Features

Joint Advisory Group Meeting

20 July 2011
ITC News

 

The 44th Session of ITC’s Joint Advisory Group (JAG) Meeting in December 2010 saw emphasis placed on the commitment to a partnership approach by the ITC, World Trade Organization (WTO) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in delivering on the Aid for Trade agenda.  

The objective of the annual JAG meeting was to review ITC’s work programme through its 2009 Annual Report, Consolidated Programme Document for 2011 and draft Operational Plan for 2011.

Specifically under this agenda, a key objective is to enhance dialogue with the private sector, promoting the role of small- and medium-sized enterprises and micro-enterprises, with particular importance given to their financing needs and ensuring their voice is heard in trade-related matters.

 

‘Delivering as One’ approach successful 

In his opening remarks, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, said that an agenda for delivering Aid for Trade to developing countries is ‘crucial for the proper functioning of their productive and export capacities and long-term competitiveness.’ He noted that this is particularly so for least developed countries (LDCs), where investment needs in productive and export infrastructure are significant but at present, insufficient.

‘In order to sustainably achieve high rates of growth, LDCs need to raise their rate of fixed capital formation to at least 25% of GDP but, as last year’s LDC Report showed, current rates of fixed capital formation are 18% of GDP for African LDCs and 21% of GDP for Asian LDCs,’ Dr. Supachai said.

In addressing his concerns over declining proportional aid to develop sector productivity, Dr. Supachai said that ‘if Aid for Trade is to be a meaningful contribution to developing countries’ productive and export capacities, it has to be additional and it has to be large enough to address the infrastructural needs of developing countries, especially the LDCs.’ Collaborating as members of the UN-CEB Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity, ITC and UNCTAD have worked together over the past year in more than 20 countries across five regions involved in One UN Pilot projects.

Citing numerous examples of successful UNCTAD-ITC initiatives in countries ranging from Albania to Rwanda and Haiti, Dr. Supachai said there is a need for systematic consultation when launching operations at the country level in areas where the agencies’ activities are closely related.

‘The Interagency Cluster is now an established and successful mechanism of co-ordination which will need continued support,’ Dr. Supachai said.

Within the context of ITC’s draft Operational Plan, Dr. Supachai said UNCTAD and ITC should work together to identify further complementarities in several areas including:

•  Improving trade facilitation to enhance trade competitiveness;

•  Improving trade support institutions and the business environment;

•  Trade intelligence;

•  The interface between environmental issues and trade policy, with a particular focus on the natural resource-based sectors, including organic food;

•  The improvement of supply chains and the integration of regional and global value chains, with a particular focus on obstacles facing African small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in entering global value chains; and

•  Support to public-private dialogue on the implications of economic partnership agreements, with a particular focus on trade in services, competition policy and trade and investment.

Towards the conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda 

Mr. Pascal Lamy, Director-General of WTO, addressed the meeting saying that a number of important events in the past year had impacted on the work of international agencies, and also provided a better sense of the prospects for all countries to exit the global economic and financial crisis.

Among these key events was the September 2010 UN Summit in New York on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Among the issues raised was the fact that for a majority of developing and least developed countries the gains they made towards achieving the MDGs had been seriously eroded by the crisis. Furthermore, the majority of developing countries made it clear that open trade represents their best chance to exit the crisis and the conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) is now more urgent than ever. Mr. Lamy said that the conclusion of the DDA remains the WTO’s key objective and towards this end, the recent G20 summit in Seoul reaffirmed members’ commitment to conclude the Agenda.

‘The G20 declaration is a confirmation of the view that trade is central to the global economic recovery and growth agenda and that the conclusion of the DDA in the next 12 months is a must if developing countries are to realize the full potential of trade opening,’ Mr. Lamy said.

In stating that the accession of LDCs to the WTO remains a political priority for the Organization, Mr. Lamy said ITC had an important role to play in providing capacity building support for LDCs through the joint WTO/ITC/European Investment Fund secretariat programme. In July 2011 WTO will host the 3rd Global Aid for Trade review conference. The focus of the event will be on demonstrating the impact of Aid for Trade interventions, which is becoming a major issue in this period of tight budgetary constraints.

Both Mr. Lamy and Dr. Supachai pointed to the importance of ITC’s role at the Fourth UN Conference on the LDCs to be held in Turkey in May 2011.

‘Priorities include the development of productive capacities, the diversification of exports and markets, enhancement of LDC capacity in trade services, attraction of FDI and the transfer of technology, and South-South cooperation and regional integration,’ said Dr. Supachai.

 

Export value over volume - The key to opportunity 

Ms. Patricia Francis, Executive Director of ITC, said that the importance of concentrating on export value over volume as the key means to transforming a crisis into opportunity was one of the recurring messages coming out of the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in 2010.

While volume could be short-term and profit focused, Ms. Francis stated that value is achieved through:

•  Long-term thinking leading to strategies that will bear fruit in a sustainable way;

•  Equitable and inclusive approaches that consider more than the shareholders and bring all people to the table;

•  Innovation and looking for new opportunities through diversification; and

•  Recognizing the potential that still exists for the expansion of globalization.

‘In a time of limited resources – including financial, food and natural resources – it is essential to think about value if we are to overcome the challenges of access to these scarce resources and ultimately to address poverty,’ said Ms. Francis.  

