Rich countries fail to silence UNCTAD
Closing plenary of the UNCTAD conference | Photo: UNCTAD
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has concluded its 13th ministerial in Qatar with a renewed mandate, despite attempts by rich nations to narrow its ability to work on structural issues in the financial system.
Action by campaigners around the world - including in the UK where many wrote to British development minister Andrew Mitchell - helped prevent UNCTAD being undermined. It will now be able to continue its excellent work on debt and economic crisis.
Attempting to silence
So blatant was the attempt to silence UNCTAD over the last week, that former staff at the institution, global campaigners and Southern governments all issued appeals.
The ‘G77 plus China’ group which speaks for 133 countries of the global South, said they wanted UNCTAD to play a role in articulating “a vision of development based on equality, based on a differentiated approach to development, and based on equal respect for all” but accused rich country governments of behaviour “reminiscent of the darkest days of the North-South divide.”
The UK played a particularly unhelpful role in the negotiations. On Wednesday Jubilee colleagues reported that the UK wanted UNCTAD to stop working to try to get principles on how to lend and borrow responsibly adopted.
Who should run the global economy?
The debate in Doha was about much more than language in a conference text. It was part of a wider battle over who should run the global economy.
While rich country governments like the UK would rather leave things to undemocratic and dogmatic institutions like the International Monetary Fund, Southern governments believe that democratic, UN-based institutions like UNCTAD should play a vital role in governing the global economy.
You can see why: UNCTAD foresaw the dangers of a reckless financial system, while the IMF encouraged that system. UNCTAD called for debt cancellation for highly indebted countries, while the IMF thought more loans were the answer. UNCTAD has consistently called for a more equal and just global economy, while the IMF has promoted an economy run in the interests of the 1%.
For now, UNCTAD will be allowed to continue its work. But it remains deeply upsetting that the UK, with a history of grossly irresponsible lending, tried to silence it.
- Final UNCTAD XIII Doha mandate (PDF, 95k) >>
- Final civil society statement on the outcome of UNCTAD XIII >>
- Full civil society declaration to UNCTAD XIII (PDF, 101k) >>
Ministerial Meeting of the Least Developed Countries