Former Senior Staff Say OECD Countries Trying To Stifle UNCTAD’s Work

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A letter co-signed by 49 former staff members of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development denouncing efforts by some countries to muffle the institution’s voice was released yesterday at a press conference.

The letter [pdf] was issued just days before the 13th UNCTAD quadrennial conference due to take place in Doha, Qatar, from 21-26 April and meant to set UNCTAD’s work programme for the next four years (IPW, United Nations, 11 April 2012).

The signatories said that under the guise of preventing duplication of work from other international organisations, developed countries are putting pressure on developing countries in Geneva to “stifle UNCTAD’s capacity to think outside the box.”

UNCTAD “was ahead of the curve in its warnings of how global financing was trumping the real economy,” the letter said, and “has consistently sounded the alarm of the dangers of excessive deregulation of financial markets.”

The former staff members, who are senior officials including former UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero, also said that since UNCTAD “has no formal responsibility for the global management of the international economy and none of its own funds to dispense,” its analysis “is free of vested interests.”

“UNCTAD’s conferences are a shadow of their past, being now simply a time to agree on secretariat work programme priorities for the next four years. But that is precisely what is at stake,” the letter said.

There is a risk, the signatories said, that the added value of UNCTAD in understanding “how the functioning of the global economy impacts on the majority of the world’s population who live in developing countries … could be gone for good,” under the pressure sustained by the organisation and its secretariat.

Catherine Saez may be reached at

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