Jul 23, 1987


GENEVA, JULY 21 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – Midway through the session, Conference President Bernard Chidzero struck a relatively optimistic note Tuesday, and said he was hopeful the Conference would end with "something more than non-specific commitments" on growth, debt and other issues, and that UNCTAD would emerge out of the session strengthened, and with its negotiating role preserved.

Chidzero who was addressing a press conference said that unlike at some earlier UNCTAD sessions, there was "a cooperative and non-confrontational" approach here, and the Committees having had good general discussion were now engaged in discussing specific policies and measures.

The Conference is to conclude on July 31, and the Committees have tentatively time till end of this week to finish their work, and hand over unresolved problems to the President’s contact group.

But so far the Committees have not even begun any "negotiations" on any policies and measures for action.

Group B countries have not tabled any proposals of their own wither, and have been suggesting that after the general debate the chairman of each Committee should put forward a paper of his own which could considered and discussed.

In effect, they were inviting the chairman of each committee to take a mid-way position between the G77 and the zero position of the Group B, so that this midway position could be the starting point of discussions and negotiations in the Committee.

G77 delegates generally complain that in the Committees the group B approach so far appears to have been to make general and vague statements, on behalf of the group and individual country statements repeating the same, on the principle of "occupying the vailable time", without engaging in specific, technical or decision-oriented discussions.

Chidzero said he hoped to have the first meeting of the President’s contact group this Friday, when the Conference moves into a "third phase" with the presence of Ministers, and sort out any "knots" in various Committees about recommendations and conclusions.

Even as Chidzero was giving this upbeat view, the four Committees (dealing with resources, commodities, trade, and least developed countries) had concluded their discussions, and were awaiting formulation of some kind of "non-paper" by their respective chairman on various policies and measures.

G77 delegates said that while the discussions in various Committees had been "interesting", the group B countries had not been willing to engage in specifics and details, and it was difficult at this stage to speculate on the outcome of the conference.

Chidzero told newsmen that despite predictions of gloom and doom, they had launched and put in place a goods process of discussion and negotiations at the Conference.

The statements in the plenary and in the Committees, he said, showed there was an intense desire on the part of everyone for effective north-south dialogue and re-launching of multilateralism in all its dimensions within and outside UNCTAD.

"We all recognise", Chidzero said "that there are real problems in the world, that the world economy is facing a crisis, and if these are not solved, the crisis may spill over to the political front.

"We are not looking for panaceas, but looking at problems critically to see whether we can solve them by reaching a common understanding on the guidelines to be pursued. It may be a low-key, but a realistic approach".

Even the failure of some groups to formulate their own proposals was itself a negotiating position, he added.

As to specific results that could come out, Chidzero hoped that there could be a consensus on greater flow of resources – of ODA for low-income countries, and increased official and commercial flows to heavily indebted middle income countries. They also had to reach a consensus on resolving the debt problem, on the basis of co-responsibility of debtors and creditors, and on the basis that any solution could only be through growth of the debtors.

The conference, he said, would also have to deal with the issue of commodity prices, and fall in earnings of commodity exporters, and international support measures for national efforts at diversification.

In the area of trade while everyone was anxious not to do anything that would harm the Uruguay round, there were also a number of areas and issues on which the Conference could take decisions, including some long-term issues that could be pursued further in UNCTAD, Chidzero suggested.

Chidzero was asked how he was having such an optimistic view, when G77 delegates in various committees were finding it difficult to engage Group B countries in specific proposals on policies and actions. He was asked whether UNCTAD would emerge out of the Conference with a negotiating role, or whether there would be merely a good exchange of views and an assessment?

Chidzero said that he believed UNCTAD would come out of this conference and continue as a negotiating forum, though much would depend on the meaning given to it. There could be negotiations to facilitate commodity agreements, codes of conduct, etc., but there were limits to negotiations in UNCTAD to create specific contractual obligations.

"To the extent that negotiations would help sort out issues and reconcile differences, and reach consensus on principles and guidelines, I believe UNCTAD will come out of the Conference strengthened", Chidzero declared.

Asked whether he would consider it a success if the Conference agreed on some "non-specific" recommendations on growth, need for resources, and solving debt problems in a climate of growth?".

Chidzero said that if that would be the only outcome, he would have to agree with an earlier questioner that for such general recommendations and exchange of views one did not need an UNCTAD, and the work could as well be done by the second Committee of the general assembly.

"I think we should have something more than non-specific commitments or recommendations".

For a successful outcome, the main thing needed was political will on the part of governments, in recognising the existence of a number of problems and agreeing on need to tackle them, and through some agreed guidelines and recommendations for actions.

The Committee on resources ended Tuesday afternoon its exchange of views after discussing the G77 proposals for policies and measures at promoting the reform of the international monetary system.

The Group B representative, Michele Rouget said that these issues should be addressed in the proper forums, namely the IMF and the World Bank.

G77 delegates however questioned this.

Brazil’s Paulo Nogueira Batista noted that in the IMF itself, the views of the G-24 were ignored, and the IMF acted on the basis of what the G-5 and others decided elsewhere.

Batista also wondered whether the IMF was even competent to discuss the rebuilding of the system on a universal basis.

The international monetary system had creased to exist, and only "convertibility" was now left. The IMF was not universal either, and it was not reasonable to tell a universal forum like UNCTAD that the issues of rebuilding a system could not be discussed here.

Tanzania’s Amir Jamal noted that UNCTAD was concerned with interdependent issues of trade, money and finance for development, while the IMF was not and was only concerned with monetary issues. Hence the systemic issues could not be discussed in the IMF but only in a forum like UNCTAD.

Jamal also noted that while IMF was purely concerned with monetary issues, in bilateral discussions with member-governments the IMF sought to discuss a range of issues – government subsidies, their trade policies, agricultural policies, etc. And yet they were told that UNCTAD with its much wider mandate could not discuss the monetary and financial systemic issues.

The Committee ended its round of general discussion, and the chairman of the Committee is expected to put forward Wednesday a paper on his own, taking into account the proposals of the G77 and the views expressed by Group B countries and individual delegations.

In the Committee on commodities, Switzerland on behalf of the Group B countries put forward a "working paper" outlining in effect the views and positions of the group B countries on commodity issues that the chairman should take into account in preparing any paper about the outcome of the Committees work.

In the area of policies and measures, the paper in essence suggested that the main solution to the commodity problems should be seen through improved market access, to be secured through the Uruguay round.

And within this "market perspective", there could be efforts at enhancing, strengthening or establishment of producer-consume consultations for exchange of information and increasing transparency in individual commodity markets.

The Group B paper also spoke of development perspective in commodities through programmes of horizontal and "promoting effective vertical diversification, through increased local processing "where economically justified", and taking into account the role of the private sector.

As for compensatory financing schemes and mechanisms, the paper merely spoke of existing schemes and mechanisms and "different views" on international cooperation in this area being taken into account.

G77 delegates said the comments and views of Group B countries in the Committee suggested that they even had difficulties in agreeing on the role of UNCTAD in the commodity area, despite their earlier statements that this was one area falling within the exclusive or primary competence of the organisation.

In the trade sector, the Committee was in recess Tuesday, awaiting Group B’s efforts to formulate their views on paper, to enable the chairman of the Committee to come up with a paper on his own in the light of the G77 proposals and the views of other groups.

G77 delegates said the discussion in the Committee had so far shown little common ground.