Friday, April 25, 2008

UNCTAD XII--ACCRA ACCORD is Adopted! -- Some Reflections

at exactly 6.38pm GMT

It must be dark outside by now, and I guess TV3 news will be coming on soon. Blue uniform guards are standing in strategic places around the tent that seats some four thousand people. Trouble is there are NOT four thousand people here today, this evening. This is because a number of people have already left, with some leaving tonite, and others having left already. I know already that the the personable Anne-Laure Constantin of  the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy left yesterday; I think the ACCORD bunch in Nairobi did so, too. I saw the OXFAM--at least some of them--here today. I think Emily Jones from Oxfam (featured here: is still around; she's done some terrific work.

I think the CSO Forum was da bomb, but I witnessed some things I profoundly disliked, such as the francophone contingent taking advantage of the CSO host--ie Third World Network's -- "generosity". As someone who can communicate in French, they were like to me like a magnet; I must confess that at times it was superficial. One colleague has described their 
relationship with France as "colonial", and I think to a large extent, this is true. They praise where need be--to get something. They inflate prices--if need be, capitalising every opportunity they can.

That, in my view, is simply wrong. The francophone CSOs have a LONG way to go if we are to act collectively and cohesively. It really sucks, and it pains me as someone who is a great proponent of regional integration (

As I write this, Supachai Panikpatchdi is reading from a prepared statement, and I am gonna try and capture verbatum some of his statements:

the conference emphasized debt sustainability. In the area of ODA, quantity and quality were emphasized...last but not least the Accra accord has resulted in the strengthening of address the new and emerging issues. Member states have also taken measures..increasing the focus and effectiveness....this week has also seen many ssmall and significant..Inter-AGency cluster of ?? This new cluster includes FAO/UNIDO/regional commissions/UNDP,WTO, etc. On Sunday, Creative Econiomy report, which highlkights activities and potential of music and fashion, etc, which we now realise could be a significant asset for development.

On Monday night....EMPRETEC Africa Forum. This is a very practical promote entrepreneurship. There have been many such initiatives. UNCTAD XII has thus been an important step. UNCTAD emerges from this conference as a reinvigorated one...please also allow me to extend gratitude to Ghana for such an excellent host...

You have done it...QATAR to host the next in 2012

uneditted @ 7pm.

Will continue this much later:-)

UNCTAD XII Diary: Day 5: Final Outcome--UNCTAD XIII in QATAR!

Final session is being given by UNCTAD official

RESEARCH and ANALYSIS--solid mandate. Conference has reinforced official mandate. Innovative work. Short mandate for UNCTAD. Great. Policy options and independent analysis for developing countries. Significant.

Another area is the...role of trade and development board in conducting policy dialogue...has been retained and reinforced. So UNCTAD will continue with that on the inter-governmental level. Will review some of its flagship documents. Ministerial meeting in Addis Ababa, UNCTAD should have a commission on globalisation; this was a problem for some UNCTAD members...theer will be some discussion on globalisation issues; atr least some compromise.

UNCTAD will have two commissions--one on trade and development and will address any topic that UNCTAD has; second one will be on enterprise development and ?? Multi-yr extract groups. Issues identified by Trade and development board will be taken to the Commissions. Secretariat is still very important.

12.03pm Palestin issue being retained. Slightly problematic yesterday. A rather contentious issue that could have affected outcome. Last few hours, agreed on s.o. that satisfied everyone. UNCTAD continues to support Palestine liberation with technical assistance.

any questions?

YAO GRAHAM: Commissions reduced from Three to two. Commission on enterprise...what are practical implications of having globalisation as standing issue. How will it have a cross-cutting effect on how the Commission does its work? Doesn't strike as a mandate to work, but something to discuss?

RESPONSE: Our view is not the number of commissions that matter; more about what they do. Will feed into general assembly. The proposal by Africa group to have one on globalisation is not because we do not, but there will be continuous work on it.  Partly political, partly practical. Every year, we will have to prepare a background document on a specific area of globalisation.

EKB: my questions are answered below:

WORLD INVESTMENT REPORT--continued interaction with private sector. Outcome emphasises UNCTAD working with civil society and private sector

COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY--there was a paragraph in the document that referred to that.

Jo Butler speaks @ 12.13pm--Irish government provided minimum transportation and living costs. WIll try and get funding in future to go to Geneva. Commend the document. We are very pleased we have an accord. It is a good accord. Everyone will find something missing. Can be built upon the next four years.

In SAO PAOLO(UNCTAD XI), we can say it is Sao Paolo plus. WE will still have hearings once a year in context of trade and devt board; will also ensure civil society is part and parcel...CS needs to be heard, and member states need to be advised on how to be prioritised. Having a hearing once a year whereby civil society comes to Geneva is certainlhy not enough. Need to know that CSOs are an integral part. Ideas and suggestions forward so that work can be realised.

