UNCTAD today made public a sweeping restructuring of its 420-strong Secretariat, reducing the number of its divisions from nine to four and cutting the number of its high-level posts.
In future, UNCTAD will handle its work in four major clusters, covering Globalization and Development Strategies; Investment, Technology and Enterprise; International Trade and Commodities; and Services for Development and Trade Efficiency. As to cross-sectoral divisions, a special coordinator will be appointed to deal with questions related to Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The special coordinator will be responsible for the preparation of the annual report on LDCs and the monitoring of the implementation of the Plan of Action. Sectoral work will be redeployed to Sectoral Divisions. The latter will also apply to work previously undertaken by the Division for Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries. The new structure, which will be subject to review in mid-1997, is designed to increase synergies between various aspects of the organization´s work programme.
Mr. Rubens Ricupero, UNCTAD´s Secretary-General, described the reorganization as unprecedented in scope within the UN system. He added that the proposed new structure had been given "enthusiastic backing" and "unswerving support" by Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the United Nations Secretary-General, and his senior colleagues in New York.
Addressing a press conference today in Geneva, Mr. Ricupero said he saw a close link between the restructuring of the Secretariat and the anticipated outcome of UNCTAD IX, which opens on April 27 in Midrand, South Africa. The Secretary-General recognized that UNCTAD´s ability to reorganize itself and deliver concrete results to its key constituency in the developing world in a cost-effective fashion is being keenly watched as a test case for wider UN reform. "This is a challenge I am confident we can meet," he said.
Implementation of the reorganization will commence after the Conference. While financial savings will ensue, he stressed that this was not the primary goal. "Even if there had been no financial crisis at the UN, the restructuring would still have been necessary," he declared. The full staffing and budgetary implications of these changes for UNCTAD will depend largely on the work programme adopted by the Conference and will only be apparent by the end of the third quarter, taking into account also cuts mandated last year by the United Nations General Assembly and the outcome of a parallel UN-wide Efficiency Review.
Turning to UNCTAD IX, Mr. Ricupero said that provided the political willpower was there he anticipated that this could be a landmark conference, at which the United Nations would reclaim the high ground on development issues. After focusing heavily in recent years on peacekeeping activities, for understandable reasons given recent events, he felt the UN was once again giving the priority it deserved to the promotion of equitable economic development worldwide.
Based on preliminary consultations with member States, there appear to be multiplying points of convergence as to the future direction of the organization. And while there had been some difficult discussions, with sharp differences of view expressed, Mr. Ricupero said that the willingness member States have shown to engage in serious negotiation on the issues was clear evidence of the importance they accorded to UNCTAD and to its potential future role on the world economic scene.
The Midrand Conference will build on UNCTAD VIII, held at Cartagena (Colombia) in 1992, where the concept of "a partnership for development" was launched. In an increasingly diversified developing world, the Secretary-General said UNCTAD will come to be seen as indispensable for many of its member States. Thus, if Cartagena could be seen as the "Reform Conference" for UNCTAD, he believed that Midrand could be dubbed the "Renaissance Conference", setting the organization on a new upward path.