Statement made by Sri Lanka, Coordinator of the Asian Group at the Opening Plenary of the Second Formal Meeting of the Mid-Term Review (MTR)Geneva, 12 June 2006. (Dr. Dayaratna de Silva, Minister)

Mr. President

I am pleased to deliver this statement on behalf of the Asian Group.

At the outset we would like to thank Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary General of UNCTAD for his comprehensive statement. We would also like to thank Secretariat for its timely preparation of documentation which contain valuable recommendations that  will certainly assist in  our deliberations.

The Asian Group fully associates itself with the statement delivered by H.E. Ambassador Masood Khan, Chairman of the Group of 77 and China. In particular we fully agree with the phrase that “UNCTAD is still relevant-even more relevant-in this age of globalization and interdependence”.

Mr. President,

Since the first formal meeting of the MTR, a number of informal interactions have taken place in various forms aimed at trying to take our work forward. While expressing our appreciation for such initiatives, the atmosphere generated in these informal settings should now contribute to build convergence of views and most importantly understanding of each other’s points of view. Our group would like to engage constructively with our developed country partners and all other members to make this second meeting of the MTR  a  success.

In this light Mr. President let me quote  useful remarks made by Mr.Rubens Ricupero, the former Secretary-General of UNCTAD (1995 - 2004) at the Final Plenary of UNCTAD XI to the effect that “differences of opinion will always exist, and exist in every family. How could they disappear when we have such a diversity of peoples, countries and economies at different levels of development? This is natural and legitimate, and is not to be seen as a flaw or shortcoming; it is part of the dialectical process”.

The Asian Group is of the view that in general, our discussion on the strengthening of the 3-pillars of UNCTAD must be undertaken on the basis of mandate contained in the Spirit of Sao Paulo and the Sao Paulo Consensus.

Second, consideration of the three pillars of UNCTAD should not be undertaken in abstract. We need to review and discuss the interlinkages between the three main functions of UNCTAD and also identify the ways and means for strengthening the three pillars.  

, each one of the three pillars has its own specific impact on the role of UNCTAD as well as an explicit impact on the policy-making of developing countries.

, the interface between the three main functions of UNCTAD should be reviewed and assessed on a regular basis by the intergovernmental machinery.

Let me now turn  to the specific areas of work under each of the three pillars.

Research and Policy analysis

Asian Group strongly supports UNCTAD’s research and policy analysis which should,   feed into the other two pillars, ConsensusBuilding and Technical Assistance. In other words the work of these two pillars cannot be carried out in a vacuum and our group  firmly share the view that   a solid foundation is provided by the pillar of  research and policy analysis. Such research work should clearly have developmental focus, pragmatic approach and must be on contemporary issues of global relevance  and develop strategies with work carried out in other institutions.

In this context our group greatly values the analytical work and impact assessment on the broad theme of  “assuring development gains from the international trading system, trade negotiations and commodities”. As the focal point in the UN system on the integrated treatment of trade and development, UNCTAD support in international trade and trade negotiations is indispensable.

UNCTAD Research and Analysis in area of Investment (the World Investment Report), is particularly valuable and pertinent to policy makers in developing countries, helping to identify trends in global development to complement and enhance national policy making. It has helped in capacity building particularly in the interface between  FDI and new issues such as, inter alia  portfolio investment and  harmonized positions in  investment negotiation. 

Our Group is particularly interested in UNCTAD's work in the field of competition policy. We commend processes such as the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy (IGE) which was able to identify   development challenges in the field, which were then assessed by the secretariat and the findings  brought back to intergovernmental deliberations, and transmitted  to policy makers in the field through capacity building and technical assistance  at the national or regional level. An innovative example is UNCTAD's voluntary peer review on competition law and policy, first introduced in 2005.

On Consensus Building

The report prepared by the Secretariat has amply enumerated the current structure of  UNCTAD’s intergovernmental machinery and its modus operendi. The G77 statement succinctly articulated the important role that this pillar has played in building consensus in other multilateral forums with specific examples and also specific ways to strengthen it utilising substantive outcomes of Commissions, experts meetings  and TDB. Our group fully associate with these suggestions. Furthermore our group shares  the view that UNCTAD´s intergovernmental machinery not only provides useful guidance in identifying issues for conducting research and policy analysis but also provides  a unique opportunity for all member countries to debate and highlight issues of common concern, freely.  

On Technical Assistance and Cooperation

Regarding technical cooperation, this Group would like to have a debate on how to move forward on the links between this pillar and the other two. The research work and the outcome of deliberative work feed into the activities of technical cooperation and support policy making capacity. The implementation of activities of many technical cooperation programmes can also contribute to enhance the policy relevance of research work and prepares the basis for future analytical work as well as for intergovernmental deliberations. Interinkages that exist in many programmes of UNCTAD should be further strengthened and extended as appropriate to as many areas as possible in  UNCTAD's work. The meetings of the Working Party on the Medium-term plan and Programme Budget, and Trade and Development Board should be fully used to review and  monitor the level of integration of the three pillars.

Technical cooperation in UNCTAD should ensure that services provided are demand driven and that the activities of projects and programmes are formulated and implemented in close consultation with beneficiary countries and on the basis of their identified  needs. This requires efforts and enhanced consultations in particular between donors and beneficiaries. UNCTAD should explore  ways and means  to the enhance process of consultations between donors and beneficiaries to ensure that technical assistance activities of UNCTAD are demand-driven. An important goal of these enhanced consultations should be to identify which areas of the UNCTAD research work need to be better used in the assistance operations, and how the policy dialogue undertaken through the intergovernmental machinery can better influence operations and  research.

UNCTAD’s technical assistance support in the areas of international trading system, trade negotiations and commodities, has been of critical importance for Asian counties in addressing changing demands in an evolving international trade system, in respect of agriculture, NAMA, services, rules, development issues, TRIPS, trade facilitation, GSP and other trade preferences, and dispute settlement.  UNCTAD implements a wide range of national, regional and inter regional projects and programmes and we support this emphasis which is in line with growing  regional cooperation and integration globally.

At last but not least the Asian group wish to express   appreciation to developed country partners  for their continued support for UNCTAD in carrying out its technical assistance programmes.

 I thank you Mr. President

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