The Pre-UNCTAD XII African Civil Society Forum organised by CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment (CUTS CITEE), Jaipur on 13-14 March 2008 in Nairobi, Kenya provided room for discussion on the future role of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It was organised as a part of its project on trade-development-poverty linkages, which is being implemented with the support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINBUZA), the Netherlands and the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.
Stressing the critical role of civil society in the trade policy making process and in promoting inclusive globalisation, David S. Nalo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Kenya, encouraged the participants to disseminate far and wide the findings of their discussions. Speaking while inaugurating the event he further spoke about success stories of economic liberalisation in the aviation and telecommunications sectors in Kenya. Nalo also dwelled upon key challenges that face developing countries from globalisation, including opening up markets for trade in goods and services, enhancing competitiveness, mobilising investment capital and modernising through accessing the latest technologies.
He emphasized the important role Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) can play in poverty reduction, pointing out that 40 percent of Kenyan exports currently go to countries in the region. At the level of multilateral trade negotiations, the Permanent Secretary criticised the persistence of unfair and unbalanced trade rules and of anticompetitive practices and advocated the need for coherence in global policy making.
A statement to the meeting from the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Dr. Supachai Panitchpadki, delivered by Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-Habitat Kenya, highlighted the goal of the UN system to make 2008 the year of renewed focus on development especially for the “bottom-billion”. UNCTAD’s goal of making a renewed effort to ensure that globalisation does not leave the extreme poor behind, especially in Africa, and to find new approaches to achieving the Millennium Development Goals was emphasised. Dr. Supachai appreciated the efforts of CUTS in supporting civil society organisations to play a role in the discussions on how UNCTAD can more effectively promote trade and development.
Participants from 20 countries across Africa took the opportunity to engage in a vibrant exchange on the complex trade dynamics of developing countries. Discussions covered coherence in global policy making, key trade and development issues and harnessing knowledge for development to enhance productive capacity, trade and investment. Based on the work of CUTS and its partners Mohammad A. Razzaque, Economic Adviser in the Economic Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat made a detailed presentation on trade-development-poverty linkages.
The seminar will conclude by formulating recommendations to be submitted to the UNCTAD XII Conference to be held in Accra, Ghana from 20-25 April 2008.
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