unctad.org | UNCTAD and the journey to inclusive multilateralism - Opening statement
Statement by Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
UNCTAD and the journey to inclusive multilateralism - Opening statement
15 juin 2014




Fifty years ago a confident South was gathered in Geneva to push for major reforms to the multilateral framework that governed the post-war global economy. Today marks fifty years to the day since the culmination of UNCTAD I, which established this Conference and its Secretariat as permanent institutional fixtures on the multilateral landscape.

Today we recognize that with the founding of UNCTAD, the universal membership of the United Nations explicitly embraced an inclusive, forward-looking development perspective and held forth the goal of building a world economy able to serve the interests of all. The establishment of UNCTAD signalled an important move beyond the principles that regulated the Bretton Woods institutions and the GATT, when it was agreed that: "Economic development and social progress should be the common concern of the whole international community, and should, by increasing economic prosperity and well-being, help strengthen peaceful relations and cooperation among nations." Since then, the entire United Nations family has built on this vision, notably reaffirming it in the landmark Millennium Declaration.

As the President of the Trade and Development Board, His Excellency Ambassador Wibowo, has noted in his welcoming remarks, we have a rich programme of commemorative events planned for this week to honour the indelible impact of UNCTAD over the past fifty years of its work. Indeed, this week is only a part of a larger series of events taking place this year, both here in Geneva and elsewhere. We started off with a public symposium in Jakarta in April where we were well represented and deeply engaged on discussion about the relevance of our organization going forward into the future. This was followed by a dedicated session on UNCTAD at the Astana Economic Forum in Kazakhstan last month.

Today, we carry forward that momentum to begin our anniversary week in earnest. As we reflect on a half-century of UNCTAD history up to 2014, we do so with the constructive aim of leveraging our successes and learning from our missteps, so that we can together chart a course for a worthwhile and fruitful future. The World Investment Forum, which will be held here in Geneva from 13 to 16 October is convened in the context of this jubilee celebrations.

Fifty years ago UNCTAD was given the explicit responsibility to formulate principles and policies on international trade and related problems of economic development. To identify those principles and policies, research, independent thinking and debate has been a hallmark of our work since the very start.

Professor John Toye's new, independent history of UNCTAD, which we have commissioned on the occasion of our fiftieth anniversary, and, which will be presented to us today, is a natural continuation of that spirit. As this volume is neither a negotiated document nor an official history, it very much represents Professor Toye's own personal vision. Undoubtedly, individuals within and outside UNCTAD will disagree with some of the views and analysis.

Over the years this organization has acted as a forum that brings together people, countries and organizations with differing views and experiences. The decision to publish an independently written book is very much in this spirit.

The discussion that we have around the differing views and interpretations of UNCTAD's establishment and its legacy have the potential to become as heated a discussion as some of the intergovernmental negotiations that have taken place here over the years! But it is a valuable and necessary exercise, because the lessons of our past can help us confront the challenges of the future.

We inhabit a world that is more complex than 50 years ago. Problems and challenges now cross borders and disciplines with tremendous speed. We face several threats to the global commons, including from climate change, from the financial crisis, from the food and energy crises and from other dangers, such as conflict and deadly diseases. These truly global problems cry out for global solutions. And so, today we are asking again, as our predecessors did at UNCTADs first Conference, are the structures designed to govern the global economy really fit for purpose? How can we build a truly multilateral system able to solve those pernicious problems and provide effectively global public goods?

The future of UNCTAD -- and indeed of the entire multilateral system -- lies in the way that we together answer these questions, and our anniversary celebrations offer a unique opportunity to discuss how best to position and equip UNCTAD to achieve results that serve a broader development agenda over the many years to come.

This morning we open with the presentation of Prof. Toye's rendition of our history and his view on the lessons learnt over 50 years of relentless effort. This presentation will be followed by a very special panel moderated by Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Petko Draganov. We are honoured to have with us today three UNCTAD veterans, who were present not only in the earliest days of the Conference, but who represent the memory from three continents.

I am sure we have all much to learn from the contributions both from the speakers and during the open discussions that will follow. I wish you all a fruitful week of debate and thinking.


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