They addressed more than 300 experts from about 100 countries, who have gathered in Geneva for UNCTAD’s 30th anniversary session of ISAR (the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting).
Speakers at the opening panel discussion stressed that many developing countries lack sufficiently robust accounting infrastructures to enable them to apply international standards, and that such standards are frequently necessary to ensure confidence from potential foreign investors.
“Building an effective accounting and reporting infrastructure requires the development of appropriate policies and regulations, a strong institutional base, and adequate resources,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi. “One particular area of the accountancy infrastructure challenge is building the necessary human resources.”
Ngy Tayi, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia, told the meeting: “The lack of human resources includes inconsistency and lack of an appropriate curriculum at universities, unfamiliarity with accounting and auditing terminology, and lack of a training programme for certified public accountants at the national level.”
Verónica Gallardo, Vice-Minister of Finance from Ecuador, said: “The adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) has had an immediate effect on comparability and transparency.”
And Abou Gbané, a Deputy Director at the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Côte d’Ivoire, told the meeting: “Traceability of transactions, reliability of financial reporting, and measurement of the financial liabilities of the public sector are important aspects of good governance.”
During the three-day session, delegates deliberated on best practices and critical issues in developing capacities for high-quality corporate reporting. In addition, there was discussion about new guidance for stock exchanges and policymakers on sustainability reporting initiatives.
In addition, ISAR delegates addressed the contribution of the accounting profession to the global challenge of sustainable development. Dr. Kituyi told the meeting: “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 agenda loom large on the horizon for UN Member States. Whatever their final form, the SDGs will require significant contributions from enterprises to make them a reality, and measuring the contribution of companies to sustainable development is an important objective for many in the accounting community.”
The 30th anniversary session also featured a number of studies resulting from the Accounting Development Tool (ADT) now available for member States that wish to conduct assessments of their accounting infrastructures to identify gaps and determine priorities. Formally launched in 2012 at the UNCTAD XIII quadrennial conference, the ADT has since then been deployed in 12 countries. Representatives of those countries were on hand at ISAR 30 to present the key findings, lessons learned, and benefits gained.
“One of the main benefits of the ADT is the process itself,” Dr. Kituyi said. “The ADT promotes dialogue and awareness of weaknesses and priorities among all stakeholders involved in corporate reporting at the national level.”
Additionally, a new web-based version of the tool “e-ADT” is available in: English, French, Russian and Spanish.
On the day before the start of ISAR 30, an Accounting for SMEs Forum, jointly organized by UNCTAD and the IFRS Foundation, took place at the Palais des Nations. During the Forum, experts from around the world – including representatives of the International Accounting Standards Board, the World Bank, the International Federation of Accountants, and UNCTAD – addressed lessons learned in implementing IFRS for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). They also discussed possible changes to the standards, and considered the related capacity-building needs of SMEs.