U.S. Statement at UNCTAD XIII General Debate

Delivered by Ambassador Betty E. King
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva

April 22, 2012 

Good afternoon. On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank the President, the UNCTAD secretariat and our hosts, the Government of Qatar. This conference is an excellent opportunity for us to examine the many extraordinary changes that have taken place in the past four years in the area of trade and development. Together, over the next few days, we can take stock of our collaborative efforts to advance trade and development in this changed landscape. It is also a chance for us to review and evaluate UNCTAD in terms of its ongoing ability to deliver meaningful service and results across the three pillars of its mandate:  consensus-building, research and analysis and technical assistance.

Just recently, the World Bank updated its poverty report. This report that shows the developing world will collectively meet the MDG goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015. This is a remarkable achievement. It is the result of countries taking national responsibility for development with the support of international partners, such as UNCTAD and others. Despite this accomplishment, there is more to be done and the US remains a committed partner in these development challenges. Currently, the United States is the world’s largest donor with net disbursements of $31 billion in 2011. U.S. net Overseas Development Assistance to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) was a record $10.0 billion in 2011. In that year alone, aid increased to 27 of the 49 LDCs.

Today we are experiencing a “New Development Paradigm.” We are working with new stakeholders – namely, the emerging economies in their capacity as providers of development assistance and drivers of investment and trade. We see good governance, protection of human rights, safeguarding the environment, and support for democracy and a vibrant civil society as essential elements of sustained, inclusive and equitable growth. Countries that identify and eliminate barriers to opportunity for their citizens will find this to be a multiplier for alleviating poverty and achieving economic growth.

We must advance equality and opportunity for women and girls and unlock the potential of half of the world’s population. Most of us are aware of the growing body of evidence which reveals that nations which invest in women tend to have more economic growth; are more productive, healthier and better educated. Here, I would like to echo the words of Secretary Clinton: “I believe we are entering the age of participation, one in which every individual can make valuable contributions to the global marketplace if they have the opportunity to do so. And it is incumbent upon us to make sure that men and women alike have that opportunity.” For this reason, the United States is putting women at the center of its development efforts. We are heartened by the High-Level Event on Women in Development that is a part of UNCTAD XIII. We see this as an extremely positive step and hope that UNCTAD will underscore in all of its programs the role that women and girls play in fueling economic growth and poverty alleviation.

Also vital is the role that the private sector can play in development.  In this vein, we applaud UNCTAD’s engagement with the private sector for the World Investment Forum, which has become a globally recognized event to examine investment related challenges and opportunities.

Today, official development assistance represents just 13% of capital flows going into developing countries. Harnessing the private sector – including trade – for growth and development is indispensible in this environment. The United States continues to be one of the largest providers of trade-related assistance. In 2010, the U.S. provided almost $1.7 billion in trade capacity building for projects in countries all over the world. We remain committed to helping developing countries improve their integration into the international trading system and to leveraging the benefits of trade for poverty reduction.

At the WTO Ministerial last December, the United States launched a number of initiatives aimed specifically at addressing the trade-related development needs of LDCs. We know that significant challenges remain for developing countries to be able to leverage trade for economic growth.

We reaffirm our commitment to the MDGs as a shared objective of the global community and call for continued focus to maintain progress. The United States is committed to leadership in global development and President Obama laid out this vision in our country’s first Global Development Directive.  New budget realities underscore the importance we place on results and impact across the entire development spectrum.  Just as we are asking our own development agencies to work smarter and do better, we are also asking multi-lateral organizations – including UNCTAD – to do the same. Our goal is to support and promote more effective organizations.  In this vein, we are asking UNCTAD to join us, to look for ways to achieve efficiencies and improve effectiveness, to focus on its core mandate and to empower evidence-based decision making. We believe that this will lead to greater impact and better results for the developing world.

There is much work to be done in UNCTAD’s core mandate to study the nexus between trade and development and how trade can be used for the benefit of poverty reduction and economic growth in developing countries. There is no other international institution better positioned or equipped to do this work UNCTAD. We would like to see UNCTAD return to its core mandate in this area.

We also believe that in order to become more effective and relevant, organizations must achieve greater transparency and accountability. We have set this goal both for ourselves and for our development partners. Under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development launched a Foreign Assistance Dashboard which lets anyone with an internet connection see where and how much we are investing. Last year, at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, the U.S. announced that it was becoming a full member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative. This initiative is designed to help citizens around the world track the aid dollars that flow in and out of their countries. These examples highlight how we strive to achieve transparency and accountability for ourselves. We now ask UNCTAD, as a UN development agency, to closely examine how it can more fully embrace transparency and become more accountable to members. We are pleased that in its agenda, the conference has decided on a way forward to examine the findings of the Joint Inspection Unit report.

UNCTAD has a valuable role to play and numerous contributions to make in advancing development through trade. We recognize that there is a demand for sharing best practices at the country level, value-added and timely analysis, and technical assistance.  We believe that UNCTAD’s research functions can continue to contribute to a better understanding of how trade and investment foster economic growth. UNCTAD is positioned well to help LDCs integrate into and benefit from the international trading system. For these reasons, we remain engaged in and committed to UNCTAD’s success and look forward to a productive conference over these next few days.

Mr. President, we hope that this conference will strengthen UNCTAD’s ability to continue to have an important role in helping countries achieve development through trade.  We look forward to a robust and interactive discussion that we hope will lead to a success in this regard.

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