UNCTAD and the UN General Assembly will join forces on Thursday, October 23, through a joint session of the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board (TDB), in Geneva, and the Second Committee, in New York. For the first time ever, two intergovernmental UN bodies will be linked by videoconference, for three hours, breaking down the barriers of time zones and distance that have previously separated them.
Appropriately, the topics to be debated will be the implications of burgeoning electronic commerce for developing countries and the establishment of practical "partnerships for development" with the private business community and civil society.
The Second Committee, chaired by Ambassador Oscar Rojas of Venezuela, will suspend its regular work to enable New York-based delegates to join the afternoon session of the TDB´s High-Level Segment, which concludes the annual meeting of the UNCTAD governing body. The High-Level Segment will be chaired by H.E. Mr. Jan Pronk, Minister of Development Cooperation of The Netherlands, and attended by Ministers and other top officials from many of UNCTAD´s 188 member States.
The decision to hold a joint session of the two intergovernmental bodies was hailed by Mr. Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, as "an important step forward in enabling UNCTAD´s conceptual, and practical, work on development issues to be incorporated into delegates´ thinking in New York".
Through the increased use of teleconferencing, UNCTAD and the Second Committee will bring greater synergy and effectiveness to their work, enabling the two major centres of the UN´s work to benefit from their respective perspectives.
Thursday´s meeting will be followed, on 11 November, by a panel discussion at the Second Committee, organized by UNCTAD, on prospects for the international trading system. Chaired by Mr. Ricupero, this debate will also be videolinked with Geneva. Entitled "Havana plus 50", it will mark the signing of the Havana Charter in 1947, which led to the present multilateral system of free trade.
In addressing the issue of electronic commerce, participants in the joint session of the TDB and the Second Committee will be focussing on the development implications of this new medium of trade, both the advantages this could bring to those countries not yet well integrated into the international trading system and the obstacles they face, notably access to modern telecommunications. Taking part in the Geneva panel discussion will be H.E. Carlos Ronderos, Minister of Foreign Trade of Colombia, Mr. Tariq Sayeed, Chairman of the G77 Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Developing Countries, and Mr. Geza Feketekuty, Director of the Center for Trade and Commercial Diplomacy of the Monterrey Institute, in California. The President of UNCTAD IX, H.E. Mr. Alec Erwin, Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, will be the first respondent.
Following this part of the debate, the videoconference session will conclude with the formal launch by UNCTAD of its Secretary-General´s Partners for Development initiative. Mr. André Soulier, Deputy Mayor of Lyon, is expected to announce that the French city will host a four-day meeting in November 1998 bringing together hundreds of high-level business executives, government officials and non-governmental organizations, to formalize concrete partnerships in developing countries, in various areas of UNCTAD´s work.
At UNCTAD IX in South Africa, in May 1996, member States gave Mr. Ricupero a personal mandate to advance his "Partners for Development" concept through the holding of a meeting that would put flesh onto the bones of the project.