The Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, today pioneered a new, informal style in UNCTAD, when he addressed the Trade and Development Board - the highest regular executive body of the organization - on the opening day of its annual session. Renouncing the past practice of formally introducing the different agenda items, Mr. Ricupero chose instead to lay out his vision about the new UNCTAD and inform the Board members - as "stakeholders" - of the restructuring of the organisation. The Board is holding its annual meeting from 7 to 18 October (see TAD/INF/PR/9626).
Renewed vigour for action
"Since the successful outcome of UNCTAD IX, we have not rested on our laurels, nor contented ourselves with mutual congratulations about the decisions reached. Instead we have taken early action to fulfill our commitments" Mr. Ricupero said.
In less than two months, the Board in executive session had chosen the issues to be dealt with at its regular meeting, including for its high-level segment on Thursday, set up three intergovernmental Commissions and agreed on two priority topics for each of them. A reduced calendar of inter-governmental meetings had been mapped out, and substantive reports have been prepared. All this had been accomplished under difficult circumstances, he said, as at the same time the secretariat was undergoing a thorough internal restructuring.
Informing the Board about the reorganization (see Note to correspondents No. 20), Mr. Ricupero said that as a result regular staff had been reduced by about 12%, about one in eight of regular staff. "But budget or staff cuts are not an end in themselves. My goal - and I believe it is also your goal - is to build an organization that is performance-driven, concerned with the quality of our output, and more and more relevant to the development of the countries that are most in need of our service", the UNCTAD Secretary-General stressed.
Mr. Ricupero also drew attention to the need for creating awareness at the United Nations Headquarters about the new UNCTAD "so that during the broader reform process of the United Nations structure in the social and economic field our efforts are not wasted because of ignorance of what we are doing."
Forging a new vision of development
Turning to the substance of the Board´s agenda, Mr. Ricupero stated: "Development has always been and remains the vocation, the raison d´être of UNCTAD. Trade, investment, technology and all instruments for development are therefore on our agenda. But we have to examine what has changed in the perception of development since the organization was created", he added. "First, we have to take stock of practical experiences with development, and draw lessons from the successful examples in East Asia, as we did in the UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 1996. Simultaneously, we need to incorporate in our vision factors which did not exist in the 1960s and anticipate new challenges that may arise in terms of development."
"The approach to development should not only be quantitative, but also qualitative", the Secretary-General continued. "UNCTAD should help improve the well-being of people in doing what it is best at: analysis of, and policy advice on, income distribution, poverty alleviation, and how to accelerate growth while reducing inequalities. Moreover, the quality of development should be sustainable, and not be at the expense of future generations."
Mr. Ricupero argued that "too often globalization is presented as a threat, instead of an opportunity to improve people´s lives. But, it is not like the planetary system that is immutable. The economy is a product of society; it is a matter of choices and values. It is therefore our task to provide sound and true reasons for hope and security."
At the opening plenary, representatives of all regional groups welcomed the new direction taken by UNCTAD and expressed their determination to encourage action-oriented results. All speakers also paid tribute to the outgoing President Ambassador, William Rossier of Switzerland, for his important contribution to the successful outcome of UNCTAD IX, last May.
Bureau of the Board
The Board began its session by formally electing Ambassador Patrick Sinyinza of Zambia as President. The elected Vice-Presidents are: Mr. Anton Bebler (Slovenia), Mr. Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn (Thailand), Mrs. Arundhati Ghose (India), Mr. Andrei Kolossovsky (Russian Federation), Mr. Alexander A. Kravetz (El Salvador), Mr. Björn Skogmo (Norway), Mr. Daniel L. Spiegel (United States of America), Mr. Fisseha Yimer Aboye (Ethiopia), Mr. Peter R. Jenkins (United Kingdom), and Mr. Jun Yokota (Japan). Mrs. Violetta Fonseca de Sanabria (Venezuela) was elected Rapporteur.
Lithuania was elected as a new member of the Board, bringing its total membership to 142.