UNCTAD XIII concludes with adoption of two outcome documents

Doha, Qatar, 26 April 2012

In the face of the continuing “fragility” of the global economy following recent economic crises, Member States called today for financial flows oriented towards supporting inclusive and sustainable development as the Thirteenth Ministerial Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIII) closed in Doha, Qatar.

“Finance should support the real economy [towards] sustainable, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development”, according to the “Doha Mandate”, adopted at the conclusion of the Meeting, which was began on 21 April and represented the first major United Nations ministerial gathering focused on trade and development since the 2008-2009 economic and financial crisis.

The Mandate sets out agreed conclusions on policy analysis and the role of UNCTAD on the overall theme of the Meeting — “Development-centred globalization:  towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development”, covering key priorities considered over the past week.  They included enhancing and enabling the economic environment to support inclusive development; strengthening all forms of cooperation and partnership for trade and development; addressing persistent and emerging development challenges and their implications for trade and development; and promoting trade, investment, entrepreneurship and related investment policies to foster economic growth and sustainable development.

Accompanying the Mandate was a political declaration to be known as the “Doha Manar”, referring to the Arabic term for beacon, which lent strong support to the efforts of UNCTAD in promoting inclusive development through commerce and structural change for over the next four years.  “We recognize the need to make our common economic life more conducive to progressive structural change, more productive of inclusive and sustainable growth and development and more effective in fostering broad-based inclusion in a new and more robust social contract,” the Manar states.  At the same time, it acknowledges the need to strengthen UNCTAD and the impact of its work by enhancing its efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, accountability and partnerships.

The Manar also recognizes the economic significance of the revolutionary protests occurring over the past year.  “The winds of change blowing in many parts of the world today attest to the desire of populations for responsive policies that foster participatory and inclusive approaches to development towards achieving prosperity for all,” it said.

According to the Mandate, the more substantive of the two texts adopted today, Member States noted that the global financial crisis had struck in 2008 shortly after UNCTAD XII, and that its effects had spread very rapidly and widely.  It had not spared the world’s poorest countries, and despite the policy efforts of both developed and developing countries, the global economic recovery remained fragile.  Its ripple effects had impacted, among other things, efforts to ensure food security, combat climate change and stabilize energy and other commodity prices.

“Development-centred globalization sets the stage for inclusive growth and development and contributes towards reducing poverty and creating jobs,” the Mandate states, adding that development strategies should be inclusive and designed to meet human needs.  In addition, the role of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development targets were still instrumental to achieving those needs by 2015.  “People have similar needs and aspirations, including freedom, human rights, in particular the right to development, decent work [and] all aspects of affordable health care and good governance at all levels.”  Since those ends were closely interconnected, development strategies should be based on an integrated and holistic approach, if the desired policy options were to emerge.

As for the role of UNCTAD in achieving development-centred globalization, the organization remained the United Nations focal point for the integrated treatment of trade and development, as well as related issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment and sustainable development.  UNCTAD should, through the three pillars of its mandate — consensus-building, policy-oriented analysis and technical cooperation — continue to deliver meaningful results, within available resources, while enhancing synergies and promoting collaboration with the efforts of other international organizations, according to the Mandate.

Specifically, it should contribute to global efforts to transition towards a green economy; continue to monitor and assess the evolution of the international trading system and its trends from a development perspective; and continue to support the specific needs of least developed countries, small island developing States, middle-income countries and those with economies in transition.

“For trade to serve as an engine of inclusive growth and development, the multilateral trading system must remain open, transparent, inclusive, non-discriminatory and rules-based,” the Mandate states, adding that the effective integration of developing countries, in particular least developed countries and transition economies, into the multilateral trading system should remain a priority.  Further, the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations was crucial to the creation of new trade flows that would generate economic growth and development.

The Mandate stresses that, in a time of fragile economic recovery, trade protectionism remained a risk, and efforts to fight all forms of protectionism should continue.  States were strongly urged to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures hindering market access, investment and freedom of transit.  Meaningful trade liberalization would also require addressing non-tariff measures and aim to reduce and eliminate other arbitrary or unjustified trade barriers.

Emphasizing that there was no “universal blueprint” for crafting policies and actions to address the myriad impacts of the crisis, the Mandate says such measures tailored to local capacities and capabilities, conditions and needs.  Noting that accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was an integral part of the development strategies of most countries aiming to benefit fully from the international trading system, UNCTAD should provide countries — developing, least developed and transition economies in particular — with technical assistance and capacity-building before, during and in the follow-up to the accession process.

The Conference should also continue its work on commodities so as to help those countries achieve strengthened and more sustainable agricultural production, food security and export capacity.  “This work should also take into account the needs of small-scale farmers, as well as the empowerment of women and youth,” the Mandate states.  Stakeholders were strongly encouraged to promote foreign direct investment (FDI) in such a way as to complement the development priorities of host countries.  The Doha Mandate underscores the importance of enhancing the development impact of investment, including by strengthening productive sectors and contributing to job creation.  UNCTAD was encouraged to continue its relevant work on investment policy review and enterprise development, as well as research and policy dialogue on the impact of FDI and other private international capital flows.

Following the Mandate’s adoption by the Committee of the Whole, UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi thanked participants for embracing the organization’s “capacious mandate and ambitious programme of work”, and for working intensively to chart the way forward for the next four-year period until its next ministerial meeting.

Describing the outcome as a significant achievement, considering the differences that had to be bridged, he likened the outcome to a newborn child with all the complexities involved — “conflicted, complicated, at times deeply uncertain, but it has very good genes in its 194 parents”.  He pledged to guide fulfilment of the Mandate with accountability, candour, prudence and persistence, noting that, in the difficult economic climate, Member States expected greater efforts from the United Nations in the area of economics, making UNCTAD the Organization’s only unit charged with the relationship between trade and sustainable development.

UNCTAD was now consulted on issues ranging from relations with the Group of 20 (G-20) countries and commodity price volatility to the shift to a green economy and the mainstreaming of gender in development, he continued.  In the wake of the financial crisis, it had increasingly provided advice on monetary policy, banking systems as drivers of development, and the generation of employment by small and medium-sized enterprises, in addition to the United Nations focal point on all trade issues, commodities and technology relating to development.  To handle such a wide portfolio, he looked forward to further building partnerships.  “Yes, debates have been motivated by national interest, but you have all agreed to build on UNCTAD’s ambitious scope of work,” he said.

Source: UNCTAD press release