Africa and allies seek new deal from Nairobi’s UN trade talks

UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi and
UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi and President Uhuru Kenyatta at KICC in Nairobi on July 18, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Fourteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) taking place in Nairobi entered a crucial stage yesterday with the opening of the first committee of the whole conference where critical issues at the centre of global commerce were discussed.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs secretary, Amina Mohamed, who is chairing the committee, said the next couple of days will be crucial to attaining an agreeable draft to be adopted by the end of the week.

“Now that the preparatory stages are over we are entering the heavy lifting working on the real text for the next few days. The first opening plenary of the committee of the whole will be held this afternoon,” Ms Mohamed said.

The more than 70 ministers attending the Nairobi meeting are expected to participate in hard bargaining behind closed doors of the conference room and produce a detailed four-year programme of work for UNCTAD by the close of the conference.

Nairobi is expected to issue a political and a ministerial declaration at the end of the conference to guide UNCTAD’s journey into the future.


Kenya will be negotiating under the Group of 77, comprising developing countries that have teamed up with China to present a common position in the talks.

“Kenya will not be presenting its own position but is negotiating as part of the group and have adopted the ministerial declaration that is being used to negotiate in the talks,” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Principal Secretary Monica Juma told the Business Daily.

Dr Juma said the Kenyan delegation of 4,600 is led by Ms Mohamed, the Cabinet Secretary, and has experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

At the centre of the developing countries’ memorandum at the talks is the demand that the developed world meet commitments made during past conferences even as the world moves to the new era driven by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are the successor of the Millennium Development Goals that were wound up last year with varied levels of achievement across the developing world. A high-level meeting on the SDGs was held yesterday amidst concern that their pursuit has yet to pick up pace.

“The ministers expressed deep concern at the lack of satisfactory progress of social development, especially in the developing world. Stressing that the commitments made 20 years ago have not yielded the desired results,” the developing South says in its declaration.

Meanwhile UNCTAD yesterday released a report showing that the developed world hasn’t kept the promises it made in Mexico in 2002.

Top in the list of commitments was to spend 0.7 per cent of each developed country’s gross national income on oversees aid, which UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said would by now have amounted to the transfer of $2trillion to the developing South.

It is estimated that $3.9 trillion worth of public and private investments is needed annually to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and that investment at current levels has left a $2.5 trillion gap.

Only six countries, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark have kept their end of the bargain, leaving the rest with a substantial ‘commitment debt’.

“The 0.7 per cent will be a hard sell for many rich countries but these are the daring ambitious set of goals and they require an equally ambitious response,” Dr Kituyi said.

The G77 and China ministers are rooting for adequate Means of Implementation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and want developed countries to commit to a new phase of international cooperation through a strengthened and scaled-up global partnership for development to complete the unfinished business of the MDGs.

The group, however, reckons that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda are completely different processes in scope.

“Implementation for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 17 cannot be a substitute for the Addis Ababa Action Agenda,” the declaration says.

The ministers are also pushing for a declaration that the right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over the natural wealth and resources be exercised in the interest of their national development and of the well-being of the people of the State concerned.

This will be crucial as UNCTAD seeks to solidify proposals and adopt the principles for Global Reforms and Governance on Investments during the Nairobi conference.

The proposals are expected to have far-reaching ramifications on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that allows corporations to sue countries that notoriously lack transparency and favour the corporations over the interests of sovereign nations.

The developing world will also be looking at ways to increase benefits from commodities and to diversify their economies to reduce vulnerability to the booms and bust of the commodity cycle.