Forced trade liberalization is having real and diverse negative impacts on the day-to-day lives of millions of people and their environment, especially women, in all regions of the world. Inequality – both between and within countries – is increasing and millions are unable to meet even their most basic needs. Democracy is being eroded as Governments renounce or are made to renounce their right to regulate domestically in exchange for the chance to increase market access. The profits then increasingly go to companies and their owners, rather than countries and their citizens.
Critically, the North’s global consumption patterns are a threat to global natural resources and use the resources of the global South at rock-bottom prices. The North has therefore incurred an ecological debt to the South. Nevertheless, it is still those impoverished countries in the South that find themselves compelled to export more and more in order to pay off their ever-increasing financial debts. Ironically, this exacerbates the surplus in already oversupplied world markets, falling commodity prices and decreasing returns on Southern exports. These worsening terms of trade make it ever more difficult for the South to pay its debts. Moreover, they raise questions about the market-access paradigm that UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) keeps on “challenging” in its reports.
At the same time, the European Union and the United States, in a remarkable display of double standards, dump heavily subsidized farm exports onto world markets, destroying rural livelihoods in developing countries. Stopping the dumping of commodities and eliminating the consequent damage that such dumping inflicts on small farmers and producers worldwide have now rightly become the litmus test for whether poor countries can obtain any justice from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Rich world hypocrisy does not stop there. The industrialized countries still maintain high protectionist barriers against goods produced by developing countries. Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said that agricultural subsidies and trade barriers in the US, Europe and Japan cost poor developing countries an estimated $320 billion a year in lost trade.
Other trading problems faced by developing countries and countries in transition, such as the deterioration of exchange rates and the corporate-driven trade liberalization policies adopted by rich countries, contribute to their debt problem. In addition, when payments are made, precious national resources that could be spent on developing fair and sustainable economies and societies are channelled back to the rich North. In other words, the international status quo is impeding sustainable development, income generation and poverty eradication.
It is clear that current trade rules and trade policies – whether established or imposed by intergovernmental organizations or powerful Governments – are an obstacle to fair and sustainable development and must be made subservient to those rights – individual and collective – which the peoples of the world have established in the United Nations during the last century. In other words, alternative approaches and paradigms to the management of trade – national, regional and international – are essential.
The UNCTAD ended its 11th session (known as UNCTAD XI) on quite a high note in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 18 June 2004. Its most significant results included the recognition that developing countries have the right to more ‘policy space’ to meet their development needs, and the launching of a new round of South-South trade talks under the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP).
Based on the Civil Society Forum Declaration to UNCTAD XI (June 2004).
The Financing for Development process, led by the United Nations, reached a global 'consensus' in the Monterrey Conference (2002). But without political will that opportunity remains in jeopardy.
Agriculture and food sovereignty
Farmers could produce enough food to eradicate world hunger. So, why won’t they let them?
Economic, social and cultural rights - ESCR
ESC rights are valid, enforceable, justiciable and claimable under both local and international law. Civil society is campaigning for their full implementation.
New Partnership for African Development - NEPAD
Promoted by African governments and supported by the G8, NEPAD has been largely criticized by civil society organizations.
World Trade Organization - WTO
Trade at the service of people, or people subjected to trade? The WTO makes the difference.
Millennium Development Goals - MDGs
A comprehensive list of resources from the United Nations and civil society organizations.
Reform of International Institutions
The campaign's objective is to spark off a process leading to the reform of the system of international institutions with the participation of all world actors and moving towards a system of global democratic governance.
Over the past five years, the expansion of the world economy and trade has served as an engine of growth for many developing countries and helped to support progress to the Millennium Development Goals. Even the poorest countries have been able to reap benefits from sustained growth of the world economy, largely because of favourable price developments in many primary commodities. But as the Trade and Development Report 2007 points out, this beneficial environment has some unsettling features, such as persistent imbalances and net capital flow from developing to developed countries. September 2007 (pdf version).
If international measures are not taken to reduce global trade imbalances, financial crises will develop, warns UNCTAD's new report. It advocates the creation of a multilateral system of financial measures. It also argues for greater autonomy - "policy space" - for developing countries to set their economic and development priorities. 31 August 2006.
A week-long meeting of the 2006 Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) started on Monday, 8 May, with key delegations and groupings giving their initial positions on the mandate and future role of UNCTAD, including in light of the current United Nations reform process. May 2006.
A concerted effort by major economic powers to deprive the United Nations of its Charter functions in the economic field and whittling down its role and authority in general, began in the early 1980's and has continued since then. UNCTAD has been a part of this process, in fact the principal target of the onslaught, according to former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. April 2006 (pdf version).
