New Delhi 12 April 2004

CUTS International is organising a three-day Afro-Asian Civil Society Seminar titled “From Cancún to São Paulo: The Role of Civil Society in the International Trading System” beginning from today. The event will be held at Hotel Le Meridien. More than 150 participants from 30 different countries representing NGOs, inter-governmental organisations, research institutions, media, governments will take part in this Seminar.

Speaking at a press briefing today, Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International said that the Seminar will manifest the civil society’s concerns on the international trading system. “The Seminar will involve and engage the civil society representatives and policy-makers in order to have diverse discussions and debates for taking the Doha Development Agenda forward, which will, in turn, provide ideas for achieving better coherence between the international trading system and national development strategies”, he added. The objectives are to:

· take stock of various aspects of the international trading system, which are of special interest to developing countries in Asia
and Africa;

· discuss concerns and necessary actions of civil society organisations, governments and other stakeholders for achieving
better coherence between the international trading system and national development strategies;

· provide networking platform to civil society organisations and others to discuss issues of mutual interests and build
partnership between and among different stakeholders; and

· adopt the Afro-Asian Civil Society Statement on Trade and develop research agenda and advocacy inputs for civil society
organisations and others.

Among the distinguished speakers, there will be N. K. Singh, Member, Planning Commission of India; K. A. Azad Rana, Deputy Director General, WTO; Lakshmi Puri, Director, UNCTAD, Magda Shahin, Egypt’s Ambassador to Greece; S. N. Menon, Special Secretary, Department of Commerce; Veena Jha, Coordinator, UNCTTAD India; Colin Ball, Director, Commonwealth Foundation; David Luke, Advisor, UNDP; Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Chairman, Evian Group; Abid Suleri, Deputy Country Representative, Oxfam GB in Pakistan.

The plenary sessions will focus on the following themes:

· Assuring development gains from the international trading system and trade negotiations

· Does the international trading system promote the interests of the poor?

· Building and strengthening capacity in trade policy

· The role of UNCTAD in assisting national trade and development strategies

Besides plenary sessions, four workshops will be organised to present case studies on micro aspects of linkages between the international trading system and national development strategies.

In the immediate future, the outputs of this Seminar will be used in conducting advocacy during the 11th Session of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XI), which will be held in São Paulo, Brazil in June 2004. The theme of UNCTAD XI is “enhancing coherence between national development strategies and global economic processes towards economic growth and development, particularly of developing countries”.
Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), the organisers of this event, is an international NGO, having its headquarters in Jaipur and six resource centres in India (Chittorgarh, Calcutta and Delhi) and overseas (London, Nairobi and Lusaka).