Oct 7, 1986
UNITED NATIONS: UNCTAD-VII AGENDA, VENUE AND DATES SETTLED.GENEVA OCT. 3 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- The Trade and Development Board of UNCTAD adopted Friday the provisional agenda for the Seventh Session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-VII). The agenda, constructed after prolonged consultations and negotiations amongst various regional groups over the last several months, was adopted with the sole negative vote of the U.S. All the regional groups, including all the other members of the OECD group of countries, had earlier conveyed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Board their agreement to the agenda, and its adoption by consensus. When the draft decision was placed before the board for adoption by consensus, the U.S. said it was unable to join the consensus and called for a vote "to register its negative vote". But no actual vote was taken, the President of the Board, Amb. Saad Alfarargi of Egypt, declaring the decision adopted "with the negative vote of the U.S.". By its decision, the board recommended to the UN General Assembly that UNCTAD-VII should be held in Geneva for about three weeks between July 6 and 31, 1987, including a final phase of one week at which the work of the session would be concluded by Ministers. The board also recommended that priority should be accorded to UNCTAD-VII in relation to other UN activities in Geneva. Normally, the UN Economic and Social Council holds its session in Geneva during that period. In deciding on Geneva as the venue, the board also took note of the desire of the Latin American Group to hold UNCTAD-VIII in one of the countries of Latin America, on the understanding that a final decision on this would be taken at the appropriate time. The board also took note of the interest of Cuba to host UNCTAD-VIII. The ten-point provisional agenda for UNCTAD-VII, approved by the board Friday, has one substantive item with a chapeau and four sub-items. As adopted, the item read: Revitalizing development, growth and international trade, in a more predictable and supportive environment, through multilateral cooperation: assessment of relevant economic trends and of global structural change, and a appropriate formulation of policies and measures, addressing key issues in the following inter-related areas: (A) Resources for development, including financial, and related monetary questions. (B) Commodities. (C) International Trade. (D) Problems of least developed countries (LDCS), bearing in mind the substantial new programme of action for the 1980s for LDCS. As part of the agenda, the board also adopted four "understandings" relating to the various points of the agenda. The first understanding provided that in the assessment of relevant economic trends, due attention should be paid to the role of the private sector in development. Secondly, the formulation in the agenda about "a more predictable and supportive environment" is intended to subsume the interest expressed in referring to the need for security, dependability and confidence-building in the world economic environment, as well as for equity and justice in international economic relations. The former is a reference to the viewpoints of Socialist countries on security and confidence-building measures, and the references to equity and justice relate to the third world's call (supported by Socialists and China) for a new international economic order. A third understanding stipulated that monetary questions would be considered at UNCTAD-VII in the context of the monate of UNCTAD, and without prejudice to the competence of the International Monetary Fund and other International Financial Institutions. A fourth understanding said that the sub-item "International Trade" included issues arising in trade relations among countries having different economic and social systems (East/West and East/South trade and economic relations). Apart from the understandings annexed to the Agenda and adopted by the report, the intricate consultations that led to the agreement among the groups also provided for a oral report by the UNCTAD Secretary-General, clarifying two points arising from the agenda. The clarifications by the Secretary-General, Kenneth Dadzie were presented to the board, in the form of an oral report that was actually circulated in advance, and was taken note of by the board before the decision on the agenda was adopted. Dadzie clarified that on the issue of treatment of national economic policies, it was his understanding that the participants in the consultations had agreed that the assessment of the relevant economic trends and global structural change to be undertaken by economic trends and global structural change to be undertaken by UNCTAD-VII, would take into account the role of national economic policies as might be relevant and appropriate. The Secretariat, Dadzie said, would address this national dimension in its documentation, and in doing so would be guided by the mandate provided to UNCTAD by the UN General Assembly resolution of 1964 creating UNCTAD as an organ of the UN General Assembly. As regards the role of the private sector in development, Dadzie clarified that it was the right of each country to choose its own economic and social system. The two clarifications offered by Dadzie were in relation to two major controversies that had surrounded the effort over the last several months to construct and UNCTAD-VII agenda. The U.S., with support of some in the OECD countries, had wanted UNCTAD-VII to focus on domestic policies in third world countries, and to promote the private sector in third world countries as a vehicle of trade and development. The G77, supported by the Socialist countries and China, saw this as an effort to revise the mandate of UNCTAD. In the consultations, the G77 and the Socialists and China, had contended that they had no objection to any discussion of "appropriate and relevant" national economic policies (both in the industrial and third world countries) in so far as they had an impact on international environment for development, or the role of the private sector. But they insisted the discussions had to be within the context of