CSO Forum officially opens at the 14th UNCTAD Conference
NAIROBI, 16 July 2016– The international civil society is calling upon governments to uphold commitments made during the 2012 UNCTAD Conference in Doha. This came as the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, opened the Civil Society Forum yesterday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.
In the recent past, Western member states of UNCTAD have come under intense criticism for their sluggishness in supporting the Agency’s initiatives and expanding its roles to cover other areas crucial for the advancement of developing countries. Negotiations in the lead up to UNCTAD XIV have continually exhibited a desire to curtail UNCTAD’s independence and the much needed-balance between the wants of the global North and South.
Over 7,000 delegates are expected to attend the Nairobi Conference of which the Civil Society Forum comprises. This year’s theme is ‘From Decisions to Actions’ and comes on the back of the ratification of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in December 2015. Member states have since made important commitments during the Financing for Development (FfD) process and the 10th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
While opening the Civil Society Forum, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, challenged CSOs to maintain the momentum in making their demands as delegates engage in negotiations in the coming week. “There must be greater efforts made towards inclusion of all stakeholders, especially women and youth, if at all we are to achieve the SDGs. There can be no Sustainable Development Goals without the Least Developed Countries,” said Dr. Kituyi.
However concerns have been raised concerning the role that UNCTAD will play in influencing global trade and development in the future as it is gradually relegated to an implementation mechanism for trade agreements.
In a letter signed off by 331 global civil society organizations including trade unions, farmers’ organisations and public interest groups, CSOs reiterated that “UNCTAD can play a unique role in the panorama of international economic institutions thanks to its focus on the interdependence of trade, finance, investment, macroeconomics, and technology as they affect the growth and development prospects of developing countries. However, to live up to its name and promises, its role must be development-centred, and not tied to the liberalization goals of other institutions.”
The organisation has also been touted as an invaluable apparatus in providing support to developing countries in using trade for their own development purposes.
“As negotiations begin, we are calling for a mandate that addresses specific constraints of developing countries, adoption of gender-sensitive policies on trade and development, institution of measures that curb the illicit transfer of economic resources from developing countries,” said Alvin Mosioma, Tax Justice Network- Africa’s Executive Director.
“UNCTAD policies are geared towards ensuring unified trade language to curb disparities. It is important that in the coming days, we remind the delegates of the UNCTAD conference of the role of UNCTAD; not only to preserve it but strengthen it as well,” said Eric Le Compte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network.
Civil society organisations have over the course of the year attended two hearings at the UNCTAD headquarters in Geneva to which they have made their contributions into the Negotiating Text of the Conference. Final submissions into this document will influence actions post-UNCTAD14.
On Sunday 17 July 2016, CSOs will release the final statement on their standpoint going into the main negotiations as the conference progresses from 17- 22 July.