For use of information media - Not an official record

25 February 1996

"Without minimizing the reform efforts being undertaken elsewhere, UNCTAD is becoming a test-case regarding the earnestness and capacity of the international community to implement its commitment to reforming international organizations, and indeed international relations proper", the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, said this morning to the Trade and Development Board. The Board began today the final phase of preparations for the organization´s ninth quadrennial ministerial conference, to be held in Midrand, South Africa, from 27 April to 11 May (UNCTAD IX).

The Conference will be judged on its capacity to reach a consensus on the changes needed in UNCTAD. But consensus will require compromise, the Secretary-General warned, adding: "No single group of countries should try to impose a uni-dimensional perception of the mission of UNCTAD, nor of reform of the United Nations". "It is the prerogative and responsibility of member States to impart a direction to our future work. I do not have a mandate on my own to decide on this", Mr. Ricupero said. "We are really engaging in a decisive moment, not only for UNCTAD, but for the United Nations as a whole, not only for the Secretariat, but also for Member countries", he stressed.

"As other international organizations, UNCTAD is living through a period of particularly acute crisis". There are at present no less than five intergovernmental processes being undertaken in New York bearing on the reform of the United Nations. "However, what is specific to UNCTAD is that it is the only part of the United Nations which is going to have a major conference in the midst of this crisis", the Secretary-General stated. The financial crisis had unavoidable implications on the normal life of the institution and on the commitment to reform. UNCTAD IX will therefore serve as a test-case as the Conference, UNCTAD´s "constitutional assembly", would have the power to take the necessary decisions to translate the commitment to reform into concrete action.

"In this complex process we will all be judged on the basis of our actions", he added. "First and foremost, it is my responsibility and that of the secretariat to reform ourselves and to make sacrifices ... and I would rather be bold than cautious. We are ready to be judged on the basis of action that lies in our sphere of competence."

The Secretary-General, in his Report to UNCTAD IX, has made proposals for a more focussed work programme based on a selection of a few priorities to which UNCTAD can make a meaningful contribution. He also suggests that new actors in the world economy, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, be involved to a greater extent in UNCTAD´s work.


At this morning´s plenary session of the Board, host countries informed the Board of the outcomes of the regional ministerial meetings of developing countries held in Amman, Caracas and Addis Ababa in preparation for UNCTAD IX. The European Union presented its position paper for UNCTAD IX calling for "a new UNCTAD", which would promote involvement of the new protagonists in the world economy. Canada, the Russian Federation, Norway and Hungary also set out their broad views about UNCTAD´s future role.

Ambassador Björn Skogmo (Norway) presented the Report of the Mid-Term Global Review of the Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries. The Representatives of Finland, Switzerland and Germany, informed the Board of the outcome of the topical seminars held in Helsinki, Ascona and Bonn (see TAD/INF/2635).

Tribute paid to Martin Huslid

Before entering into substantive discussions the Board paid tribute to Martin Huslid, who passed away in Brussels on 14 February. Mr. Huslid was the Ambassador of Norway to the international organizations in Geneva, from 1981 to 1990. He was President of the Board in 1985. "He guided the work of the Board with his customary motivation, outstanding competence and unfailing dedication, combined with a wonderful sense of humour", Ambassador William Rossier (Switzerland) stated in his tribute.

Establishment of the Committee of the Whole for UNCTAD IX

The Board this morning established an open-ended Committee of the Whole that will elaborate a pre-conference text for UNCTAD IX. The President of the Board, Ambassador Rossier, will also chair the Committee, which began work this afternoon. He announced that on the basis of the informal exchange of views on the documentation before the Board (see TAD/INF/2635), he would present a draft text to the Committee for its deliberations on Monday 11 March. However, the text would be made available to delegates by Monday 4 March. Tomorrow morning (Tuesday 27 February), the Secretary-General of UNCTAD will address the Committee, at an informal session, on the gravity of the situation faced by UNCTAD, in the context of the severe financial crisis which the United Nations is undergoing. His purpose is to have a free, frank and open discussion with the member States.

New members of the Board

Iceland and the Republic of Moldova have become members of the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board, bringing total membership to 143.

For more information, please contact
Murray Gibbs, Systemic Issues of Intenrational Trade Section, International Trade Division
T: +41 22 907 5920
F: +41 22 907 0044
Carine Richard-Van Maele, UNCTAD Press officer
T: +41 22 907 5816/28
F: +41 22 907 0043
E: press@unctad.org


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