A discussion forum entitled "Why Trade Matters in Development Strategies" was organized by UNCTAD from 27 to 29 November, and attracted trade experts and national officials in charge of development planning.
Representatives of civil society and the business community also were present, as were speakers from five agencies that are members of the UN Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity: the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Labour Office, the International Trade Centre, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Environment Programme.
UNCTAD is lead agency of the Inter-Agency Cluster.
The objective of the forum was to identify links between trade and development policies, and to specify what sorts of technical assistance can ensure that trade has a positive impact on development. Government officials from Bhutan, Lebanon, Togo, and Yemen gave presentations on how trade and development policies are linked in their respective countries.
Other participants were officials who have taken part in UNCTAD's regional and national workshops on Integrating the Trade Dimension in United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks. Over the last two years, workshops have been held in Guatemala, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mali, and Nepal.
Topics explored over the three days included the interrelation of trade and food security, poverty reduction, women's empowerment, productive capacity, job creation, and the environment.
The meeting reached a broad consensus that trade affects economic progress in developing countries through a wider range of channels than might be expected. Therefore, participants said, it is imperative that the trade dimension be included in development strategies and plans. Speakers also agreed that the effects of trade on the issues considered can differ significantly depending on the specific situation of each country and that therefore there cannot be a "one-size-fits-all" approach applied to all countries.
Over the next few weeks, UNCTAD will follow up with national officials who attended the Forum to help convey the conclusions of the meeting to government authorities and others concerned with setting development policies.