CHALLENGES IN ACCRA: we can congratulate Ghanaian govt to having sacrificed much to pass it over. Constraints to documentation. Let us not have Ghanaian govt to make one million copies, etc. Lots of statements would be avaliable on the Web. Happy to send statements through the mail. We try to take an attitude to constraint and restraint. If you heard speech on Monday and did not get it, probably because we did not have it.

HOTEL ACCOMMODATION; ensuring that all participants had a suitable room was responsibility of host, but we had to be creative by checking homes, apartments, etc. To that end, team came THREE weeks in advance. Happy to answer any questions. 12.19pm.

INTERACTIVITY--everyone wants to be heard. Panellists to a minimum and interactivity to the highest leevl, but when you have so many coming from afar, they want to be heard! For the future, going beyond read statements. The ACCRA Accord does not stop here. It is a work in progress. How we implement mandates in next four years matter.

Look forward to hearing from you in the future.

YAO GRAHAM: we will put together a report about the forum to put on the website. We have compiled a list of participants. Some registered but did not turn up. UNCTAD also haas its own lists. Have had a summary of some events and that will all go up. We can optimise the amount of information. We have a common interest,. That networking part is where we have a responsibility. Just last word on the costs, some brought by UNCTAD, daily amount not enough for costs. Some future work for the UN and their data. Hotels are expensive in Accra.

Let me say here on behalf of the African participants, there is a pattern. Very little African representation. Certainly more than in Sao Paolo. Next meeting in QATAR , challenge. Prices went through the roof in Doha 2001, let alone in 2012, UNCTAD XII. Nothing more to say. Just again to thank you for your forbearance.

Thankyou all very much; have a safe journey back home.

done @ 12.27pm (uneditted)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Re: Briefing of UNCTAD XII Negotiations--The Killing of UNCTAD?

6.04pm--UNCTAD does not have an effective communications strategy (what does that mean?)

missed quite a bit, but interventions should seek to clarify some of that which I missed.

here goes.

6.05pm SESSION ON COMMODITIES, where developed countries wanted to push commodities on the shoulder of national govts. Last night, issue not resolved. Can you help on that? If not, how. Commodities are coming up strongly.

Secondly, can you explain what are the different groupings--and who was part of it.

THIRDLY--Strengthening of UNCTAD. How contentious an issue do you see this point where CSOs are pushing the strengthening of UNCTAD, thank you.

I would like to know the main reason why US and other countries want to abolish the policy...commissions? of unctad.

INTERVENTION--possibility of UNCTAD in the field. What is your view..why is it impt to have business at UNCTAD? what is motive of proposal? does UNCTAD have a mandate on???


6.08pm. On commodities, there are about three or four issues that they are trying to come up with. One on commodities ; One on Palestine. Third one is on unilateral sanctions on Cuba. They are still working on them. By eight o'clock, it would have been finalised. Different groupings--changes over the years. There are about one hundred and seventy-four countries, including China. Latin America, Caribbean, Asia, Africa. Then ofcourse, the EU, with its twenty-seven countries. Former soviet countries, etc. Then there is the loose grouping--Japan, the US, Norway, Australia; New Zealand, Japan. They do not always coordinate. This is the tradition in UNCTAD.

On the commission, this is contentious issue--for about three of five months. Official line is that they believe that the commissions do not add value in terms of policy. Many experts do not come from developing countries. Reps from member states of Geneva. They are the ones that attend and they sit there going through the same issues, etc. Also, to add value, the commissions have to come up with recommendations. At unctad, we work on consensus; the commission ends up coming up with a few conclusions and most of the time, the developing countries block it. This goes to trade and development board. It does not add up to anything...

Recently, Brazil and India have used language from UNCTAD forum to make case at WTO dispute settlement. Big countries cannot object to such language...there is that aspect as well. The time they spend debating with other countries should be addressed elsewhere

UNCTAD in the field--again tradition in core area, which is research and analysis. This is where it has been strong...we are very proud to come up with ideas that challenge...This is what has made UNCTAD different from the past. Some members think this is not helpful. They want UNCTAD more on technical cooperation; more capacity-building. Non-resident agencies; no presence in countries--c.f. imf/wb

EVALUATION--we have a mandate on regional groupings...usually, we work on agreements. We do for example assessments on services at the WTO...sometimes preparing position on working parties, etc...

NEXT ROUND OF QUESTIONS: if no more questions, we thank spokesperson from conference. THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH session is ended @ 6.17pm

--editted@6.26pm Accra time--GMT

UNCTAD XII Diary: Day Three: Gearing towards Endgame

I am currently freezing my backside and much more besides off at the conference room--also known as CONFERENCE HALL -- at the NGO/MEDIA Centre situated at the International Conference Centre here in Accra.

