By Jaya Ramachandran
The Group of 77 – comprising 132 developing nations – and China are keen to reinvigorate the development agenda of the multilateral trading system and build consensus on policy approaches to cope with the current global economic downturn and the fragility of certain developed economies which could trigger another global economic crisis.
They therefore want the 13th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIII) from April 21 to 26 in Doha, Qatar, to emphasize the importance of inclusive and sustainable development.
“In so doing, the Group of 77 and China seeks to continue the process of strengthening the global economy to ensure greater prosperity and a brighter future for the majority of humanity,” says the grouping in its position paper for the gathering.
This, says the paper, requires recognition of several principles, based upon the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 4, 1986:
(a) Development is about improving people’s lives including through the creation of wealth and opportunity;
(b) Development is about empowering people; and
(c) Development should be country specific, not dogmatic prescriptions. Development must be about affording developing countries the means for pursuing development paths tailored in accordance to their own unique needs and circumstances.
“These considerations, and the timing of UNCTAD XIII, are of the utmost significance for the Group of 77 and China. UNCTAD XIII is an important opportunity to help focus the development discourse and the broader work of the UN on development, for example, the launching of the UN Chief Executives Board Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity which was launched in UNCTAD XII on 20 April 2008 and consists of various UN agencies led by UNCTAD,” the position paper says.
In 2014, member states will celebrate the 50th anniversary of UNCTAD. The position paper considers it important to recognize the contributions that UNCTAD has made in helping developing countries integrate into the global economic system. “Yet it must also be a time to reflect on what more needs to be done, and what UNCTAD can contribute in this regard.”
The Group of 77 and China want that event to result in a major contribution to the event expected in 2015, “when the global community would meet at the arrival post for the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” In that regard, says the paper, “2015 should not be about perpetuating the MDG agenda. It should be an opportunity to take stock of the MDGs, learn lessons from them, and move beyond to a more effective approach to development.”
The Group of 77 and China therefore look forward to an UNCTAD XIII that is, through its discussions and outcome document:
The theme of the conference is quite clear. Globalization must have development at its heart. The world economy has changed significantly. Business as usual no longer works. “The Conference must therefore address these new realities including by manifesting the resolve to address roots causes, and find meaningful and lasting solutions to persistent problems, as well as those which are new and emerging,” says the position paper.
New approaches to development and partnerships should therefore result from the Conference. “The conference has to go beyond looking at economic efficiency and go into development approaches which lead to better standards of living and quality of life for all. This will be an important contribution to the international community’s work on development after the MDG target date of 2015,” argues the paper.
The outcome should lead to a stronger and more effective global partnership for development which will contribute to, among others, efforts to strengthen the global economic system to place development at the center, including in the process leading to 2015 and beyond.
“By global partnership, the Group of 77 and China refers to a broader spirit of cooperation and joint ownership of the global economic system and development. The spirit of partnership should be manifested in ways other than traditional forms of assistance. The Group therefore seeks to build a stronger consensus on development, and to foster a spirit in which the global community can also capture consensus in our various deliberations, towards UNCTAD XIII and indeed beyond,” explains the paper.
Given the precariousness of the global economic situation, the potential downward impacts of the global economic crises on developing countries and the need to move towards action-centred programmes, UNCTAD XIII should focus on developing practical and pragmatic plans of action with clear goals and results, adds the paper.
“Best endeavour intentions and language should be kept to a minimum; focus should be made on the formulation and implementation of appropriately-financed and clear plans to address the sustainable development needs of developing countries.”
The document adds: “The Group of 77 and China therefore looks forward to a constructive and positive preparatory process which builds the comfort level necessary for the outcome document to have an explicit reference to the need for new development paradigm and approach which, among others, places at its heart the need to mobilize political will and attending financial resources for a renewed and rebalanced global approach to development, as well as the issue of the reform of the global economic governance; affording developing countries the adequate policy space necessary to pursue nationally-owned and specifically tailored development policies to maximize prosperity and welfare for all; and strengthening the productive capacities of developing countries to fully and meaningfully engage in the global economic system.”
The 18-page document deals at length with specific aspects of the demands of the G77 and China.