International-Lawyers.Org (INTLawyers) attended the 14th Quadrennial Conference of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIV) from 15 to 22 July 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.
In its oral statement to the conference, INTLawyers expressed its concerns on the situation that UNCTAD has moved away from its focus on development defined broadly towards a more narrow understanding of development based on economic growth through limited forms of transactions. We also lamented the fact that wealthy developed States obstructed meaningful progress towards addressing global social and economic inequalities in their policy guidance to UNCTAD for the next four years.
The Member States missed the opportunity to strengthen UNCTAD’s role in addressing crucial dimensions of the global financial and economic landscape such as trade conditionalities and imbalances, tax avoidance, and financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015. Instead, wealthy developed countries—predominately the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union—refused to accept any meaningful inclusion of these issues in the final outcome document, leaving UNCTAD without the mandate and tools to increase its relevance to international development in the next four years. For example, in the Zero Draft, the initial language in addressing the tax evasion issue was much stronger and more targeted towards the multinational corporations in the developed countries. However this referral was deleted in the final draft and the language used in addressing tax evasion was changed from ‘combatting’ to ‘addressing’. Similar deletions and alternations appeared in almost all paragraphs concerning tax avoidance or transparency enhancement in commodity trading, which significantly weakened the essence of the content and demonstrated the reluctance of the developed states to take on the challenges that are of grave importance to address development impediments in the less developed states.
While, wealthy developed States make up less than 15% of the people in the world, appeared to show little concern for the social and economic development gap for the more than 85% of the people in the world, the majority of whom live in abject poverty. This lack of concern by developed countries was most strikingly apparent when they objected to even mention ‘inequity’ in the outcome document. The Outcome Document of the Nairobi meeting was therefore objected to by several developing States in the end.
Since its creation in 1964, UNCTAD has been a policy discussion forum for mainly developing States. It was created by the leading members of the Group of 77, which are developing countries, to address global inequalities between developing and developed countries.
UNCTAD’s mandate for the next four years appears inadequate in assisting the developing States in acquiring the more than 500 billion Euros per year that will be needed to make progress towards achieving the SDGs.
INTLawyers called upon all States to continue their efforts to strengthen UNCTAD to make it a more important and stronger voice of the overwhelming majority of the people who live in developing countries by providing assistance in enhancing the sates’ ability to regulate foreign investment, collect adequate taxes and finalizing the tax cooperation within the UN system. In the end, INTLawyers called for a new development paradigm based on compensation as a remedy for past harms that would contribute to resolving the inequities and inequalities that plague the world today.