This picture serves as a small vignette of what has transpired today. Though I might be exaggerating, lemme just say that it is appropriate and current, because it features from the left to the right Martin Khor (Third World Network-Malaysia) and Yao Graham (Third World Network-Africa) and an Indian diplomat who's ideological stance is far from his seated position (to the right!) On a more serious note, as Marita Hutjes (NOVIB--OXFAM NL) stands up preparing to listen to the debate and participate, I have spent the better part of almost two hours uploading documents here:

Ok, so not the best way of checking out the latest uploads, but I have been complementing it with TWO uploads of MP3 files that I captured digitally earlier at a meeting that included someone I know -- John Clarke of DG Trade at the European Commission in Brussels. I understand he is now in Geneva, and is Head of EU delegation to UNCTAD XII. I really only know him because he was the guy in Brussels when my colleague Jennifer Cyr was writing reports about the state of play of dialogue between civil society and EU here:

As the web-man gotta have some record!

Anyways, that was that. So I know John Clarke (red tie), though he won't be remembering me very quickly.

In any event, the wireless has been working very dandily today. Currently awaiting an UNCTAD official to come give us the state of play of the negotiations. Sounds exciting stuff. Meanwhile to hear the MP3s, please check: 

Monday, April 21, 2008

UNCTAD XII Diary: Day One: Connected to UNCTAD Wireless

I have spent the better part of the day uploading documents for the website, whilst simultaneously experiencing pangs of hunger. Currently located in the heart of the NGO/Press epicentre of UNCTAD XII, with two/three UNCTAD officials to the left of the room I am in, where computers and printers are located. You could say it is the secretariat, for there's plenty of paper and people wondering why their wireless is working with their laptops, yet their desktop computers are not.


The wireless, as you can see from the picture, is connected--at least on my computer! My desktop friends could do a lot better, which they are now in fact, especially after the UNCTAD ICT people came down to help set it up. I find it fascinating that the UN is the only organisation--bar the private sector I guess--where the ICT doodes were suits and ties!

More pictures to come later!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Piece on UNCTAD for Ghana's only Sunday Newspaper Sunday World

EVERY four years since 1964 when it was established, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been holding its highest level meeting, where member States make assessments and reviews of current trade and development issues, discuss policy options and formulate global policy responses. The conference also sets the organization's mandate and work priorities.
UNCTAD is in fact an organ of the UN's General Assembly, and seeks to add value by enabling intergovernmental agencies arrive at a consensus regarding the state of the world economy. The last time an UNCTAD conference was held in Africa was in 1996, when it was hosted by the South African government under UNCTAD IX. This year, it is back in Africa-specifically Ghana, where the 12th session of UNCTAD is to take place.

The theme of UNCTAD XII is "Addressing the Opportunities and Challenges for Development" , and comes at what some might consider an appropriate time when the global economy is beset with a number of significant challenges-as exemplified by the rising prices of food stuff, which has been triggered by the interest by the West in bio-fuels; as well as the impact of the US's sub- prime mortgage crisis that saw poor people in America being given loans they were unable to pay back, triggering a crisis of confidence in the credit markets.

The ramifications of these two events have stretched far and wide to even Europe, where not only has the British-based Northern Rock collapsed, triggering its nationalization by the Brown government, but there have been instances of riots in countries as far apart as Haiti, d'Ivoire and Senegal. Against backdrop, it might seem difficult reconcile the fact that there is a commodity boom.

Put into context, these elements an apparent commodity boom, in foodstuffs and general malaise he global economy point to a globalization that continues to create opportunities and challenges. stands to reason that because of civil society organizations (CSOs) particularly keen to make an impact in the outcome of the conference. One way of doing so is at the Society Forum that will take place from 17-19 April in Accra before conference. CSO Forums not new practice
Parallel civil society forums for many years been an important component of UN conferences. Accra conferencee is no exception. civil society, the primary concern bringing collective energies to from all the participants to finalize the civil society statement that be delivered at the opening plenary of the main conference.

Even before the conference, society has already initiated activities that will seek to influence outcome of UNCTAD XII-as exemplified by the many workshops, seminars and forums that will take place in those three days. The tradition has been for CSOs-which incidentally include the media-to unite around common positions that are enshrined in a Declaration that is formally presented to the UNCTAD conference. Here in Accra, the collective statement will be finalized during the 17-19 period. For this reason, the drafting process was started ahead of time so as to ensure the broadest possibilities to input into it.

As for the main conference, the main theme has been framed in a way as to invite Ministers to identify the changes that need to be made to tackle the challenges around globalization, as well as capitalize on the attendant opportunities.

