Feb 18, 1987


GENEVA FEBRUARY 16 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- Traditional East/West differences on status of West Berlin and "West German entities" based in that city have apparently intruded on a seminar to be held this week in Bonn as part of the preparations for UNCTAD-VII, according to diplomatic sources here.

As a result, the seminar for an assessment of long-term trends and structural changes in the four inter-dependent areas to be addressed at UNCTAD-VII commodities, resources for development, international trade, and problems of least developed countries (LDCS) would not be attended by the East European Socialists.

Also, UNCTAD itself is now unlikely to be represented by its executive head, Secretary-General Kenneth Dadzie, but only by his deputy, Ives Berthelot, these sources add.

As part of the preparatory work for the seventh session of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, to be held in Geneva in july, the Secretariat of UNCTAD has promoted a number of consultations in the shape of seminars on the four major items on UNCTAD-VII agenda and for an overall assessment.

The four sectoral seminars on commodities in Paris, on resources for development in Caracas, on problems of LDCS at Kathmandu, and on international trade at Warsaw have already taken place.

These were to have been capped by a fifth meeting this week at Bad Neuenarh, near Bonn in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), from February 17 to 20.

While promoted by the UNCTAD Secretariat, these seminars were supposed to be organised by the host member-states, to enable "frank and informal exchange of views, among decision-makers and negotiators who would be directly involved in preparations for and activities of the conference, along with some independent experts", according to a note circulated by the UNCTAD Secretariat last november.

According to the note the "final choice" of participants was to be made by the host country, but on the traditional UNCTAD formula of nine from the third world, six from the OECD group, three from the Socialist countries and China.

In none of the sectoral meetings were any negotiators or decision-makers from the U.S. were present, that country choosing to be represented by its local mission staff as "observers" only.

Now the manner in which the West German hosts have organised the Bonn meeting has resulted in the absence of the East Europeans as well as the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, according to diplomatic sources in Geneva.

According to these sources, the Bonn meeting, as the earlier sectoral meetings, were promoted by the UNCTAD Secretariat and was announced as being organised by the West German Government, but with the West Germans saying that the actual organisation and hosting would be done by a West German Foundation.

It is not clear whether the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany had indicated from the beginning the name of the Foundation, but several of the participants say they knew about the identity only when they actually received the invitations.

In the beginning it would appear the West Germans were not too keen to invite the socialists, but agreed to the UNCTAD formula of representation of all groups.

The initial soundings in capitals of countries invited to participate were all handled by the local West German Embassy, and the Socialists Countries too were sounded on this basis, with the Soviet Union, Poland and the Germany Democratic Republic being invited to attend, and name their participants.

It was only when the invitations were actually issued and handed over that it was discovered that the actual West German hosts would be a west-Berlin based Foundation, "The German Foundation for International Development".

In the East/West tangles over the status of Berlin (both west and east), has also enabled West Berlin to be run by the FRG, and enabled FRG entities to be situated in West Berlin and functioning from there.

Third world sources note that it has been a traditional pattern that whenever an opportunity arises the FRG tries to make it a point to use entities based in Berlin for international meetings, and for socialist countries to refuse to participate in such meetings.

As for as the U.N. and its bodies are concerned, the U.N. legal office in all such cases advises that the U.N. representation should be at "low level".

In this particular case, the Socialist Countries say that they discovered the "West Berlin connection" to the Bonn seminar, and the identity of the hosts and organisers, only when they actually received the invitation.

Feeling themselves "tricked", the Socialist invitees not only refused to participate, but would appear to have raised objections to the participation of the UNCTAD Secretariat too, both here and in New York.

Caught in this East/West tangle, the U.N. appears to have advised the UNCTAD Secretariat to participate in the meeting, but in accordance with the usual U.N. practice, have UNCTAD represented, not by the Secretary-General Kenneth Dadzie, but by the deputy Secretary-General, Ives Berthelot.