Mar 24, 1984


GENEVA, MARCH 22 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- The United States has apparently spelt out some of its ideas aimed at downgrading and reducing the scope of the activities of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.-

The U.S. views, in a memorandum to other OECD members, are being considered at the meeting of the OECD's north/south Committee in Paris on March 22/23.-

The overall thrust of the U.S. effort is to eliminate much of UNCTAD activities in the areas of money and finance, shipping, technology, economic cooperation among developing countries, and several other sectors of trade and development issues that have been traditionally dealt with in UNCTAD since its inception in 1964.-

The U.S. memorandum, a copy of which is privately in circulation here among some of the OECD countries, makes clear that the problems it sees in UNCTAD are parallel to those that the U.S. says contributed to its decision to withdraw from UNESCO.-

The U.S. had first raised these issues relating to UNCTAD at the OECD’s north-south Committee in January. The views at that time evoked some critical comments on U.S. stands contributions to the current frustrating deadlock on the north-south dialogue.-

The U.S. was at that time asked to formulate its views in writing, and the memorandum is reported to be in response.-

In the U.S. view, its complaints against UNESCO – "politicisation, budget and statist (presumably role of the state), theories" - also applied to UNCTAD.-

The U.S. refers in this connection to UNCTAD activities of "assistance to Palestinian peoples", the ECDC issue, and efforts in UNCTAD "to redistribute world shipping and compulsory transfer of technology", and an alleged "lack of transparency and accountability" in the budget process.-

UNCTAD, being an organ of the UN General Assembly, its budget is part of the UN regular budget and is voted upon by the Fifth Committee and the UN General Assembly.-

In the U.S. view, the process of the north-south dialogue should principally be to provide countries "the opportunity to communicate to others their views on economic development" and where appropriate work towards resolving differences "including negotiation of specific agreements".-

This, coupled with the U.S. views on the negotiating agenda, would effectively reduce UNCTAD into a debating society.-

Complaining against "duplication" and "repetition" within the UN system, the U.S. wants that there should be prior discussion of the agenda on substantive issues and agreement on where any particular issue should be discussed.-

As one Third World source put it, this will be a repetition of the interminable exercises for the last five years over the agenda and forums for global negotiations where the U.S. has vetoed any movement.-

If no agreement could be found on any specific agenda issue, the U.S. would have the item dropped "on the assumption that it is relatively a less critical part" of the body's activities.-

The U.S. would also have the agendas of UNCTAD and the UN Regional Commissions "significantly narrowed", since in its view all issues could be raised in the UN General Assembly.-

Failure of the GATT and the Bretton Woods system to deal with Third World aspirations led to the UN General Assembly creating UNCTAD in 1964, mainly at the instance of the developing countries.-

The U.S. now wants that this mandate creating UNCTAD should be "clarified", and the agenda and proposed schedule of meetings of various subordinate bodies of UNCTAD examined at the Trade and Development Board "to bring about a shift in the work programme and mandate of UNCTAD".-

Third World sources note in this connection that while the U.S. complains about UNCTAD "extending its mandate and overlapping that of other specialised agencies", no such complaint is voiced about the IMF and the World Bank.-

The sources note that neither the objectives nor purposes of the IMF or the World Bank allow these institutions to do the kind of "development studies" or policy advises they give to the Third World, often contrary to the objectives and policies of more universal specialised agencies.-

In relation to UNCTAD now, the U.S. also wants what it calls "a sunset rule" over ongoing mandate and activities of UNCTAD.-

Under this, proposals by the secretariat to initiate or continue programmes based on decisions more than five years old, the U.S. suggests, would need specific re-authorisation by the membership.-

This would effectively ensure that various UNCTAD programmes to which the U.S. was a party under consensus decisions, but to which the U.S. and one or two of its hard-line supporters inside the OECD are now opposed, could be terminated.-

This could apply to such matters as the integrated programme for commodities debt and finance issues, technology, shipping, etc., where after the advent of the Reagan administration there has been a complete about turn.-

In the area of decision-making, the U.S. wants that only the Trade and Development Board, and the four-yearly sessions of the Conference itself should adopt resolutions and decisions.-

All subsidiary Bodies and Committees of UNCTAD, the U.S. says, should only have reports reflecting various views or the chairman of the meeting making his own report.-

The subsidiary Bodies and Committees, in the U.S. view, should only concern themselves with "gathering views and opinions and other relevant information".-

The decision-making process, which should only be by consensus and never through recourse to voting, should also reflect the "minority views".-

It cites in this connection, UNCTAD-VI resolution on commodity export earnings compensation schemes and the expert study called for looking towards a negotiating conference. The U.S. cast a negative vote while some others had reservations.-

Such decisions, in the U.S. view, are a wasteful exercise since studies could never lead to any negotiations (since the U.S. is opposed).-

The U.S. is also critical of the group system of negotiations in UNCTAD in view of the "great diversity in the economic conditions of countries all over the globe". This is principally aimed at breaking up the Group of 77.-

The U.S. also insists on the "principle of universality" and its applications to ECDC programmes and projects initiated by the G77.-

The principle of universality guaranteed the right of all members to participate freely and on an equal basis in all UN system activities, and no "state or group of states can be allowed to decide who may or may not participate in an UN-sponsored activity, regardless of whether that state or group of states initially proposed the activity", the U.S. says.-

The U.S. aim is to secure Israel’s participation in ECDC programmes of the G77.-

Blaming the "negative trends" in UNCTAD to its leadership and management, the U.S. wants the OECD countries to convey to the UN Secretary-General "a list of qualities" that a new UNCTAD Secretary-General should have.-

Also, it wants the OECD group "to act in a timely, forceful and consistent manner, throughout the process of selecting a new UNCTAD Secretary-General", though the possible candidates "will originate principally with the Group of 77".-

In effect, as one Third World source put it, the U.S. says that while UNCTAD may be led by a "person" from the Third World, his philosophy and outlook must be in tune with U.S. views.-

The U.S. also wants the OECD countries to follow "a similar process, in advising the Secretary-General of UNCTAD on senior management posts in UNCTAD.-

The U.S. is also seeking an evaluation of UNCTAD by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), and claims that the JIU has made it "abundantly clear it is prepared to undertake such an evaluation".-

If JIU is willing to undertake the evaluation, Third World sources say it is not clear why the U.S. is then seeking OECD support or initiative for this.-

As mandated by the UN General Assembly, the JIU decides for itself what it wants to inspect and evaluate and report to the UN General Assembly.-

The U.S. effort to get OECD behind a JIU evaluation would thus appear to suggest that members of the JIU are not clearly unanimous over any such evaluation need of UNCTAD that would draw them into a "political wrangle" and reduce the JIU's overall influence and role inside the UN system.-