Speech by UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi

23 June 2014
ITC News

Delivered on 11 June 2014 - WTO headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you very much, Madame Chair.

May I first of all congratulate you on your unanimous election to take over the responsibilities of the Chair for the next 12 months and thank the outgoing Chair for being a vivacious person to be with and good company. We look forward to her continued leadership.

May I also, from the outset, ladies and gentlemen, thank Mr. Azevêdo for hosting us and Arancha for inviting us to share in your joy, to celebrate 50 years, and also for the opportunity for us to be seen together, to be working together, because this is something that I’d like to come back to – the challenges and the possibilities of these three institutions that should constitute the foundation of the Geneva trade hub, working for the next half millennium. Before I do that, thank you very much for the nine months since you took up your position. You have been very busy. I see your footprints everywhere I go. I’ve seen your published words, every clear statement of a sense of purpose, destination and dedication which are considered very important for the institution and for the Geneva trade hub. May I also congratulate Dorothy Tembo on her appointment as your Deputy after her substantial work through the Enhanced Integrated Framework. I look forward to continuing to work with you.

Fifty years ago, the forebears of UNCTAD and the International Trade Centre (ITC) not only saw the possibility that trade could be disciplined to serve ambitious economic development for the developing world, but they also appreciated the critical role of the private sector, the entrepreneur, the small-scale trader and investor as the couriers of the potential of trade to deliver on development. It is in this sense that we were conceived and born of the same womb in the same year. Though four years later, the General Assembly in its wisdom gave custodial responsibilities to UNCTAD and the forerunner of the World Trade Organization (WTO), our sister agencies, working with you, shared the responsibilities of streamlining public policies, assisting public officers and strengthening entrepreneurs to deliver on the promise that trade could contribute to economic development.

The challenges remain fundamentally the same. The setting has changed dramatically. But with changing circumstances our shared dedication to the very spirit of our founding fathers and our commitment to inclusive development should be strengthened by deliberate actions of working together, identifying areas where we can do better than we have done in the past. In my discussions bilaterally, both with Roberto and Arancha, we have confirmed that we have no baggage that holds us back. We have no excuse but to have a positive engagement. Inasmuch as you don’t engage positively, others get the opportunity to poison your relationship before you have moved. I am glad that in both relationships – between WTO and UNCTAD and between ITC and UNCTAD – we will make substantial progress in breaking new ground, in new working relationships that will no doubt deliver on our shared responsibilities and mandates.

I wish to mention here two related phenomena. WTO and UNCTAD have entered into a memorandum of understanding on shared work on non-tariff measures, exchange of information and building a common database. It is our aspiration that in a few years, the whole world should have access to quality, first-hand open source data, on non-tariff measures, both as a development tool, but more often than not, as a means to counter distortions in market access. These represent a very clear model, where an institution that is at the forefront of dealing with liberalizing trade and movement of goods and services like the WTO, and an institution that has probably the most elaborate database on non-tariff measures like UNCTAD, find synergies to reduce the duplication of our work and enhance utilization of what we have – expertise and data – and impact positively on the use of trade for development. Similarly, since the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, UNCTAD and ITC have signed a memorandum of understanding on collaborative work on trade facilitation and capacity-building in developing countries. We’ve gone well beyond the memorandum of understanding. We’ve already been able to co-host a meeting of African experts in Mauritius and we’ve already deepened, practically, our work in the field on trade and productive capacity sector of the United Nations cluster system, authorized by the United Nations Chief Executives Board, through our initiative of setting up a centre of excellence on trade facilitation training for African officials and entrepreneurs, and we’re very much looking forward to further deepening this cooperation.

At the start of this year, I refurbished UNCTAD offices in New York, and three weeks ago, I had a very competent, efficient and very personable woman as the head of UNCTAD’s offices in New York. I’ve already announced and I’m glad to appreciate that ITC has unlimited access to this facility when it has its operations in New York, and I’m glad that Arancha has been using this office more than I have. I make this statement in one context: that beyond words, I want to walk the talk in committing to greater inter-agency collaboration and exploring new areas of mutual interest and in how can we strengthen the visibility and relevance of the Geneva trade hub globally.

In the past few days, we’ve also been engaging in what the new areas are, what the new frontiers of collective action are. And on the areas that we’re in now, I want to thank Arancha for putting this up front, on the table, because internally at UNCTAD we’ve also been looking at this. In the next two years, all professional staff at United Nations agencies will not be eligible for promotion unless they have undertaken mobility – a lateral movement to another institution. And we thought that it’s part of our responsibility to use every opportunity to explore the possibilities of lateral movement in line with United Nations mobility within the trade hub of Geneva, before conditions oblige us to have a more disruptive relocation of our staff to institutions and locales that are further afield from Geneva. And I can only see the positive. I would like to see more cross-border movement between personnel at WTO, ITC and UNCTAD to fertilize the thinking and to see the opportunities and benefits that exist between these institutions.

As many of you know, in late November last year, I launched the open dialogue on the post-2015 process in Geneva. I’m glad that Arancha was a speaker at our first dialogue, and Roberto Azevêdo, at our second dialogue. You are in revered company. But fundamentally, I think we have a certain historical responsibility to contribute to bridging the Atlantic divide in the discourse on the way forward for post-2015. To a large extent, the sense for me is that New York is very strong on peace and security-related matters. It can be strong on certain social goals, but on perceiving the cross-cutting role of development work, on integrating strong economic and trade considerations in collective goals, I think the balance is in favour of Geneva any day compared to New York.

Lately, my organization together with the World Bank have been co-facilitators of the means of implementation and discussion for a post-2015 agenda, and we find it critically important that we work more intensely within the trade hub of Geneva, particularly when there are two sister institutions to add concrete substance and not repeat the mistakes of Millennium Development Goal 8, which reflects very weak afterthoughts, responding more to Monterrey pressures than to the need to see that delivering on social goals requires economic means. Economic means is not aid and not official development assistance or foreign direct investment. It’s about comprehensive, focused and coherent economic policy, trade policy and financial resource mobilization – domestic action with international solidarity. I’m very much looking forward to having the focal points, across the so far 16 and hopefully fewer focal points that have emerged in the Open Working Group in New York, be immensely informed by the discourse that is generated in Geneva, all because of our institutions working together.

Let me finish by saying one or two things. I’m very glad that, Arancha, you’ve invited us to the World Export Development Forum meeting in Kigali in September. I agree that it sends the right signal when the three of us are seen together saying complementary things, doing things that show a coherence of purpose. And sharing a faith in a deliberative potential, not only in the activity but in the potential of trade, and dedicating ourselves to the service of development. I like a saying that I first heard in Goma, in the country called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The saying is that those nations which do not trade with each other tend to tread on each other. That when people are not bound by commerce, they devalue the lives of the other. And therefore it was a habit to see in many in the developing world, in many developing countries, enterprises being disrupted because of political friction. This should be turned on its head, because if we intensify commerce between those nations, the potential of disagreement translating into conflict is very much subdued. And if they want evidence, they can look at France and Germany.

Congratulations and thank you very much for your attention.