ADDRESS BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL AT THE GENERAL DEBATE SESSION, UNCTAD XIII, April 23 2012 – Doha, Qatar (with video)
ACP Group Statement delivered by the Secretary General H.E Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas at the General Debate Session of the 13th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Doha, Qatar on 23 April 2012.
Mr. Chairman; Excellencies;Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured, Mr. Chairman, to be taking part in the Thirteenth UNCTAD Conference, and to deliver this statement on behalf of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. It is not long since the last UNCTAD Conference in 2008 in my home country of Ghana, but the changes reshaping the international economic environment and the rise in new trade and development challenges loom large. UNCTAD XIII should therefore make an important contribution towards addressing these challenges which for ACP countries include the vicious cycle of commodity dependence and the small size of their economies.
The ACP Group has a lot of faith in UNCTAD and in its role as the focal point of the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development. UNCTAD remains a valuable forum for continuous and comprehensive dialogue between developed and developing countries. In this regard, the ACP Group re-affirms the Accra Accord and trusts that in discharging its mandate, UNCTAD will continue paying particular attention to issues involving LDCs, LLDCs, and SVEs, SIDS, and transit developing countries. This becomes even more relevant in the face of the global financial crisis and the toll it has taken on developing countries. This crisis has magnified the other challenges that we currently face of increased hunger and food insecurity; energy shortages; and adverse climatic conditions, among others.
The global economic crisis, which originated in developed countries, adversely affected developing countries that played no part in causing it. The crisis has demonstrated that all countries, developed and developing alike, can pay serious political, economic and social costs if financial markets are left to regulate themselves.
The ACP Group is convinced that the scale, reach and persistence of the crisis calls for the rethinking of development principles, values and attendant policy measures, at the national, regional and international levels, to ensure that the financial and productive sides of the economy evolve in a mutually supportive and harmonious manner. There has to be a substantive reform of the international financial and economic architecture to better enable it to prevent future financial and economic malfunctions, and effectively promote development. We consider it a priority to address the underlying systemic problems in the international economic system to make it work more effectively for development. It is obvious to us that that steps need to be taken to mitigate and reduce the cost of financial and economic crises on developing countries.
The ACP Group accepts that any country’s development is first and foremost a national project, it being countries’ primary responsibility to raise the living standards of all their peoples. In that context, the ACP States are designing development strategies that are inclusive to meet human needs, underpinned by the realization that both the public and the private sectors have a role to play in national development. However, multilateral cooperation remains crucial in the development of any country. There has to be a balance between national and international obligations and commitments, supported by the effective leveraging of affordable and reliable sources of external financing.
We have come to the realization as the ACP Group that many challenges to inclusive growth and development can also be addressed through stronger South–South cooperation. In fact, there is scope for developing countries to exploit their growth potential through South–South trade and investment. South-South cooperation is a manifestation of the solidarity among developing countries both politically and economically, based on shared experiences and affinities, and on common objectives guided, among other things, by the principle of respect for sovereignty. The principles of South-South cooperation, as set out in the United Nations High-level Conference on South–South Cooperation in Nairobi in 2009 and other relevant conferences, guide this cooperation.
The ACP Group does not consider South-South cooperation a substitute for North-South cooperation. Neither do we consider South-South cooperation a substitute for ODA. We still need North-South cooperation. Developed countries should continue to assist developing countries in moving to a position where they can mobilize their own resources for sustainable development, create new productive capacities and diversify their economic structure. In this regard, duty-free, quota-free market access for LDCs can constitute an important tool for their development, while Aid-for-Trade can complement the development of developing countries.
The effective, non-discriminatory and equitable integration of ACP countries into the world economy is imperative. The successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round and the delivery of development-related outcomes would greatly assist in this regard. This would allow them to break out of the vicious cycle of commodity dependence, pursue efforts at value-addition to their commodity exports and diversify into industrial and service sectors with potential for dynamic growth. The supply diversification challenge for ACP States is made more complex by the fact that the subsistence economy plays a particularly crucial role in sustaining the livelihoods of the population in the rural areas. Hence measures to promote diversification and value-addition must be pursued in tandem with measures to integrate the rural economy into international trade as well as strengthen the subsistence sector so as to continue to support the needs of the rural population in food production.
As is the case with many developing countries, ACP States require close and mutually supportive links with the international economy. In this regard, science and technology, as well as information and communication technologies are important for ACP States’ development. Such a policy thrust would combat the isolation of ACP countries from major markets and lead to the building up of national and regional economies that are competitive internationally. For most ACP States, their geography (long distance from main markets), high transport costs, narrow resource base and commodity-based exports renders their exports highly uncompetitive. This is particularly the case for small island developing states and land-locked countries.
The sustainable development of ACP countries also depends on the protection of their natural resources, as well as on the sustainable use of those resources. Traditional knowledge, genetic resources, innovation and practices are important assets of developing countries. Unfortunately, as is well documented, these are often subject to loss and misappropriation. National and international efforts are needed to preserve, protect and promote the sustainable use of traditional knowledge, folklore and genetic resources and to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits.
In conclusion Mr. Chairman, let me say that the challenges that face us are huge, requiring appropriate and robust responses. It is our hope in the ACP that UNCTAD XIII will make a contribution towards those responses.
I THANK YOU
HE Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas