The sole claim for UNCTAD´s continued existence "is its ability to make a relevant contribution to the tasks of fostering growth, reducing inequality and building its capacity to make a difference to people´s lives", writes Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD in his Report to UNCTAD IX (TD/366). "This has to be especially true in the case of those who need UNCTAD most, the least developed countries", he adds.
The Report (79 pages) was released to Governments this week as a contribution to their preparatory discussions on the topics before the conference (see TAD/INF/2526). UNCTAD IX, the quadrennial ministerial conference of the organization, will convene 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". Among the participants will 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.
Sharper focus and pragmatism
UNCTAD´s activities should "be more sharply focused on a relatively small number of issues of central importance to development on which it can make a substantial impact", Mr. Ricupero said in Chapter IV (personal reflections on the future work of the organization). This applies both to analysis and to its tangible activities, for which priorities will be set by UNCTAD IX.
The private sector should be more involved in UNCTAD´s work. Multilateral institutions so far have failed to give adequate room to non-governmental actors who are increasingly shaping world affairs: transnational companies and private investors, non-governmental organizations, universities and research centres. By involving these actors, "we could help to convert a conference into a real partnership for development, making UNCTAD a model of what a truly international agency of the twenty-first century should be", said Mr. Ricupero.
Analysis has to be action-oriented. UNCTAD should help, in a cooperative effort with WTO, to prepare the multilateral agenda for future negotiations on trade, investment, competition, environment and technology. Here, its specific contribution is to provide a development perspective.
UNCTAD increasingly needs to take account of the diversity among countries at different stages of development. The distinction between those developing countries requiring assistance primarily in securing access to globalizing markets and those countries requiring assistance primarily in creating and expanding capacities to supply goods to those markets is thus of particular importance.
The second line of UNCTAD´s activities should be directed at helping countries implement the results of negotiations, through its concrete activities in the areas of trade, investment and enterprise development.
Maximizing the benefits of a global economy
The major challenge for the international community is to avoid the marginalization of its vulnerable members, which may increase as a result of globalization.
"Globalization is, paradoxically, a powerful force for both integration and marginalization", the Secretary-General of UNCTAD states. "It promises, for the first time in history, to bring fully into active participation in the world economy two billion women and men in the fast-growing developing countries. But in contrast, hundreds of millions of other individuals fear that the same forces threaten to shut them out - perhaps forever - from the promise of prosperity", he explains. "They are the unemployed or low-wage earners in sectors of industrial economies that have been lagging behind in the process of change. They are, too, the poor and jobless in many developing countries that depend on a few commodities barely touched, if at all, by globalization and liberalization."
The objective of UNCTAD IX is to maximize the benefits of globalization and liberalization while reducing the costs to the weaker economies. Pitfalls which require a global policy response are: the loss of policy autonomy in some areas at the national level which restricts or alters the scope of development policies; the risk of instability and disruptions resulting from financial openness; and the risk of marginalization. These policy concerns cannot be solved any longer by individual nations alone.
Each country is responsible in the first instance for its development. The failure or success of domestic policies is increasingly being determined by external factors. The responsibility of the international community is therefore to improve the external environment for sustainable development.
The effective management of interdependence requires "stronger international cooperation to ensure compatibility of policy objectives at three levels: among national objectives of growth and full employment in the major industrialized countries; among those, and the objectives of growth and development in developing countries; and among all of the above objectives and global environmental and social objectives. Management of interdependence must also address the problems of achieving greater coherence and consistency between policies in the interrelated fields of trade, investment, money and finance."