Statement By

Mr. Emmanuel K. Bensah, International Coalition for Development Action

SPEAKING ON BEHALF OF TRADE CAUCUS AT NGO FORUM

 

 (Check Against Delivery)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr.President,

Thank you very much for allowing me the time to speak on such short notice.

As you may well know, one of the prerequisites needed to qualify a country as an LDC is a GDP under $900. As members of the trade caucus - consisting of ICDA, ActionAid, Youth Peacequest of Sweden, and World Confederation of Labour - we have identified statement 5 in the Programme of Action as being imperative in attempting to address the question of GDP, which we believe is fundamental in ensuring an equitable and sustainable living standard. However, we think we cannot address this question without broaching the issue of trade.

According to Commitment 5, (Enhancing the role of Trade and Development), in the Programme of Action, "the participation of LDCs in international trade is severely limited by a number of factors, in particular demand and supply-side constraints." In light of this document, we have three main points to advance to you.

First of all, it is our sincere belief that in order to redress the imbalance of trade rules and regulations, absolute and unequivocal priority must be given to addressing, and responding to, the question of free market access to all LDC products, in line with the EU Partnership Agreement, otherwise known as the Everything But Arms (EBA) Initiative. This proposal, the brainchild of EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, was adopted in late February this year. Though many delegates from LDC countries, whom I met outside the meetings, praised and welcomed the initiative, we, as the Trade Caucus, believe that it is as riddled with holes as the proverbial Swiss cheese.

More specifically, it remains unclear which LDC countries will benefit from this initiative. Furthermore, it is as yet unresolved what constraints it will have on members of the Cotonou Agreement who are not LDCs. In terms of market access for products, such as sugar, rice, and bananas - to name but three essential products named under the initiative - how would this EBA initiative seek to mollify potential tensions from the developing countries? These are only some holes that remain outstanding. But, of course, we do not seek to resolve the matter here.

Secondly, it is our belief that multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) have done nothing but pay lip service to addressing the question of market access for LDCs. What can positively be said for the EU however is that this initiative is, at least, a step towards tackling a very crucial yet thorny issue by the horns. We, as the Trade Caucus of the NGO Forum, therefore urge both industrialized countries and LDCs to comprehensively study this initiative so that neither side runs the risk of being short-changed in the foreseeable future, nor remains complacent that this initiative is manna from Heaven.

 

Finally we have heard ad infinitum how LDCs live on less than a dollar a day. Allow me to spell that out for you right here, right now, what that is equivalent to. That is about 44 BF, or a glass of orange juice in the NGO lounge. This is an insufferable statistic that I fear runs the risk of being trivialized if we, as NGOs, and delegates of UN member states, are not careful.

 

After all, talk is cheap. The Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, in his opening statement at the NGO Forum on May 10, talked of how states naturally act in their own interest. As a young NGO delegate, it takes me back to my international relations course that was replete with references to what Mr. Ricupero was talking about - Realism. What we are calling for is member states to be realistic about the targets that can be met for these LDCs. We cannot afford not to be realistic about the plight of these Least Developed Countries. That is why we call on member states, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that the joint impact studies on the EBA initiative, as called for in the Cotonou Agreement, be expeditiously done so that the broader potential impact of the proposals be assessed.

 

We hope that this third UN Conference on LDC be the icing on the cake of global wealth that has so long been the preserve of the rich and powerful. As my co-delegate, Ms Meredyth Bowler Ailloud, so ingeniously put to my delegation a few days ago, "LDC III, ca suffit!"

 

Thank you.

 

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