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Productive Capacities and MDGs in Focus at UNCTAD

Article no: EN20080914-Article-5.2-2008

Productive Capacities and MDGs in Focus at UNCTAD

UNCTAD's governing Trade and Development Board meets 15-26 September, with high-level discussion focusing on how to enhance abilities of developing-country economies to offer more varied and sophisticated products to world markets. The intent is to spur broad-based economic growth that creates jobs, reduces poverty, and allows achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). An overview by WDEV

Concern over rapidly climbing food prices adds urgency to this discussion. UNCTAD economists say decades-long neglect of the agricultural sector in the developing world is a major cause of the highly publicized food crisis. Recent higher costs for nourishment are threatening to undercut significant economic progress achieved by millions of poor since 2000. Debate on another urgent matter, the recent breakdown in the Doha trade negotiations, will feature World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy 16 September.

The Board's 153 member States will play the leading role in the two-week series of meetings, and a significant aim will be to put into effect decisions made at UNCTAD's XII quadrennial conference, held 20-25 April in Accra, Ghana. The Board, known as the TDB, guides UNCTAD's work and responds to trends affecting international trade and affecting the economic circumstances of developing nations.

The opening day's debate will be on "trade and productive capacities for achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs." Panellists will include Temistocles Montas, Minister of Economy, Planning and Development of the Dominican Republic; Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Minister of Trade and Industry of Rwanda; Enrique A. Manalo, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines; Lineo Molise, Assistant Minister of Home Affairs of Lesotho; Yasuo Hayashi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Japanese External Trade Association; Mia Horn af Rantzien, Deputy Director-General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation; and Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi will open the session focusing on how the body can contribute to the achievement of such MDGs as the halving of extreme poverty by the year 2015. The organization's experts have said that international aid and attention have focused more and more on the social and health sectors, which - while extremely important - do not typically build up national economies. Larger proportions of aid and greater attention should go into bolstering productivity, including expanding industry, UNCTAD contends, as this type of economic growth offers a sustainable way out of poverty and can avoid future crises. The TDB debate will shape UNCTAD's contribution to a September 25 High-Level Event on the MDGs at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The effects of rising food prices in developing countries will be reviewed during the TDB's consideration of an agenda item on "mobilizing resources for development."

The focus on 22 September will be on a pilot project by several international agencies to enable Cape Verde to expand the productive capacity of its economy and increase national gains from exports. UNCTAD is playing a leading role in the project, which is part of the United Nations "Delivering as One" campaign being carried out under the Chief Executives Board Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Development. José Maria Pereira Neves, Prime Minister of Cape Verde, will participate in the discussion by video link, and Fatima Fialho, Minister of Economy of Cape Verde, will make a presentation at the meeting.

The TDB will hold a hearing with civil-society organizations on 17 September, with representatives commenting on the food crisis and "the global financial crisis and its impact on sustainable development."

The Board will examine the economic status the 49 least developed countries (LDCs). Discussion will be based on the latest UNCTAD Least Developed Countries Report, which gives a detailed evaluation of the state of these countries' essential exports, such as coffee, cotton, peanuts, horticulture, fish, and textiles, and of their burgeoning tourism sectors.

The TDB will consider the situation in Africa, basing debate on the report Economic Development in Africa 2008, which will be launched 15 September. A prime concern is why, despite trade liberalization, export growth on that continent has lagged behind other regions, and what can be done to improve African economic performance.

Policies that enable better financing and productive investment in developing nations will be discussed. Consideration here is based on the 2008 Trade and Development Report. Of particular concern this year is how financing, investment, and - for poverty-stricken countries - official development assistance can be used to spur productive capacity, or the ability of developing country economies to offer more sophisticated products to world markets, especially by expanding manufacturing.

The TDB will review as well trends in investment by transnational corporations in developing-country infrastructure. Such investment has increased recently, and, if managed well, can help developing nations gain much-needed electricity supply, roads, and telecommunications services. This topic is the theme of the World Investment Report 2008, which will be unveiled on 24 September.

As in other years, the Board will consider UNCTAD's contribution to major United Nations conferences and summits, and it will survey the effectiveness of UNCTAD's many technical-cooperation activities.

Posted: 14 Sep 2008

Recommended citation: WDEV (2008) ?Productive Capacities and MDGs in Focus at UNCTAD?, World Economy & Development In Brief (WDEV), Luxembourg, 14 Jun