Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to have been invited to open the 2010 Negotiation Series “Towards a level playing field” jointly implemented by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the Olof Palme Fund with the generous support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden.
I personally salute this much-needed initiative to provide government officials, diplomats, and professionals from developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) with the necessary skills and analytical tools to efficiently and effectively engage in multilateral diplomacy. From environmental negotiations to international peace and security talks, the art of negotiation is an essential skill that often determines the outcome of international negotiations.
Today more than ever before, the demand for skilled diplomats versed in the art of negotiation is evident, and the chosen theme for this year’s Negotiation Series “Towards a level playing field”, is a stark reminder of the task ahead of diplomats and government officials from developing countries engaged in multilateral talks, agreements and negotiations.
Allow me to illustrate my point by briefly turning to the issue of trade negotiations. Trade can improve access of the poor to a wide range of goods and services, technologies and knowledge. It can increase a country’s resilience to external shocks, create employment and generate income. In short, trade can become an engine of sustained growth and sustainable development.
As many of you are aware the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States continue to remain at the margins of the global economy. A level playing field, especially in the context of trade and industrialization, for example, is crucial for these economies as they continue to seek equal opportunities for their exports to developed countries, and an equal footing in international trade.
Now while many developing countries are members of the World Trade Organization and participate in multilateral trade negotiations, in reality their participation is limited due to the architecture of the negotiations structure.
There are also a number of challenges pertaining to capacity, whether it be the lack of understanding the negotiations agenda, lack of adequate economic and trade data or poor knowledge of the negotiations structure.
The basic fact of the matter is that often developing countries do not have the necessary human resources they need in order to effectively participate in multilateral negotiations.
Some developed countries’ delegations have hundreds of dedicated negotiators and groups of specialized experts, while poorer countries have just one or a couple of experts who have to take a host of difficult decisions such as defining their country's position on a variety of issues ranging from agricultural export subsidies, access to markets, health and safety regulations or domestic support for certain products or producers.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The issues at stake in international negotiations today have become increasingly complex in substance. The understanding of these issues, their linkages to other areas such as development and security, as well as mastering of negotiation tools and dynamics undoubtedly makes a difference in negotiators’ abilities to secure internationally valuable agreements.
At this stage, I would also like to remark that while the challenges are indeed enormous, LDCs continue to improve their participation in multilateral trade negotiations through the adoption of various measures at the national, regional and continental levels. For example: African countries have developed regional approaches through the institutionalization of the African Group of Trade Negotiators at the Geneva level and increased interest of trade negotiation issues in the Africa Union Commission and African Research Networks. African countries are also forging alliances with other developing countries such as the Like-Minded Group, the G77, the Group of 90 (ACP Group), among others.
There is also increased awareness in multilateral trade negotiations and interest is shown by other stakeholders such as the business community and civil society who have partnered with governments in developing national positions. In some countries, parliamentarians are showing increased interest in multilateral trade negotiations and it is hoped that their involvement will have the effect of mobilizing the general public in following closely both the negotiating process and the outcome. This in turn will lead to more accountability by the trade negotiators to their national populations. All this process is supported by a strong national trade strategy, which determines clear priority targets, determines areas where give and take is possible and makes trade a full part of a broader National Strategy for sustainable development
As an advocate for Africa, the LDCs, LLDCs, and Small Island Developing States, and having had the opportunity to negotiate at the national, regional and international level, I can assert that corporate strategies undoubtedly provide these countries with a better leverage when entering trade negotiations talks.
It is imperative that negotiators from the developing and least developed world reach the same levels of preparedness as their counterparts in the North in order to ensure that when concessions are made, they are made in the best interest of their countries. Those in the developing world need to develop and strategically deploy its best brains in order to ensure that the rules that govern global trade and financial flows are developed in a way that enables prosperity for all and not just a select few.
Capacity building training such as this Negotiation Series is crucial in addressing both the short-term and long-term challenges that officials from poorer countries face when engaged in multilateral diplomacy work. These trainings are structured to help them meaningfully and effectively participate in negotiation agreements.
It is my sincere hope that this year’s series of workshops enhances and refines your negotiation skills as well as equips you with the necessary tools and knowledge to succeed in your current and future multilateral negotiations.
I thank you for your kind attention.