memorandum of understanding with Mr. Bisrat Aklilu, Executive Coordinator of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) Office, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as Administrative Agent of the United Nations Development Group Iraq Trust Fund (UNDG ITF), at UNCTAD´s New York office, on Friday, 24 October, at 9.15 a.m. local time.
The UNDG ITF is one of the two trust funds created in 2004 under the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq to help donor nations channel their resources and coordinate their support for reconstruction and development in Iraq. It is administered by the UNDP MDTF Office as Administrative Agent on behalf of Participating United Nations Organizations. The total deposits in the UNDG ITF stand at $1.3 billion. A total of 25 donors and 21 participating United Nations organizations have signed a letter of agreement and memorandum of understanding, respectively, with the MDTF office. Donors include Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and a number of developing countries, such as India and Qatar.
By signing this memorandum of understanding, UNCTAD will join 21 other participating United Nations Organizations in providing support to Iraq within a common United Nations framework. UNCTAD will also be eligible to access UNDG ITF resources to support its key assistance programmes for Iraq, such as the Automated System of Customs Data (ASYCUDA) programme and the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) reviews. In addition, UNCTAD expects to assist Iraq in other key areas, including knowledge networking, support to trade policymaking (including World Trade Organization accession) and investment policies. The STIP review will provide policy support to the Iraqi Government, for shaping and putting in place a national science, technology and innovation system.
A memorandum of understanding on the project was signed in Geneva on 1 September 2008 by Iraqi Minister of Science and Technology, Raid Fahmi, and UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, attended the event (see press release UNCTAD/PRESS/PR/2008/039). At the event, Dr. Supachai expressed UNCTAD´s continuing readiness to provide UNCTAD-wide support in favour of Iraq in order to "help this country participate effectively and gainfully in today´s globalized world economy and the multilateral trading system".
The STIP review will be prepared by a team of experts working under UNCTAD´s direction, in partnership with government officials, private-sector representatives, university officials and research institute directors. The STIP review will provide a basis for comprehensive Iraqi plans to encourage and capitalize on science, technology and innovation, as a way of spurring long-term economic growth.
UNCTAD carries out STIP reviews at the request of developing country Governments. The organization´s latest review, of Angola, was presented on 29 May 2008 at the eleventh session of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development. STIP reviews also have been prepared for seven other developing countries.
While Iraq´s efforts in science, technology and innovation used to be among the best in the region, the country´s intellectual infrastructure has suffered substantial setbacks following years of isolation, diminishing resources and damage to infrastructure. Estimates from different sources indicate that nearly 80 per cent of the country´s higher education and research institutions are not fully operational, and a large number of Iraqi scientists and engineers are believed to have left the country. A major goal of the STIP review will be to help Iraq ensure that its science, technology and innovation programmes become an instrument for supporting Iraq´s reconstruction, including through assisting the Government to encourage the return of Iraqi scientists and engineers. The overall goal is to help Iraq participate successfully in a knowledge-based, globalized economy.
Introduction of the ASYCUDA programme in Iraq is expected to be another major UNCTAD initiative in support of the country. The programme, which is an automated customs system for cargo control and the clearance of goods, has been installed in over 80 countries in all regions of the world, and has brought substantial gains in favour of these countries, especially in terms of improved efficiency in trade transactions, increased volume of customs revenue, and greater transparency in customs governance.
UNCTAD has been providing technical assistance in debt management to Iraq since September 2005, helping the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to create a debt database for the recording and monitoring of all debt obligations contracted by the Government. UNCTAD is also providing technical advice and training of officials in WTO-related issues.
For more details about the UNDG ITF and contact information, please visit: http://www.undp.org/mdtf/undg-itf/overview.shtml.