14 April 2004, The Hindu

Are international organizations adapting themselves to the issues being advocated by the Third World countries for development to be holistic? This was the question posed by the Planning Commission Member, N.K. Singh, at the inauguration of the afro-Asian Civil Society Seminar organized by CUTS International that began here on Wednesday. The definition of sovereignty, Mr. Singh said, would undergo a significant change in the near future and countries need to reposition themselves in this new era of globalization.

More than 150 representatives from over 40 countries are participating in the three-days event which is regarded as the preparation for the World Summit on Trade and Development to be held at Sao Palo this July.

According to Magda Shahin, Egypt’s Ambassador to Greece, “increased awareness of non-government organizations on issues confronting the international trading system is indeed helping developing countries in manifesting their concerns of development in a better way.”

Ms. Shahin added that Cancun was a new beginning in so far as developing countries’ participation in the international trading system. In this context, she highlighted the importance of the various groups of developing countries showing their readiness to work together.

Speaking on the occasion, the Director-General of World Trade Organisation, K.A. Azad Rana, stressed the need to develop the capacity of developing land least developed countries ;engaging in trade negotiations. He also pointed to supply-side constraints that many of these countries are facing and said unless these problems are addressed, poor countries would not be able to enjoy market access opportunities to the fullest extent possible even if they were available.

The Director of UNCTAD, Lakshmi Puri, said the eleventh session of the United Nations body to be held in June this year would help develop the capacity of the developing and the least developed countries on both trade policy and trade promotion.

Chairing the inaugural session, leading economist Arjun Sengupta, argued that civil society has a larger role to play today than ever before, especially in the light of changes taking place in the international trading system.

The title of the first plenary session was “Assuring development gains from the international trading system and trade negotiations”. Delivering the keynote address. Prof. Anwar Ul Hoda of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, said trade was not the end-all and be-all of development. “The bedrock of any development process is social and political stability and sound macro-economic management.”