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Panel of Eminent Persons proposes several initiatives to strengthen UNCTAD's development impact

Geneva, Switzerland, 22 May 2013

​Group, including four former Heads of State, recommends establishment of ‘Development Observatory of Global Economic and Financial Governance;’ ‘multilateral platform’ to coordinate investment policies; ‘aid-for-diversification facility;’ other steps

A “Development Observatory of Global Economic and Financial Governance” should be established with UNCTAD as custodian to safeguard the interests of poor countries as reforms to the global economic and financial systems are carried out, a high-level panel has recommended.

The panel also calls for creating under UNCTAD’s auspices “a multilateral platform where international investment policies can be coordinated,” noting that “No formal institutional body – akin to the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund), which respectively manage global trade and finance – is mandated to oversee international investment issues.” And it suggests establishment of an “aid-for diversification facility” to help poor countries reduce their economic dependence on exports of commodities.

Those and other possible steps are outlined in a second report from a Panel of Eminent Persons established by UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi to advise him on how to meet key and emerging development challenges and to provide concrete ideas for international initiatives to deal with them .  The report, titled “Addressing key economic issues to advance sustainable development: Ideas for actions,” ( was formally presented last Tuesday.

The ten-member panel includes former Presidents of Finland, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania, the current Vice President of the Dominican Republic, and representatives of academia, the business community, and current or former holders of high-level posts at international agencies. See

The panelists were asked to advise the Secretary-General in their personal capacities, and – as Mr. Supachai emphasized when the report was presented at a meeting here Tuesday afternoon – the report constitutes “only advice” and “in no way infringes on the mandate of the organization and the prerogative of member States to set this mandate and guide the organization’s work.”

The document focuses on how UNCTAD can adapt and play an effective role representing the interests of less-wealthy nations as the global economy changes, driven by rapid technological advances, lengthening supply chains for products, and ever-greater flows of money and resources across borders.   It also reflects a shift in perspective advocated by the organization in recent years towards “development-centred globalization.”
On the proposed Development Observatory of Global Economic and Financial Governance, the panel notes that such an observatory would analyze all major suggested changes to the global financial and economic architecture, assess their impact on sustainable development and inclusive growth, and make recommendations to address any shortcomings.  The panel proposes that this could be based on developing indicators for "development-centered" globalization, and periodically using them to assess the impacts of globalization.

"The Observatory would be an effective assessment tool independent from policy-setting processes.”  It adds, “In fulfilling this role under its development mission and mandate, UNCTAD could also strive to increase its cooperation with the World Bank and the IMF, especially in relation to policies that affect developing countries.”

The suggested “multilateral platform where international investment policies can be coordinated” would be a response to “the systemic complexity and incoherence of the current regime” of international investment agreements, the report says. “A more coordinated approach to global investment relations is needed if we are to (i) stimulate investment for growth and jobs; (ii) make investment work for sustainable development; (iii) avoid protectionism; and (iv) ensure policy coherence at the national and international levels and create synergies between investment policies and other policies, such as those for trade, finance, competition, or the environment.”

Among additional recommendations contained in the report is establishment of an “aid-for diversification facility” to help poor countries reduce their economic dependence on commodities exports.  An accompanying “aid for diversification programme” could offer “support that commodity-dependent, low-income countries need to successfully diversify their economies, both horizontally and vertically,” the study says.  “Such a facility would not only provide funding, but also help through technology and human resource development, including providing advice on the utilization of funds and job creation.”

The report, among other things, also recommends:
• Establishing “a multilateral and multi-stakeholder platform for fostering dialogue among regional trade blocs;”
• Developing “operational strategies for strengthening the productive capacity” of developing country businesses so that they can “become part of global supply chains and maximize the developmental benefits thereof;”
• Assessing “the  economic development impact of migration;”
• Organizing a platform for retired professionals to volunteering their skills to poor countries;
• Setting up “an international technical assistance centre for green investment and technology”;
• Additional work by UNCTAD to “mainstream gender parity in the economic and development spheres;” and
• Carrying out further research on the informal economies of developing countries and the establishment of a “platform” to “provide technical assistance to facilitate the formalization of the informal sector.”

Secretary-General Supachai formed the Panel of Eminent Persons in 2006. The panel issued an earlier report, titled Enhancing the Development Role and Impact of UNCTAD. This report was reviewed by UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Board and many of the recommendations were subsequently adopted at the UNCTAD XII quadrennial conference and implemented.