Jul 29, 1987


GENEVA, JULY 28 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – With just four days to the close, Conference President, Bernard Chidzero, Tuesday continued to strike a note of optimism about successful outcome at UNCTAD-VII, but added: "if the Conference is a failure it will be dramatic, a failure of the big countries in particular, and it will be so demonstrated".

Chidzero was addressing the developmental non-governmental organisations present at the Conference.

Answering questions, Chidzero said that there had been so far very useful and constructive discussions, but the Conference was in the process of negotiations, when every side kept things close to its chest, and would not disclose everything until the whole package could be seen.

"But there is no one here who wants to leave this place with UNCTAD-VII a failure, not even what you might call the most reactionary elements", Chidzero said.

"That much I can guarantee. There is too much at stake. UNCTAD is not only the creation of third world countries but it is a creation of nations of the world, and a great deal is at stake. If it is a failure, it will be a singular failure of the world community".

UNCTAD, Chidzero said, was a replica of the United Nations. Here nations of the East, West, North and South could meet and talk about day-to-day issues, which bear on nations in economic terms.

On that there was a consensus of views.

But the question was how to translate this into a reality.

"Even those who want UNCTAD to be a think-tank are beginning to see it differently. They say it should be a place for research, dialogue, but also practical work in deliberating questions from a broader perspective".

Chidzero said the various Committees had reported to the President’s Contact Group Monday night, and he was now in the process of devising a mechanism for the contact group to take over the unfinished business, and involve the Ministers.

While he himself would be away from Tuesday evening till Thursday morning, having to go to Harare to deal with the Zimbabwe budget, the negotiations in the President’s Contact Group would go on.

If UNCTAD emerged out of the Conference, as it was it would be a zero point, and if something was taken away it would be a minus.

"But if something is given it will be a plus. How much plus is the issue ... that is what we are engaged in. We have four days to go, if you count today also""

In a message addressed to him, the NGO’s said at the beginning they had been pleased at the constructive debate in the first ten days of the Committees’ work.

The NGO’s had felt it "a good sign" that the G77 had adopted a "very flexible and pragmatic approach", while Group B countries appeared to be "open to genuine dialogue".

"However, we understand that now UNCTAD-VII risks falling into a confrontational and arid phase with little or no significant progress being made".

The NGO’s said the people from the south could not afford the luxury of political manoeuvrings by governments, which did not seek to advance the discussions and to find immediate solutions to the problems before them.

"Manoeuvring by countries and groups, which seek to frustrate the progress of UNCTAD-VII or to defer the discussions possibly to some other forum, demonstrate that their primary concern is not with the poor and marginalised of the south".

"It would be unforgivable", the NGO’s told Chidzero, "if this conference were to conclude without agreement on some practical measures that need to be taken to promote development and alleviate poverty".

Chidzero’s encounter with the NGO’s came after the contact group Monday night was told by the chairmen of the four Committees that they had not been able to complete their work, and no common texts had emerged.

The chairmen of the Committees on resources and trade reportedly suggested that with more time, they could have reached greater agreement, and that the chairmen’s texts in the two groups could form the basis for further negotiations.

However G77 sources said that the chairmen of the other two Committees, the Committees on Commodities and Least Developed Countries said that the major problem was the lack of political will and flexibility.

"It is not a question of drafting skills", the chairman of the LDC Committee, Martin Huslid of Norway, reportedly told the contact group. "It is a case of lack of political will and flexibility to negotiate.

At the contact group, the Group B countries presented a lengthy paper of their own on the assessment and conclusions, and also a long separate paper on issues in the Committee on LDCS.

Chidzero however reportedly made clear that the contact group would not be involved with assessment exercise, and he would be dealing with it separately.

A number of G77 countries reportedly questioned the motivations behind the Group B presenting at this stage proposals as in regard to LDCS, but the Group B spokesman reportedly said that it was not intended to delay or block any negotiations.

The contact group is due to meet later today to decide on how to proceed further.

The G77 in the meanwhile are intervening in the debate Tuesday morning to express their concern that the constructive attitude shown by the G77 had not been so far matched at the Conference by the Group B countries, and on none of the important issues before the Conference had any agreements to promote solutions been so far found.