Global Civil Society Calls on Governments to Strengthen, Not Weaken, UNCTAD’s Role in Global Governance

Sign-on Letter with 38 International and 137 National Organizations from Across the Globe Delivered to Negotiators at UNCTAD XIII in Doha

Today, global civil society delivered a letter that calls on negotiators at the 13th quadrennial conference of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD XIII, to ensure that conference strengthens UNCTAD’s role on keys issues of global economic governance and financial reform.

The letter reads, in part:

1.    It is essential that the 2012 UNCTAD Declaration affirms, rather than retreats from, the progress made at the UNCTAD XII in Accra. …

2.    The collective policy analysis must recognize the root causes of the global crisis, its impacts, and mandate a role for UNCTAD to continue its excellent economic and finance research and critical analysis, in order to truly assist developing countries in creating solutions to the crises – rather than pushing them to implement more of the same deregulatory trade and investment policies that led to the global crises in the first place.

3.    Finally, the role of UNCTAD as an alternative voice to the “Washington Consensus” paradigm – being the only multilateral economic institution focused on development – must be strengthened vis-à-vis the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, and the G20 in global economic governance decision-making.

Thirty-eight international organizations including the Third World Network, African Trade Network, Oxfam International, ActionAid International, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG), Jubilee South - Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, the Hemispheric Social Alliance/Alianza Social Continental, and the international alliance of 16 Catholic development agencies (CIDSE), as well as global trade union confederations including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Public Services International (PSI), and the International Union of Food workers (IUF) all endorsed the letter. Collectively, these organizations represent over 200 million people in over 150 countries. In addition, 137 national development advocacy organizations, faith groups, trade unions, farmers’ associations, and consumer groups endorsed the letter from 47 countries of the global North and South.

In the negotiations on draft text of the official governmental declaration, developed countries have pushed to remove the organization’s well-recognized research and advocacy role on issues of global economic governance and finance. In addition to these key issues, the sign-on letter details a number of other areas, from trade, investment, and debt issues, to agriculture, employment and climate change, which must be addressed in a matter which strengthens UNCTAD’s development-oriented perspective.

The letter explains:

“Since the onset of the global financial and economic crises, UNCTAD has played an important role in identifying the key causes of the crises, assisting developing countries in seeking solutions to the impacts of the crises, and advocating for the reform of global economic and finance policies and governance in order to prevent similar crises from recurring. These are all key roles that no other multilateral economic institution has fulfilled from a development perspective. In fact, UNCTAD is well known for having predicted the crisis in advance, a fact that is to be commended, particularly given its paucity of resources compared to institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which failed to do so. This prescience builds on a long history of UNCTAD’s contributions to development-oriented policies such as the Generalized System of Preferences, 0.7 percent GNI aid targets, debt cancellation, international commodity agreements, special and differential treatment at the WTO, and policy space, among many others.

Despite these important contributions, throughout the negotiations leading up to UNCTAD XIII, the developed countries have tried to rescind the important mandate of UNCTAD to work on issues of global macroeconomic and finance policies, and particularly to participate in global governance on these issues, which are so essential to global prosperity. In addition, the EU and “JUSSCKANNZ” (Japan, the United States, Switzerland, Canada, South Korea, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and Lichtenstein) have sought impose a mandate on UNCTAD to push developing countries to adopt investor protection and trade policies in accordance with the corporate interests of developed countries, rather than in the interests of the successful use of trade and investment for the purposes of sustainable and inclusive growth within developing countries themselves.”

The letter was coordinated by the global Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network.