According to one Ambassador Stepenson's outlines on the UNCTAD website, the first sub-theme invites a discussion on how to continue to enhance policy coherence at all levels, including global, regional, bilateral and national.

The second involves examining the new policy environment and how new realities-such as terrorism and climate change-are affecting strategies for the promotion of development; the third is more proactive in the way it which it invites action on enhancing the enabling environment at all levels. Finally, sub-theme four focuses on how to strengthen UNCTAD by enhancing its development role, impact and institutional effectiveness.

In fact, for Ghanaians, the role of UNCTAD might hold resonance not just because there is a general impression that many Ghanaians are unaware of this forty-four -year old UN agency, and therefore a better appreciation

of it can be obtained here at the CSO Forum, but also because there has been a lot of talk about the WTO and its influence of developing countries, including Ghana, but rarely has there been an understanding of how a countervailing influence it can represent to the neoliberalism enshrined in the WTO, where trade matters above all else.

UNCI'AD's edge over the WTO is in the manner in which it consistently undertakes research, policy analysis and data collection for the debates of government representatives and experts. Furthermore, it offers technical assistance that is specific to the needs of developing countries. In the last Trade and

Development Report on regional integration for example, UNCTAD talked about the need for developing countries to be given policy space to develop their own regional integration, simultaneously castigating the offensive launched by the West against poor countries and the tremendous pressure they are often under to sign FfAs.

Regrettably, the report went little-noticed among many Ghanaians. UNCI'AD XII is an opportunity to make a loud noise and re-dress constructive and proactive debates on the imbalance that has been created by forces greater than that of poor countries.

UNCTAD XII Hits Accra!

I am sitting in a cyber cafe at the NGO side inside the main UNCTAD XII ( conference that just opened some almost-two hours ago. The President of Brazil Lula da Silva opened the conference in his capacity as President of UNCTAD XI. After that the new presidentg incumbent John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana opened it, with a long speech that was covered by Ghana Broadcasting Radio Live ( The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also read a rather long speech. I did some digital recording of the two speeches, and hope to upload it as soon as.
I am rather impressed by the security detail around and the organisation of the whole set-up so far. I hope the media--unlike at the AU summit last June -- will have plenty to write home about!!
There are people -- mostly of the civil society ilk -- lingering around hoping to get access to UNCTAD wireless. The login and password have not been that great for the desktop computers; the laptops, like yours truly connected rather seamlessly.
Fingers crossed for the start of a fast-paced week for all participating! More pictures to come for sure!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mid-Week Madness: UN's Still Coming to Town!; Shoprite Disappoints -- and So Do Their Salesgirls!

It was always too good to be true: a high-power retailer like Shoprite coming to Accra, and not taking Ghanaians for a ride.

For the past few weeks, I have been through Shoprite to meet only a scene like this mostly at the margarine/butter side. A quick glimpse reveals a full house insofar as margarine/butter is concerned. Move down a few departments, like the biscuit section, and you find that the shelves have been empty for a while. I have only complained to one or two people who have assured me it would be full up.

No such luck.

I'll have to bring you picture of the empty stores I'm talking about some time--'cos there are quite a few! Who's monitoring these things?

I am sure they will not be losing sales by any stretch of the imagination, but they must be putting those who patronise the shop off quite a bit! Not that I mind that they lose or anything, but I do wonder about claims of quality, where the provision of it is next-to-none.

Whilst we are at it, is it a quintessential Ghanaian trait for sales-girls working in retail outlets like these to not smile at you, at worst, and greet you at best? How long does it take to say "good evening", or "good afternoon". I've ended up a couple of times asking: "so you won't greet?".

To which they will grimace, or feign a smile and say "sorry, you were distracted", or "sorry, but you didn't see it", or some such excuse.

Until Ghanaians begin to demand quality service from them--even if they are under-paid--we will be worse off. I sympathise sincerely about the bad pay, and probably bad conditions of service, but this takes the biscuit!

You would at least expect a greeting, not silence for your goods to be passed through like robots. Robots, we are not, thankyou!

UN Still Coming to Town
The UN Conference on Trade and Development is still coming to town! It aint going anywhere. There are a number of interesting conferences and interactive seminars that will be held during the time. It appears, though, that some of these will take place during the official UNCTAD conference, scheduled for 20-25 April.

The emphasis on "official" is important, because it means that if you are not formally accredited to the main conference--and frankly, it's too late now--you cannot attend. All is not lost, however, for there is the civil society forum, which I mentioned in the last post, which you can access here. That means that any one of you--be you journalist or non-governmental organisation, or citizen--can register here.

All that said, I shall be at the heart of things during the period, and be sure to be blogging as avidly as ever!

Today's edition of the NPP-sponsored Statesman newspaper has an editorial on UNCTAD XII, in which the title appears to be a thinly-veiled exhortation to be vigilant about globalisation.


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