PRESIDENT John Agyekum Kufuor yesterday gave a strong indication of the need for immediate collaboration to solve global challenges, particularly those affecting Africa.
“Immediate measures should aim at reversing the dwindling fortunes of Africa in the global regime. The continent’s share of export trade fell from 5.5 per cent in 1960 to about 2.1 per cent in 1995,” he told delegates and participants at the opening of the 12th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Accra.
President Kufuor described colonisation as “the first wave of globalisation”, which introduced some imbalance in the world economic system.
“Therefore, at the threshold of this second wave, globalisation must be driven by a high moral imperative to ensure it does not leave in its trail any losers. It should prove beneficial to all and detrimental to none,” he added.
He said UNCTAD had to be seen as the unique opportunity to give a boost to the fight against poverty and human indignity, and strategise to assist Africa and other developing nations of the world to overcome their underdevelopment, for all to reap the full benefits of globalisation.
Recalling the inaugural session of the conference in Geneva in 1964, President Kufuor said the overarching mandate then was to help developing economies and economies in transition to integrate fully into the global economy.
Trade, he said, became an important tool for development, poverty reduction and bridging the gap between rich and poor countries: However, global trade rules that were skewed against developing countries saw the initiation of special provisions, such as the Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to redress that imbalance.
“Sadly, past efforts at attaining this noble objective have been far less than wholesome. The developed world has displayed half-hearted commitment and cynicism, while the developing world also exhibits resignation and scepticism,” he said.
Emphasising the intricate linkages between development goals and policies of nations on one hand and the global economic landscape on the other, President Kufuor charged participants to use the conference as an opportunity to review the processes of empowering nations to meet the ever-changing challenges and conditions of globalisation.
He listed fair market access through special and differential treatment, especially the progressive reduction of subsidies by developed nations, South/South co-operation, aid for trade, FDI, and ODA, as issues that deserved attention at the conference.
He said these issues impacted directly on the productive and trade capacities of developing countries.
He also asked that deliberations at the conference should emphasise the symbiotic relationship that had to exist between the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and UNCTAD.
He said the conference had to be used to review the situation of WTO, and urge moderation of the positions of members.
The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki Moon, called for an urgent action by the international community to address the problem of soaring food prices currently confronting the world.
He said any failure on the part of the international community to act now could trigger a cascading effect of the current high food prices on many countries.
Sharply rising food prices have triggered food riots in recent weeks in Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Guinea, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Yemen and aid agencies around the world worry they may be unable to feed the poorest of the poor.
The UN head said the UN was ready to move into action but would require the support of the international community for any action to succeed.
He said the problem of soaring food prices could not be attributed simply to trade-off but indicated that high transportation cost, droughts, national disasters, financial speculation and fall of the United States dollar were also contributory factors.
“We can’t delay. We need urgent action now to avoid the consequences,” he said, and underscored the need for increased agricultural production.
Mr Moon said there was no reason why Africa could not experience a green revolution, judging from the example that had been set by Malawi.
On the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Mr Ban Ki Moon underscored the need for fresh efforts, thinking and ideas, otherwise many developing countries particularly in Africa would be left behind in achieving the targets of the MDGs.
In 2000, the United Nations adopted MDGs as a development blueprint for the world. The eight targets under the MDGs range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV-AIDS and providing universal primary education by 2015.
The UN chief drew the attention of the participants to climate change as one of the most critical global challenges of now and stressed the need for concerted effort to reverse the trend.
Recent events have emphatically demonstrated the growing vulnerability to climate change. Climate change impacts will range from affecting agriculture — further endangering food security — sea-level rise and the accelerated erosion of coastal zones, increasing intensity of natural disasters, species extinction and the spread of vector-borne diseases.
Mr Moon said the UNCTAD meeting could not have been held at a better time than now to address the issues of trade and development.
He said the world was confronted with a development emergency that required fresh thinking and approach.
The theme for the Accra conference of UNCTAD XII is “Addressing the opportunities and challenges of Globalisation for Development”.
This is the second time that the conference is taking place in Africa and it comes at a time of persistent challenges in the development of African countries.
DAILY GRAPHIC, MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2008, PG 1. REPORTING WITH SENIOR CORRESPONDENT NEHENIAH OWUSU ACHIAW