Inter-governmental preparations for UNCTAD IX which began more than a year ago will enter their final stage with a meeting of the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board and its Committee of the Whole from 26 February to 29 March. The preparatory meetings are presided over by Ambassador William Rossier (Switzerland).
The ninth session of the Conference will convene at Gallagher Estate, in Midrand, South Africa, from 27 April to 11 May. About 2500 participants, led by ministers from all countries, are expected to attend this conference which will seek to "promote growth and sustainable development in a globalizing and liberalizing world economy". The quadrennial UNCTAD Conference is the largest intergovernmental gathering designed to promote development through trade and international economic cooperation.
The Board will convene in an executive session on 26 February and 29 March. Between these dates the Committee of the Whole within the Board will meet from 26-29 February, from 11-15 and 25-29 March to prepare a pre-negotiated text on the four topics which have been singled out for UNCTAD IX. These are: "Development policies and strategies in an increasingly interdependent world economy in the 1990s and beyond"; "Promoting international trade as an instrument for development in the post-Uruguay Round world"; "Promoting enterprise development and competitiveness in developing countries and countries in transition"; and "Future work of UNCTAD in accordance with its mandate; Institutional implications". The time between the meetings of the Committee of the Whole will be devoted to consultations of regional groups. This lengthy preparatory process is expected to culminate in the adoption by the Board on 29 March of the pre-negotiated text which will be submitted to UNCTAD IX for further elaboration and adoption.
For its discussions the Board will have before it the outcomes of a series of ministerial meetings and of topical seminars which have taken place over the past few months (see below).
High-level participation at UNCTAD IX
As of today, 188 countries are members of UNCTAD, the main organization within the United Nations system which endeavours to improve trade and economic development, in particular of the developing countries. Most countries will be represented at UNCTAD IX at the ministerial level. Among the participants will also be the Executive Heads of international organizations, including the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Michel Camdessus, and the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Renato Ruggiero, as well as representatives of inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations, is expected to open UNCTAD IX on 27 April. Nelson Mandela, President of the Republic of South Africa will address the inaugural session followed by Juan Manuel Santos, Minister of Foreign Trade of Colombia, in his capacity as President of UNCTAD VIII, which was held in 1992 in Cartagena de Indias, and by the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Rubens Ricupero.
The Conference proper will begin with the election of the President of the Conference, the Head of the Delegation of the host country, Trevor Manuel, Minister of Trade and Industry. The general debate will begin on 30 April in the morning, with a statement by Mr. Ricupero on the issues before the Conference.
Ministers of the least developed countries will hold a meeting on 1 May, at the conference centre.
Senior Officials will meet on 26 April in order to finalize organizational matters for the Conference.
Preparatory process and documentation
Preparations for UNCTAD IX date back to February 1995 when the theme was launched at informal inter-governmental consultations chaired by Carlos Fortin, at the time Officer-in-Charge of UNCTAD. The theme and the provisional agenda for UNCTAD IX were adopted by the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board in April 1995 and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 1995.
As for previous conferences, the developing countries have met at the ministerial level in the various regions to coordinate their stance for the Conference. The Asian Group met in Amman (Jordan) from 6-11 January (see document AS/MM/77(VIII)/1/Rev.1), the Latin American Group in Caracas (Venezuela) from 16-18 January (LA/MM/77(VIII)/1), the African Group in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) from 13-16 February.
In preparation for UNCTAD IX, international encounters among Government representatives and non-governmental actors, including the private sector and academics, were hosted by various countries on some major topics before the Conference. The first dealt with "technical cooperation for trade and development in the face of globalization" which took place in Ascona (Switzerland) on 23-24 November 1995 (see document UNCTAD IX/Misc.1). A seminar was held on "Environment, competitiveness and trade: A development perspective" in Helsinki (Finland) on 18-19 January 1996 (see document UNCTAD IX/Misc. 2). An International Round Table on the "Promotion of the private sector and the role of government" was held in Bonn (Germany) from 7-9 February 1996. Malaysia will be hosting a conference on "The East Asian development: Lessons for a new global environment" in Kuala Lumpur from 29 February to 1 March. A conference on "global capital flows in economic development" is scheduled to take place in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, U.S.A. from 7 to 9 March. Finally, an expert meeting on "Technology: Partnership for capacity-building and competitivity" will be convened in Helsinki (Finland) from 1 to 3 April.
Furthermore, about 60 representatives of non-governmental organizations met in UNCTAD on 2-3 November 1995 in order to show their perspectives on the issues before UNCTAD IX and to organize the NGO contribution to the Conference.
As for previous sessions, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, has prepared a report for the Conference (TD/366) which sets out the problematique of the topics before the Conference and contains proposals made by the UNCTAD secretariat (see TAD/INF/2628).
Contribution to WTO Ministerial Meeting
UNCTAD IX is to assess the challenges and opportunities arising from the Uruguay Round Agreements from a development perspective. At the request of the United Nations General Assembly (Resolution 50/95 of 20 December 1995), this assessment will be transmitted to the first Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization, which will be held in Singapore from 9-13 December.
An international business conference on Africa, called Africa Connect, will be held in Midrand, South Africa, from 2-4 May. This planned 500 strong business gathering is deliberately timed as a parallel event to UNCTAD IX and will be taking place at the same venue. It is organized jointly by UNCTAD and the South-African branch of the International Chamber of Commerce. Africa Connect is an expression of the desire of the Secretary-General, Rubens Ricupero, to involve more closely the private sector and other non-governmental actors in UNCTAD´s efforts to maximize the benefits of the globalizing economy for development.
The purpose of Africa Connect is to boost business in Africa by identifying opportunities for international and cross-country investment and trade. According to UNCTAD figures, in 1995 Africa, with about 12% of the world population, represented less than 2% of world foreign direct investment and accounted for merely 2% of world trade. The continent, however, has the potential to fully participate in the benefits of the globalizing economy. For instance, the World Investment Report 1995, published by UNCTAD, showed that the average rate of return for United Sates´ subsidiaries in Africa in recent years is higher than in both other developing and developed regions.
African Connect will bring together business leaders from transnational corporations, African firms, African Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Investment Promotion Agencies and government officials.
National Event on Trade Efficiency
Southern African business leaders and high-level civil servants will gather to discuss recent progress towards global trade efficiency at the South Africa´s National Event on Trade Efficiency, to be held in Midrand in parallel with UNCTAD IX. This event consists of two interlinked components: the Executive Symposium on Trade Efficiency (29 April-1 May), and the SME Satellite Conference on Global Trade (8-9 May).
Building on the success of the United Nations International Symposium on Trade Efficiency (UNISTE, Columbus, Ohio, USA, October 1994), the Midrand Executive Symposium will consist of six interactive, action-oriented panels. Speakers from Southern Africa and from international organizations at the forefront of trade efficiency will present new developments in each of the main trade-supporting services, i.e. Customs, transport, banking and insurance, telecommunications, business information and trade facilitation. Trade Point managers will also present their experiences and a model Trade Point will be displayed at the premises of the Gallagher Estate. A forum on least developed countries will discuss the specific difficulties of traders in these countries in having access to modern technologies for trade, and propose innovative solutions through the Global Trade Point Network. On 8 and 9 May, the satellite conference will address the specific concerns of African small- and medium-sized enterprises.