Jul 20, 1984


GENEVA, JULY 18 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- Consultations on a Ministerial Meeting of the Trade and Development Board (TDB) of the UN Conference on Trade and Development are to be resumed in Geneva towards the end of August.-

The consultations are being held in an ad hoc committee chaired by the president of the board, George Reisch of Austria. Reichís term as president of the board ends on September 10.-

At its last session in April, the TDB had endorsed the idea of such a Ministerial meeting and had asked the ad hoc committee to prepare the ground for such a meeting, preferably in 1985.-

According to sources in the ad hoc committee, the consultations have run into trouble on the agenda and the timing of the meeting.-

It has also become enmeshed in the wider controversies on the future role of UNCTAD, raised by the campaign of the United States against the institution and its senior officials, and the current "campaign" by a number of candidates to succeed Gamani Corea whose present term expires at end of the year .-The Latin American group has proposed the candidacy of Enrique Iglesias, the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America.-The African candidates seeking the post include Julius Kikonyo Kiano of Kenya, Amir Jamal of Tanzania, and Kenneth Dadzie of Ghana.-From Asia, Bangladesh has proposed the name of its Former Planning and Finance Minister A. M. A. Muhit, while Sri Lanka is reported to have countered with nominating Corea for a new term.-

In a memorandum presented to the OECD in Paris, the U.S.A. had called for institutional and procedural reforms of UNCTAD, and in effect for downgrading UNCTADís role and mandate.-

Apart from this, U.S. officials have also been critical of the UNCTAD secretary-general, Gamani Corea, and his aides.-

Third World sources note that this "campaign of innuendo" has been publicised in the U.S. media, including U.S. charges that some of the senior officials of western nationalities were not taking care of western interests.-

In this contexts the OECD countries have 50 far taken the position, in the consultations in the ad hoc committee, that a Ministerial meeting should be merely for exchange of views, principally focussing on institutional issues and procedures, and not for any decisions or commitments by Ministers on substantive questions.-

Third World sources say that such a Ministerial meeting, without an end result on important policy issues or on implementation of commitments, is contrary to the stand taken by the OECD countries when they themselves, in 1981, mooted the idea of a Ministerial meeting in GATT.-There is resistance to such a meeting, for mere exchange of views, among large sections of the Group of 77, who insist that the group's mandate on this has been clearly laid out by their Ministers in the Buenos Aires platform of 1983.-However, there is a small section within the group who see some merit even in Ministers coming together merely for an exchange of views, and avoiding a confrontation with the U.S.A. on this.-But a large number of Third World countries refuse to have a Ministerial meeting merely to discuss so-called institutional and procedural issues that would avoid the substance of the north-south dialogue.-

In this view, a Ministerial meeting would be worthwhile only if it results in at least a reiteration of past commitments and agreements, and renewed political commitments to implement them in an agreed time frame.-

The United States and some of its allies in the OECD on the other hand would like a Ministerial meeting to focus on what they call "institutional and procedural reforms".-

They hope that by the time the Ministerial meeting is set up, the OECD would be able to come up with specific proposals and could engage the other groups in a dialogue and negotiations on these.-

Since the Paris OECD meeting in March this year, where the U.S.A. raised the issue and presented a papers an OECD "group de reflection" has been trying to evolve an agreed OECD position on the negotiating process, and so-called administration and management issues.-

Initial Third World reactions, according to OECD sources, have been mainly "negative".-

As some Third World sources put it, the real issue is what the OECD want to do with an "improved" UNCTAD on substance.-The Socialist countries too would appear to have been negative, arguing that the UNCTAD secretariat should not be made "a scapegoat" for the organisation's ill and faults, which are due to "lack of political will in the developed countries to respond to the needs of the Third World".-

Third World sources say that some of the ideas of the OECD group do not deal with the substance of the impasse on north-south dialogue but merely with "the shadow" of procedures.-

These so-called procedural and institutional reforms, Third World sources say, are aimed at weakening the effectiveness of UNCTAD, and the independence of its secretariat, and thus a violation of articles 100 and 101 of the UN charter.-

According to Third World sources, one of the ideas being canvassed by the OECD group is for top appointments in the secretariat to be cleared with the various regional groups.-In effect this would enable the OECD group to block the appointment of any senior officials who may not be "malleable" to external pressures.-

Another move, the sources say, is to circumscribe the secretariat's role both in preparations for meetings, including documentation and studies, and in the actual negotiations themselves.-The OECD group is also reported to be aiming at use of the working party on medium term plan and programme budget, to "control" the secretariat through so-called evaluation, and "where appropriate termination of work programmes".-

On evaluation, and specially a role for the working party in this, the Third World group has been consistently negative.-This position was reiterated by the group spokesman at an informal consultation, convened by the UNCTAD secretary-general in June on the calendar of meetings.-At this meeting, the scheduling of a meeting of the working party and the agenda for it came up, and found the OECD group ranged against other groups, with the result no action could be taken.-

On that occasion the G77 spokesman is reported to have said that the group's position on "evaluation" had not changed, but that the Group would be prepared to consider the issue in the light of the recommendations of a Committee that the UNCTAD secretary-general had set up to advise him on these issues.-

This committee, chaired by George P. Davidson of Canada, a Former UN under-secretary-general in charge- of administration, has since reported, and the UNCTAD secretary-general is expected to make its report public, along with the actions he is taking on them.-

Besides Davidson, the group had included Paul Berthoud of Switzerland, Former secretary of UNCTADís TDB and Director of Conference Services, and Josse Viteri de la Huerta, Former Chef de Cabinet of the UNCTAD secretary-general Raul Presbich, and Michael Zamit.-Cutajar of Malta, a Former UNCTAD official now on the UN team in Teheran overseeing the Iraq-Iran agreement in the gulf war to spare civilian targets from attacks.-

Third World sources say that, subject to their study of what this Committee would say, in the G-77 view the criteria for evaluation, and the actual evaluation itself, of organisations like UNCTAD, GATT, IMF, WIPO, etc., would have to be done by the governing bodies of the organisations where every country is represented.-

All these organisations, they underline, are negotiating bodies on substantial north/south issues, and the criteria for evaluation have to be the same.-

A common evaluation of all these organisations, for example on the debt issue, how the secretariats dealt with them in studies and how the intergovernmental bodies acted on them, would be "instructive" Third World sources say.-Such an "evaluation" they say, would at least bring out that far from producing "technically unsound" studies, it was only UNCTAD that had consistently warned against the debt crisis, and the global problems due to the privatisation of international liquidity, that is responsible for the breakdown in the international monetary and financial system.-

The other bodies they note had consistently adopted an attitude of "complacency" by first denying the existence of debt crisis, and then by supporting individual crisis management that has been responsible for world deflation and fall in world output and trade.-

And astonishingly, Third World sources note, it is UNCTAD that is under attack and not the other institutions.-