unctad.org | Expert Meeting on Universal Access to Services
Expert Meeting on Universal Access to Services
14 - 16 November 2006

Key Issues

Many services are deeply embedded in a country´s social, cultural or political context.  Some of them are essential for human life or have important infrastructural characteristics. More broadly, many play a key role in achieving the MDGs.

The following services are cases in point:
  • Telecommunication services

  • health services

  • education services

  • water services

In these sectors, Governments face the challenge of ensuring that services are adequately provided, including to the poor and marginalized members of society. National policies for ensuring access are determined by a series of factors, including a country´s specific economic and social situation, its particular policy objective (e.g. accessibility/affordability, efficiency, reducing expenses to government/taxpayers), as well as its international commitments and obligations.

The expert meeting will:

  • analyse key characteristics of essential services sectors and universal access;
  • look at national experiences and specific policy tools for ensuring access to universal services;
  • examine how national policies differ across countries and sectors and what can be done at the international level to increase access;
  • discuss the role of the Government and the private sector in these services; and
  • review linkages between universal access policies and negotiations under the GATS.

The meeting will place particular emphasis on how to harness services trade as a tool for improving universal access and on what the key challenges are in this context.

The meeting will bring together experts and practitioners from the relevant intergovernmental organizations, research institutions, civil society and the private sector, as well as national experts from UN Members States. Moreover, the meeting will benefit from the UNCTAD secretariat´s expertise in both:

  • assessment of services sectors/policies at the national/regional levels, and
  • trade negotiations at the international level.

It is intended to make a valuable contribution towards assuring development gains from the multilateral trading system.



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The Expert Meeting on Universal Access to Services will be held from 14 to 16 November 2006 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. The Meeting will open at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 November 2006.

Background and purpose of the Meeting

The Meeting aims at providing UNCTAD member States with a better understanding of the importance and role of universal access (UA) in key services sectors, such as education, energy, health, telecommunications and water services, and possible methods to ensure such UA.

The Meeting will look at the role of UA for improved living conditions, economic growth, domestic supply capacity building and trade in developing countries. It will discuss policy options and associated regulatory frameworks that aim at enhancing UA and its contribution to trade and development. The Meeting will also look at the importance of ensuring that adequate essential services are provided to the poor and marginalized, and the crucial role this can play in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. In so doing, the Meeting will identify common, cross-cutting features, goals, policies and challenges, as well as trade-related considerations.

The Meeting will consider national experiences and specific policy tools (e.g. universal service obligation, subsidies, etc.) for ensuring access, and analyse how they may differ across countries and sectors in line with specific national policy objectives. Attention will be given to the role of government and the private sector in these services. The Meeting will also review linkages between UA policies and the GATS, including negotiations on market access, rules and domestic regulation.

The Meeting will provide an opportunity for actors from the public and private sectors, research institutions and think tanks, as well as trade negotiators, policy makers and academics, to explore different facets of UA to services in an open debate at the international level.


Member States of UNCTAD are requested to nominate experts not later than 23 October 2006. Experts, who will participate in the Meeting in their personal capacities, are expected to have proven expertise in the subject, and they may be selected from governmental and non-governmental organizations, private entities or academia. The Meeting may be of particular interest to government officials and representatives of the private sector involved in services sectors where UA is a key policy objective (e.g. education, energy, health, telecom and water services), as well as services trade negotiators. In addition, experts from international and regional organizations will be invited as resource persons.

Specialized agencies and intergovernmental bodies wishing to participate in the Meeting, as well as non-governmental organizations in the general category and those in the special category wishing to participate as observers, are requested to inform the UNCTAD secretariat of the names of their representatives by 23 October 2006.

Financial assistance

Funds will be made available to finance the participation of a limited number of officially nominated experts from developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Governments requiring funding are therefore invited to explicitly request financing in their letters of nomination. The decision as to which experts should receive financing will be based on the principle of equitable geographical representation, needs of beneficiaries, in particular LDCs, and the expertise of the experts concerned, as well as the type and availability of funding in the Trust Fund for Financing the Participation of Experts at the time. Changes in nominated experts will be considered as new nominations.

Nominations with requests for financing should be received no later than 18 October 2006, and should be accompanied by the following information about the nominee:

  • Curriculum vitae;
  • Mailing address;
  • Telephone and fax number;
  • E-mail address; and
  • Name of a contact person in the Permanent Mission in Geneva.

It should be noted in this connection that once the list of experts to be financed has been finalized, all travel arrangements will be made in accordance with United Nations rules and regulations. The least costly fare will be authorized.

The experts are expected to prepare brief papers (approximately five pages) as contributions to the work of the Meeting. An expert paper may address one or several issues, including those suggested in the provisional agenda TD/B/COM.1/EM.30/1. The papers will be made available at the Meeting in the form and language in which they are received.

Background documents and contributed papers

The provisional agenda for the Meeting, together with the secretariat´s annotations thereto, is being circulated as document TD/B/COM.1/EM.30/1. In order to facilitate the discussion, the UNCTAD secretariat has prepared an issues note, which will be circulated as TD/B/COM.1/EM.30/2.

In addition, all experts are encouraged to prepare and submit brief papers related to their country´s experience in policy making, regulation and liberalization of services where UA is a key policy objective; UA providers´ experience in specific services; the contribution of these services to broader development objectives; cross-cutting features in the provision of UA, budgetary/financing mechanisms as well as experiences with monitoring and targeting. These papers will be made available to the Meeting in the form and language in which they are received.


The Meeting will take place at the United Nations Office at Geneva, Palais des Nations. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided in the six official languages of the United Nations.

Upon arrival, participants are requested, before entering the Palais des Nations, to collect their badges at the UN Security Service, Pregny Gate entrance, 14 Avenue de la Paix. The Security Service is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Because of the security measures in force, participants are strongly advised to arrive before 9 a.m. in order to complete entry procedures in good time and proceed to the Meeting in the E-Building (Bâtiment E) of the Palais. Participants are requested to carry a passport or similar national identity card with them. Taxis are not allowed to enter the grounds of the Palais des Nations, and visitors will therefore be dropped off at the requested entrance gates. Furthermore, luggage may not be brought into the buildings unless the UN Security Service gives special clearance.

Further information and contact details

Nominations and related communications concerning representation at the Meeting should be sent to the UNCTAD secretariat, Intergovernmental Affairs and Outreach Service, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10; fax: + 41(0) 22 917 0214; e-mail: correspondence@unctad.org.

Enquiries concerning substantive issues should be addressed to a coordinator in the substantive division, Ms. Mina Mashayekhi or Ms. Elisabeth Tuerk, tel: +41 (0) 22 917 5866 or +41 (0) 22 917 5271, fax: +41 (0) 22 917 0044, e-mail: mina.mashayekhi@unctad.org or elisabeth.tuerk@unctad.org.


Supachai Panitchpakdi
Secretary-General of UNCTAD
12 October 2006


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