by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Bangkok, 20 Feb 2000 -- Both the UNCTAD secretariat and its inter-governmental machinery have come out of the 10th session of the Conference with an expanded mandate for analysing the international money and finance systems and institutions, and the development dimensions of the trading system.

In the area of international trade too, while UNCTAD is not engaged in negotiating trade rules, it has a strengthened mandate to undertake research and analysis on the parameters of the development dimensions of the multilateral trading system and the implications of existing and emerging multilateral trade rules for the development prospects of developing countries, and provide technical support for setting out a positive agenda for developing countries in future trade negotiations and a range of issues where the trading systems impinge on development.

Without being a negotiating forum, the UN Conference on Trade and Development can play an influencing role. The Conference adopted the Plan of Action, which provides a mandate till the next Conference for UNCTADþs intergovernmental machinery and the secretariat for its analytical work.

In some areas UNCTAD has even emerged with a stronger mandate, while in others the language used at the instance of some Northern governments in their efforts to reduce its role, has ended with some ambiguous language that could enable a determined and intellectually equipped secretariat to undertake purposeful analysis and present clear options to governments. In the US efforts to keep UNCTAD out of the debates and discussions on the new international financial architecture, and modify the original language in the plan of action on UNCTAD's work on globalization, interdependence and development, there is now an enhanced mandate.

The new mandate asks UNCTAD, on financial and monetary issues to focus on financing for development, consistent with efforts to ensure greater financial stability. And UNCTAD is also asked to contribute to the debate on issues related to the strengthening and ongoing reform of the international financial institutions, including the enhancing of early warning and response capabilities for dealing with the emergence and spread of financial crises, by continuing to provide relevant analysis from a development perspective.

In the area of international trade, UNCTAD's major objective is to continue to assist developing countries to integrate themselves more fully into and derive benefits from the international trading system. The focus of its work is to aim at policy analysis and consensus-building to identify more clearly the parameters of the development dimensions of the multilateral trading system, to support capacity building in developing countries to enable them to become effective players in the multilateral trading system and derive benefits from trade liberalization, enjoying their multilateral rights and complying with their obligations.

UNCTAD is also asked to identify, on basis of research and empirical evidence and development impact assessment, the implications of existing and emerging multilateral trade rules for development prospects of developing countries. UNCTAD's work is also to be geared to support intergovernmental consensus through a positive agenda for developing countries in future trade negotiations, including identifying international trade policy tools more supportive of development efforts in a globalized world, and to suggest ways and means to address constraints faced by developing countries - both those arising from structural impediments, limited domestic policy options and financial vulnerability as well as those following from problems and imbalances identified by developing countries in the implementation of agreements.

These and other areas of work essentially relate to the work by the secretariat, and not so much in the intergovernmental processes, except perhaps by expert meetings and otherwise. (SUNS4611)

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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