UNCTAD's own mandate and the right of each country to choose its own economic and social system, and the agenda could not be used to change UNCTAD's mandate. Dadzie's clarification made this clear. Within the four corners of this understanding and clarification, what issues would be discussed, at UNCTAD-VII, could well depend upon the documentation to be provided by the Secretariat, as well as the issues that regional groups might raise or be willing to negotiate on. Some third world countries have already been saying that under the issue of role of private sector in development, they would like to raise and discuss the adverse role of transnational corporations (TNCS) on their development, as also on their indigenous private sectors. When the agenda and understandings, along with the clarifications offered by Dadzie, were placed before the board for adoption, U.S. delegate, Bernard Engel, said he was unable to join the consensus on this issue among all the regional groups and UNCTAD membership, and asked for a vote, as he put it, "to register our negative vote". The President of the Board, Amb. Saad Alfarargi of Egypt, however did not call for a roll-call vote under the rules, but merely declared that the decision had been adopted "with the negative vote of the U.S., and the records would reflect this". Engel, who later sought permission to annex to the report of the board a detailed statement to be furnished by the delegation in explanation of its negative vote, said the U.S. intention had been to register its disagreement with the document, and it should not be misinterpreted. The U.S. would continue to work with the Secretariat and other regional groups and countries in order to make UNCTAD more relevant to the current economic realities, he declared. The U.S. effort to annex its yet-to-be-furnished comments to the report was objected to by Tanzania's Amir Jamal who wondered how the members could be asked to accept something they had not even seen. Venezuela's Enrique Ter Horst asked whether other regional groups or delegations would have the opportunity to have their comments on the U.S. explanations, and have them similarly annexed to the report? The UNCTAD Secretary-General conceded that the rules did not provide for the contingency posed by the U.S. request, but any delegation could have its views circulated as an official document, and hence its views could also be annexed to the report, if the board agreed. There was no reply to the Horst- question. Later some G77 countries said they would await the U.S. text of the U.S. statement, and then decide, if necessary, to append their own responses. In other comments, before the board ended the first part of its 33rd session with the adoption of its report, the UNCTAD Secretary-General expressed regrets at some of the criticisms made at the board about the Secretariat documentation, singling out members of a unit or Secretariat for attacks. Dadzie said the Secretariat had been encouraged by the many complimentary reference to the documentation, and had also welcomed the constructive criticisms offered. "But I regret", Dadzie said, "that some criticism was couched in terms directed to particular members or units of the Secretariat". "The UNCTAD Secretariat is unified Secretariat, and any criticism of its work should be directed to me as its executive head", Dadzie declared. Though Dadzie did not elaborate, it was understood to be a response top the U.S. attacks (in a committee of the board, at its meeting earlier in september), on the Palestine unit in UNCTAD and the documentation on the prospects for development in Israeli occupied territories, as also the more general caustic U.S. comments at the board on the UNCTAD division on East/west and East/South relations and reports relating to this. Summing up the outcome, board President, Saad Alfarargi said that despite the major points of divergence, the negotiations had resulted in the adoption of the decision on the agenda, and he saw it "as a victory for democratic processes as the view of the majority had been respected". Earlier, speaking for the Group of 77, Felipe Jaramillo of Colombia said the negotiations leading to the agreement showed the "seriousness and importance" attached to the conference by all regional groups, and reflected the good intentions of all groups to make UNCTAD-VII "a fruitful event which could produce results commensurate with the grave and critical situation of the world economy and the immense problems facing the developing countries". All groups had shown a spirit of pragmatism and comprehension at the board session, and "confrontation and lassitude had given way to significant dialogue", and the outcome give grounds for optimism about the future of the organisation, Jaramillo added. Among the positive results of the session, Jaramillo cited the debate in the Plenary on interdependence, and the deliberations in the sessional committee II on the promotion of trade relations among countries with different economic and social systems. Alan Oxley of Australia, speaking for the OECD countries, viewed the compromise over the agenda as "a good basis" for further preparations of the conference. While the final decision about the dates of UNCTAD-VII would rest with the UN General Assembly, Oxley hoped that an overlap with ECOSOC could be avoided. Ilian Bozev of Bulgaria, speaking for the Socialists Group, stressed that the agenda and the understandings were the outcome of long and delicate negotiations to meet the standpoint and aims of different regional groups. In a reference to the U.S. efforts to orient UNCTAD towards promotion of privatisation of third world economies, the Socialist spokesman stressed that any assessment of present economic trends should "take duly into account the respective roles of all sectors in development, in accordance with the dimensions and priorities of national economic strategies in the various countries". As regards future work in UNCTAD on TRADESOC, Bozev said his group concurred with the view that future work should aim at generating and implementing new pragmatic ways and means to adequately respond to the challenges of the present international economic environment.