May 20, 1987
UNCTAD-VII: "WE ALL SINK OR SAIL TOGETHER" - GROUP OF 77.GENEVA, MAY 18 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- The Group of 77 countries have expressed the hope that the "constructive spirit" with which they were approaching UNCTAD-VII would be reciprocated by others and the serious effects of the crisis on third world countries and solutions to resume development would be the focus of the negotiating process at UNCTAD-VII. The Cuban Foreign Trade Minister, Ricardo Cabrisas who chaired the Sixth Ministerial meeting of the group in Havana in April was addressing a press conference to release the Havana declaration and documents and proposals of the group for UNCTAD-VII. At a press conference, Cabrisas said the G77 was approaching UNCTAD-VII with a "constructive spirit", and hoped that other groups would show the necessary political will to find adequate solutions to the crisis, and create the necessary negotiating climate to find such solutions. The chairman of the G77 in Geneva, Amb. A. H. S. Ataul Karim of Bangladesh (who with other members of the Bureau was also at the press conference) said that the proposals of the G77, formulated at Havana and presented to the Special Session of the Board, provided "a very reasonable framework" and conformed to the realities of the situation. The group hoped that the spirit in which the proposals had been presented would be reciprocated, and there would be a constructive dialogue to solve the problems not only of the third world but also of the world community at large. "The entire world is in a crisis and we all must join in resolving in because it is an interdependent world and we sink or sail together", Karim added. Cabrisas is in Geneva to address the special session of the Trade and Development Board and presented to the board session the document of the G77 for UNCTAD-VII. The document contained the assessment of the group on the overall trends in the world economy and in sectoral areas on the agenda of the Conference, and proposals on various agenda issues calling for agreed action through policies and measures. These proposals covered the issues of resources for development, including financial and other resources and related questions (including the debt issue), on commodities, international trade, and least developed countries (LDCS), and on interdependence of issues. The Havana declaration itself, adopted by the Sixth Ministerial meeting on April 25, was not formally presented to the Board, but released to the press by Cabrisas at his press conference. Cabrisas explained that the declaration, presenting the "world view" of the group and transcending the agenda for UNCTAD-VII, was not a document for negotiation, and hence was being treated differently from other documents adopted at Havana for negotiations at UNCTAD-VII. While the Havana meeting was primarily to prepare for and finalise the group's position for UNCTAD-VII it had been considered desirable to take stock of the crisis situation in the G77 member-countries, and make a collective appraisal of the world economic situation and of the perspectives for development of their peoplesí welfare. The declaration would serve as "a basis for concerted action (of the members of the group) in their economic relations with the developed countries and in their mutual economic cooperation". The world view of the group was based on an analysis of the manifestations and causes of the current crisis in development and international economic relations, and recognised the structural and policy-induced character of the crisis and the inadequacy of the post-war international economic system. Asked about the debt issue, Cabrisas said that while it affected different members of the group differently, there was a common factor and there was agreement at Havana that the debt could not be serviced and repaid under present conditions and without sustained economic development. UNCTAD-VII, Cabrisas said, should consider various ways of overcoming the situation, and the G77 proposals for this were in the documents for the Conference. There was agreement among the G77 that a positive balance of trade could not be achieved when exports of third world countries were restrained and commodity markets and prices were depressed. The creditor countries did not seem to have a clear understanding of what the debt burden meant to the third world countries. But without a solution to this problem it would not be possible to create a climate for resumption of development, and "no solution can be found to the debt crisis without solutions to establish the new international economic order", Cabrisas added. Asked about his statement that the Havana declaration was "non-negotiable", Cabrisas explained that it was an assessment of the group on the situation of the world economy and its effects on third world countries, and this was the group's view regardless of the opinions of other countries on these issues. The past experience of the group at UNCTAD sessions had shown that a large part of the session was devoted to an examination of the world economic situation, and in the final days of the Conference there was no time to deal with substantive issues. No doubt others might have different views on the situation. But regardless of who was responsible for the crisis, its effects on the G77 countries was very serious, and "we believe this should be the focus of the debate and the negotiating process in UNCTAD ... so that we could discuss possible solutions". Karim said that no doubt some of the issues were complicated. The issue of resources for development involved money and finance issues, debt, the question of development, flows of ODA, etc. Commodity prices were the lowest since the great depression, and due to the commodity crisis and lack of financial resources, international trade was in disarray. All these were complicated and inter-related questions and would need substantive negotiations at the Conference. As regards the problems of LDCS, Karim noted that the mid-term global review of the substantial new programme of action had been made last year, and all that the G77 sought was the implementation of the commitments undertaken in the mid-term review. This would not need complicated negotiations, "and it is only political will that is needed to carry out the commitments already undertaken".