The eleventh ministerial meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (known as UNCTAD XI) was held from 13-18 June, 2004, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The main theme of this session was: “Enhancing the coherence between national development strategies and global economic processes towards economic growth and development, particularly of developing countries.” This coverage of the event includes news, analysis and reports by UNCTAD, alternative media, and civil society organizations.
UNCTAD is the focal point within the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development and the interrelated issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment and sustainable development.
It would be excellent if developing countries could increase their export earnings as a method for achieving growth and development. However, many developing countries are facing constraints to their exports because of their limited supply capacity, protectionist barriers including high tariffs and subsidies in the Northern agriculture sector, and a proliferation of non tariff barriers.
The Civil Society Forum, meeting on the occasion of UNCTAD XI, represents social movements, pro-development groups, women's groups, trade unions, peasants and agricultural organizations, environmental organizations, faith-based organizations, and fair trade organizations, among others, which express a variety of perspectives on trade, investment, competition and their impact on development (pdf version).
This paper examines the way that a range of development actors view and engage with the arena of trade policy, focusing in particular on the challenges encountered by civil society actors participating in that arena. The dynamics of civil society participation in the trade arena – what might be achieved, and how – are very different from those that shape civil society participation in processes labelled poverty reduction; this paper explores the differences (pdf version).
Civil society representatives said they are frustrated and concerned about the path of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a critical assessment that contrasts with the rosy evaluation made by the leaders of the U.N. body at the UNCTAD XI session in Sao Paulo (June 2004).
Evidence from Latin America suggests that good trade performance and trade policy reforms alone cannot deliver growth and poverty reduction. If trade is to have a significant impact on broad-based growth and poverty reduction across the region, a raft of complementary policies, investment programmes and social protection measures needs to be designed, debated and implemented. March 2008 (pdf version).
Trade, growth, development, poverty reduction—each term represents a complex set of problems that continues to be at the forefront of the challenges faced by Latin American societies. Lately the relationship between them has become a subject of hot debate.
Protectionism, self-reliance and village republics are not enough to lift 1.3 billion of the world’s poor out of absolute poverty. There is sufficient empirical evidence to demonstrate that trade can be a powerful catalyst for poverty reduction, that free trade with fairer policies will benefit the world's poor more than aid or charity. The problem is that World Trade Organisation negotiations and global trade are far from free and fair, with the balance skewed in favour of powerful trading blocs like the US and EU and against poorer nations. February 2007.
Development issues have long been a component of the multilateral trading system and it is widely recognised that there is a strong link between trade and development. The nature of the link, however, has not always been the subject of consensus. July 2006 (pdf version).
This policy briefing discusses the concept of "policy space" and its role in promoting the development of the South. The concept is founded on the principles of the equal sovereignty of States, the right to development, and the provision of special and differential treatment to developing countries. The brief argues that as the one-size fits all economic approaches of the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO have not worked, policy space is needed so as to provide developing counties with the freedom to choose the best mix of policies possible for achieving sustainable and equitable economic development given their unique and individual social, political, economic, and environmental conditions. December 2005 (pdf version).
Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are faced with yet another case of oppressive demands from the west in the form of the EU's pressure to negotiate reciprocal free-trade agreements by 2008. By Yao Graham, TWN Africa, December 2004.
The North-South economic and political divide is the overriding concern in international trade relations, with the rich North creating conditions that allow for the pillaging and primitivisation of the poor South. Combined the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) adopt a coherent and comprehensive neo-liberal paradigm for trade and economic management, and this free trade ideology is imposed on developing countries. November 2004.
Background paper to the GNG of Italian NGOs in preparation of the Genoa summit; presented at the Annual Conference of the AISPE-Italian Association of the History of Economic Thought, Lecce, 24-26 May 2001.
As the major developed economies struggle with sluggish growth and the prospects for developing countries have been inevitably affected by such deflationary pressures, the UNCTAD's latest Trade and Development Report for 2003 offers some distinct insights into the current global economic predicament.
Questioning the appropriateness of imposing uniform corporate-governance standards across the developing world, a senior UNCTAD economist has called for national authorities to be allowed considerable policymaking leeway to design suitable domestic regulatory regimes to oversee corporate conduct.
Trade, trade and more trade: that's the winning formulae for a fulfilled life. But what does this mean for women in the East Africa region? How are their interests reflected in trading activities? Salma Maoulidi investigates. September 2006.
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