ITC’s operational priorities for 2011 include:

•  Facilitating access for SMEs in beneficiary countries to global supply chains by ensuring that sector and enterprise initiatives are linked to market opportunities;

•  Embedding the cross-cutting areas of gender, environment, sustainability and global partnerships;

•  Helping TSIs understand the value of their services by rolling out the ITC Benchmarking Programme;

•  Enhancing the reach and impact of publications and global public goods; and

•  Launching the new website and client relationship management system to better communicate with beneficiaries. 

Ms. Francis highlighted that ITC will continue to work with its partners under the Aid for Trade agenda to ensure the private sector voice is well represented and that trade is mainstreamed as a tool for achieving the MDGs. ITC will also continue to focus on programmes for gender equity, the environment and poverty reduction. Through the EnACT programme the organization is exploring ways of targeting youth in its programmes.

ITC’s operational priorities are based on incorporating client feedback into the overarching strategic objectives as outlined in the Consolidated Programme Document (CPD) and Operational Plan. 

Key impact areas by region 

ITC considers country ownership to be critical for sustainable results. In presenting the ITC CPD, Mr. Friedrich von Kirchbach, Director, Division of Country Programmes for ITC, explained that the CPD functions as a practical work programme for the year ahead, enabling ITC to identify areas where its impact could be greater. It also describes ITC’s approach to the delivery of global public goods, the continuous development of its technical expertise and identifies the key impact areas for each of the five regions (see map).  

 

Structured around ITC’s five programme delivery responses, the CPD focuses on: 

•  LDCs, landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), small island developing States (SIDS) and sub-Saharan Africa (SSA);

•  Increasing export capacity building with a country focus;

•  Building export capacity with a regional focus;

•  Expanding the numbers of users of ITC’s global public goods; and

•  Targeting the MDGs.

Strength in delivery through multi-year programmes and additional resources

ITC’s Operational Plan serves as an internal annual planning tool in line with the CPD and work programme for staff. In implementing the Operational Plan and with the third strategic plan primed, Mr. Anders Aeroe, Acting Deputy Executive Director, said that ITC was in a stronger position to deliver in 2011 since better systems and procedures were in place, stability was being achieved through multi-year programmes, and regular programme and extra-budgetary resources were increasing.

     ITC aims to continue to build an effective organization by: completing projects within agreed timescales and securing the outcomes with partners; escalating the pace and improving the quality of delivery; continuing to establish a firm results-based management structure; clarifying the reporting of cross-cutting issues of gender, environment, sustainability and global partnerships; launching a new website and developing the client relationship management system to improve delivery to beneficiaries; and continuing to work in closer partnership with WTO and UNCTAD.

     ITC has benefited from an enabling environment and contributed to strong strategic alliances with numerous organizations that are helping more deeply embed the MDGs in its operations. This includes developing strategies for mainstreaming pro-poor development through exports, the economic empowerment of women and the environmental sustainability of economic growth, along with monitoring outputs for MDGs within projects and integrating MDGs during project design.


Delegates’ response

There was a positive response among delegates to the focus on the MDGs in ITC’s work and the shift towards larger, multi-year programmes. The continued emphasis on poverty reduction, the environment and global partnerships by ITC was also acknowledged, along with the progress made in mainstreaming gender in its work. There was a request by some delegates for ITC to be more explicit about gains made in the area of gender equity in corporate documentation, along with the suggestion that youth should be given the same level of attention.

ITC’s work in the field was applauded for the growing emphasis on regionally structured solutions, while stressing the importance of country ownership of projects. There was encouragement to ensure that multi-country programmes would contribute to regional integration and agreement with the emphasis on the poorest groups of countries, (the LDCs, LLDCs, SIDS and SSA), although delegates also noted that it was important not to ignore other developing regions. Many delegations reiterated Dr. Supachai’s and Mr. Lamy’s reference to the importance of the UN LDC IV meeting in May 2011 as an opportunity for ITC expertise to contribute to real impact for LDCs.

The next JAG meeting will be held on June 30th and July 1st 2011. The meeting is being moved to the end of the second quarter of the year to better be in line with ITC’s reporting period.

 

2011 World Export Development Forum 10-11 May 2011. Istanbul, Turkey

The theme of ITC’s flagship event, the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) this year will be ‘Private Sector Engagement with LDCs for Tourism-led Growth and Inclusive Sustainable Development’. Taking place within the framework of the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV), the event will be held on 10-11 May in Istanbul, Turkey and will focus on solutions for developing sustainable tourism in LDCs. ITC is working with its supporting partner, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and other agencies to bring together high-level tourism experts from the private sector and the public sector to find solutions to tourism challenges. WEDF attendees will participate in workshops that will encourage public-private partnerships on specific tourism projects.

For information visit http://www.intracen.org/wedf/

The Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) 9-13 May 2011, Istanbul, Turkey

The UN General Assembly convened the First United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Paris in 1981 to respond to the special needs of the LDCs. At the time the group comprised 25 countries (it has since grown to 48) described by the UN as ‘the poorest and weakest segment of the international community’ whose economic and social development presents a major challenge both for them and for their development partners.

To continue the focus on the need for special measures for those countries, the General Assembly convened the Second United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, also in Paris, in 1990. Its outcome was embodied in the Paris Declaration and Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the 1990s.

The Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) will take place in Istanbul, Turkey on 9-13 May 2011. The purpose of the conference is to:

•   Assess the results of the 10-year action plan for the LDCs adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on LDCs in Brussels, Belgium, in 2001; and

•   Adopt new measures and strategies for the sustainable development of the LDCs into the next decade.

The conference will be inclusive and transparent, aiming to promote dialogue between all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, private sector, business associations, philanthropic and non-profit organizations, parliamentarians, academia and the media.