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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this first meeting of the Preparatory Committee for UNCTAD XIII.
Let me start by conveying the sincere apologies of our Secretary-General, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, for not being able to be with you on this significant occasion. He has asked me to assure you that he will be following this process very closely.
He has also asked me to present to you in broad outlines the key messages of his report to the Conference, and advance version of which was issued last Friday. As you will be able to see, this report is rather longer than previous such documents. However, we are experiencing the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, which has not only devastated the development prospects of many countries, but has also shattered some of the most widely held beliefs of development economics. We therefore felt that in our report, a business-as-usual approach was not appropriate. Instead, the Secretary-General wanted to provide you with some of his thoughts on how we got here, and what the roots of the current crisis were. He then also wanted to offer what he thought were some of the lesson of the crisis and its roots for development economics, so as to bring about, what he calls, a "development-led globalization". We regret the delay in making this document available to you, which was largely due to the effort that was exerted to present to you a thought-provoking, comprehensive analysis. Of course, this is not an intergovernmental document, or even a formal input to the negotiations. However, we hope that you will find it a useful and thought-provoking document that can help you as you deliberate on the future of the world economy and UNCTAD´s role therein.
Allow me, therefore, to briefly outline some of the key messages of the report:
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I am confident that you will find these ideas useful in your deliberations. Indeed, UNCTAD XIII will be a crucial opportunity to make a key contribution to the global re-thinking of development that the crisis will require. If you want it to be, it can become a platform for the beginning of a new development consensus. Indeed, it comes at a time - just after the Geneva Ministerial of the WTO, and just ahead of the Rio+20 deliberations in Brazil, when the world will increasingly have to rely on multilateral solutions to address global problems - be they the global economic recession, the challenge of global development, or climate change.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we embark on our preparations for the Conference, let me briefly say a few words about the tasks that lie ahead of you in this Committee, as I see them. In my view, there are four key tasks in front of this Preparatory Committee.
First and foremost, and in line with the excellent overarching theme you have decided upon, you will have the opportunity to redefine the global development consensus, by outlining what kind of policies will be needed for globalization to be truly ´development-centred´. As has been repeated many times, the current crisis has rendered many of the former beliefs obsolete, and we are facing an urgent need for new ideas. UNCTAD, in its role as a development think tank, has long been an incubator of innovative ideas, and many of the concepts developed here have found their way into mainstream thinking over time. I therefore believe that we are well-placed to help fill the void in the development discourse. Indeed, our work has highlighted many ideas and policies that will help to return development to the centre of globalization. Be it the increased regulation of global finance, the curbing of speculation in commodities, the imposition of a tax on financial transactions, or others, UNCTAD XIII can serve to launch or elaborate some such ideas.
Secondly, you will have to decide on UNCTAD´s mandate for the next four years. As the focal point of the UN for trade and development, we must ensure that UNCTAD continues its core work-programme, and addresses the key trade and development challenges. In addition, you may wish to consider any arising challenges or areas of work that deserve more attention from UNCTAD, while you also may feel that other areas can be de-emphazised.
The third, and closely related, task you are facing in the Preparatory Committee for the Ministerial Conference is to adjust the organization´s work to the changing needs of its stakeholders, and to reflect the emergence of new challenges in its work-programme. Ensuring that UNCTAD can address some of the most pressing issues of today is particularly crucial for an organization, which member States have asked to "provide ahead of the curve, and innovative work on trade and development and related issues". Of course, any significant new mandates should also be accompanied by adequate resources to carry them out.
Finally, the fourth task of the preparatory Committee is to prepare the ground for crucial measures to strengthen the organization. After all, ensuring that UNCTAD can effectively carry out its development role is in the interest of all its member States. Six years ago, the Secretary-General commissioned a Panel of Eminent Persons to advice on measures to strengthen the organization. Most of the recommendations made by this eminent Panel have either been implemented, or are in the process of being implemented. Should you wish to.
However, we should bear in mind that UNCTAD XIII is now just over six months away. This leaves very little time, and work must begin now. I hope that it will be possible for all Groups to present their positions soon, so as to move on quickly to negotiations. I would like to personally assure you that the Secretariat and I myself will make every effort to support you in this process.
The negotiations you are embarking upon today will set the tone and the mood for the Conference. In this forum, success can only be achieved together.
I look forward working with you to make the next Ministerial Conference a success for all of us, for the organization, and, most importantly, for the cause of trade and development.
Thank you very much.