UN High Level Panel Misses Key Opportunity to Prioritise Trade as Development Tool

The UN High Level Panel has published its long awaited report, setting out recommendations for the post-2015 development agenda. While there are still two year’s left to negotiate the final framework, this important document fails to prioritise the role of trade and acknowledge it as the only sustainable route out of poverty.

As Claire Melamed quite rightly states in the Guardian, “this is a missed opportunity”. The report deliberately dedicates a whole section to ‘learning the lessons of MDG 8, the Global Partnership for Development’, which has seen disappointing progress including the failure to conclude the Doha Development Round. But instead of rectifying its “lack of quantitative and time-bound targets”, the new Global Partnership Goal 12 remains a bizarre amalgamation of topics including trade, climate change, tax, science and technology.

The goal vaguely states that the international community should “support an open, fair and development-friendly trading system”, while the responsibility for achieving this is left to the WTO. The new suggestions laid out by the Panel for creating a global partnership for development fail completely to reflect the rhetoric of the five transformative shifts that underpin the whole report.

We are told that these five fundamental shifts will: “remove the barriers that hold people back, and end the inequality of opportunity that blights the lives of so many people on our planet.” Yet, trade is left off so many of the lists the report throws at us. We are told that “developed countries have a great responsibility to keep the promises they have made to help the less fortunate”, but the report then omits trade from the list of areas for which these promises must be kept. This would have been a perfect opportunity for the Panel to put pressure on developed countries to keep the promise they made in Hong Kong over 10 years ago to eliminate all forms of export subsidies by 2013.

It is a great shame that the language of the rest of the report is not reflected by the place given to trade in the 12 goal agenda. The report quite rightly states that “creating a global trading system that actively encourages sustainable development is of paramount importance” and that “increased trade and access to markets brings more equitable growth and opportunity for all – the surest way to defeat poverty and deprivation”. These are  indisputable facts, but the Panel has failed to turn this great rhetoric into meaningful targets.

Granting low income countries duty-free, quota-free access to developed markets and removing agricultural subsidies is not only a measurable, coherent and easily achievable goal, but also one that would have an automatically positive knock-on effect on the rest of the development agenda while boosting the global economy as a whole.

The shared ethos of “do as you would be done by” propounded in the report must be translated into a truly cross-cutting agenda that acknowledges the vast impact that trade policy has on the ability of poor countries to leave poverty behind – from the IP regulations that affect access to medicines to the agricultural subsidies that threaten food security, trade policy must be altered to reflect this attitude. If the Panel really want to put sustainability at the core of the post-2015 development framework then they must acknowledge trade as the only sustainable route out of poverty not just in their rhetoric, but as a post-2015 development goal.

Summary

The UN High Level Panel has published its long awaited report, setting out recommendations for the post-2015 development agenda. While there are still two year’s left to negotiate the final framework, this important document fails to prioritise the role of trade and acknowledge it as the only sustainable route out of poverty.

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By | 2017-10-08T11:56:23+00:00 May 31st, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on UN High Level Panel Misses Key Opportunity to Prioritise Trade as Development Tool

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