7:23 AM Jun 18, 1993


Geneva 17 June (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The deadlock between the UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the GATT Contracting Parties over the appointment of a head of the International Trade Centre (a joint UNCTAD-GATT) operation remains unresolved, despite the UN General Assembly resolution Asking the in April, and the issue is likely to go back to the General Assembly soon, GATT sources said Thursday.

The sources said that though the Assembly asked Boutros-Ghali to "pursue as a matter of urgency" the appointment of an ITC head and keep the post at the level of Assistant Secretary-General as before, the UN head has not heeded the Assembly decision and acted.

While remaining silent, GATT sources said, they had been receiving 'feelers' from the UN secretariat side suggesting the temporary filling up of a post of a Director, at the level of D2, and for his being appointed "office-in-charge" so that the action does not bring Boutros-Ghali into conflict with an express mandate of the Assembly, while at the same time falling in line with the Boutros-Ghali views on this issue.

At the GATT Council Thursday, the Deputy Director-General Charles Carlyle, reported to the Council about the inability of the GATT and UNCTAD (both of whom oversee the ITC) to choose an ITC head, as insisted by the GATT CPs at the same professional level as the previous incumbent.

Some delegations, the GATT official said, felt that it was not good for the ITC to remain 'headless and rudderless' and the post should be filled (as indirectly mooted from the side of Boutros-Ghali), but that others were of the view that the issue had now gone beyond the one of filling up a post and the matter should be taken back to New York.

Third World sources said that though euphemistically put like this, there was now a much larger view that the issue really relates to governance and accountability, and whether or not the views of governments collectively expressed in the budget process through the General Assembly should prevail over that of the Secretary-General or whether the Boutros-Ghali view which sees the charter responsibilities of the secretariat head as something more than his predecessors did.

The post is now remaining vacant for nearly two years, ever since its earlier occupant retired in 1991 and the formal appointment of an Irish candidate, decided by the heads of UNCTAD and the GATT, was all but agreed but the formal appointment put off by the then Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar to be done by his successor.

Soon after he took over, Boutros-Ghali undertook a secretariat restructuring, abolishing many posts and merging all the economic and social sectors into one huge division. As part of this, he decided to abolish all posts of Assistant Secretaries-General and have the jobs filled only by people at the level of a D2 director.

The GATT cps, and the developing country-group in UNCTAD, did not agree with this, noting the much larger budget, both regular and programmes financed by the voluntary contributions, the large consultancy and other technical assistance services provided at a practical level to the developing countries to expand their exports, and the responsibilities that went with the ITC head, including fund-raising responsibilities.

This tangle of views continued for over a year, with the developing country delegations ultimately taking the issue to New York (where many of their representatives, somewhat unwillingly because of the relationships between them and the UN secretariat head as one from the Third World and an important country like Egypt, nevertheless were forced to take a stand on instructions from capitals).

Meanwhile, Boutros-Ghali reversed his own 1992 decision in merging all social and economic activities into one leviathan division, and created three divisions. He also appointed a few Asst. Secretaries-General, with a couple heading departments with less professional staff or duties and budgetary responsibilities.

All these came before the Assembly, particularly in terms of the budget appropriations and redeployment.

The ACAB ACABQ (advisory committee on administrative and budgetary questions) also took a dim view of ITC situation and other changes and the Assembly, in considering the restructuring of the secretariat and budget programmes.

After some protracted negotiations lasting over a month, the Assembly's fifth Committee and on its recommendation the Assembly itself approved the restructuring subject to some specific changes, including the one relating to the ITC and continuing to keep the Habitat job at an Under Secretary-General's level and as a separate secretariat set up.

GATT contracting parties here thought that after this April decision, they could have the post of the ITC advertised in a sense and proceed to fill it -- with the GATT DG and UNCTAD Secretary-General acting together and selecting a suitable candidate.

However, they said they have had no official or formal intimation from the UN side though there have been some unofficial feelers about filling up the job with an "officer-in-charge" at the level of a D2.

This the cps, particularly from the developing countries have not accepted. Some of them say that all these perhaps was making many of them reconciled to the view of the North to take the GATT, and the post-Uruguay Round institutional structure, out of the relationship with the UN like other specialized agencies (all of whom have formal charter provisions, unlike the text of the draft for the MTO.