Review of NSRT activities

The following pages give a brief account of the roundtables held and the ideas and recommendations produced by them. The full roundtable sessions are those where some one hundred plus members of the North South Roundtable participated. The thematic roundtables were smaller, between 30-40 participants, and focused on a specific issue of concern to the global community.

Full NSRT sessions

Rome (1978)

NSRT first met in Rome in 1978. The outcome of this meeting was the articulation of a commitment to creating a more viable and equitable world community. The second session was held in Colombo in 1979 in which the future course of action of the NSRT was charted. It was proposed that regular North-South summits be held. Five specific areas of action were chalked out in areas of food, energy, technology, transfer of resources, and the elimination of absolute poverty.

Belmont (1979)

In 1979, as a result of a meeting held in Belmont and with the release of the Belmont Report, a major restructuring of the NSRT took place. As per the recommendations of the Belmont Report, North South Roundtable was transformed from a once-a-year event to a continuing process and reorganized into small, specific, issue-oriented Roundtables. The new format was highly successful in attracting the participation of some of the world's best-known experts and most influential policy makers.

Sussex (1980)

Focusing on the North South negotiation process, NSRT convened in July 1980 in Sussex to plan a follow-up to the 1980 Brandt Commission Report and to support the urgent call for a North-South Summit in the context of a deteriorating world economy. NSI{T's first paper, Beyond the Brandt Commission (1980), was published on the basis of this meeting. Besides the convening of a North-South summit, Beyond Brandt called for:

  • An immediate increase in development resources and fundamental changes in the conditionality policy of the IMP.
  • Conscious efforts to achieve greater equality in international economic relations.
  • The establishment of a post-Bretton Woods set of institutions which would reflect the new realities of the 1980s.

  • A global drive toward alleviating poverty among the world's poorest billion people.

Ottawa (1980)

In 1980 in Ottawa, the full NSRT membership spelled out its priorities in the areas of energy, food and finance in A Global Agenda for the Eighties (1981). These were:

  • Global cooperation on the development and diversification of energy conservation.
  • Financial initiatives to manage the recycling of oil surplus funds.
  • Safeguarding renewable energy resources for the world's poorest people.
  • Fixing minimum targets for concessional official development assistance.
  • Emergency measures to increase food production in the poorest countries and to ensure adequate food reserves.
  • Calling a halt to protectionism.
  • Further reform of the IMP to increase resources, ease conditionality and link SDR creation with the expanding liquidity needs of developing countries.
  • Convening a new Bretton Woods conference.

Cancun (1981)

When the North-South Summit became a reality, NSRT members were invited to brief the Mexican president and his delegation before the meeting. Afterward, they took stock of the Summit in Cancun: A Candid Evaluation (1982).

0iso (1982)

In 1982 in Tokyo the full NSRT membership put forward the Oiso Declaration, a 12-point agenda for action with particular emphasis on economic issues. An expanded discussion of the Oiso principles was published under the title Global Development: Issues and Choices (1983). The Oiso Declaration recommended:

  • Setting up a facility to finance the energy investments of the oil-importing developing countries.
  • More cooperation in the design of national energy plans, and more work on the food energy nexus.
  • Establishment of a developing-country-owned food grain reserve, acceleration of efforts to increase food production, and design of a nutrition and health safety net for vulnerable groups.
  • Establishment of a crash program for reforestation.
  • Securing a standstill on trade restrictions and launching a long-term program, of trade liberalization.
  • Doubling IMP quotas and readjusting them in favor of poor nations.
  • Revising IMP conditionality policy to increase pressure on surplus countries and ease pressure on countries in difficulty.
  • Establishing a special IMP refinancing facility for debtor countries.
  • Reaching a new agreement on SDRs.
  • Setting up a special concessional assistance window to supplement IDA replenishment efforts.
  • Doubling IBRD capital.
  • Establishing a panel of independent IBRD advisers.

Baltimore (1981)

In 1982 the NSRT participated in the SID World Conference in Baltimore, where a decision was taken to have joint NSRT-SID meeting every three years in order to forge closer links between the NSRT and SID membership. At the Baltimore meeting, the NSRT held a plenary session urging a revival of the spirit of multilateralism and conducted panel discussions on food security, energy, IMP conditionality, trade liberalization, resource transfers, industralization, South-South cooperation, environmental issues and disarmament.

Rome (1985)

At the next SID World Conference in Rome in 1985, the NSRT's focus was adjustment and its impact on developing countries. In order to achieve equity and justice, NSRT emphasized that: (i) the costs of adjustment must be shared by all parties; (ij) adjustment must come through growth, not at the expense of growth; and (iii) conditionality must be eased if the poor and vulnerable are not to bear the major burdens of adjustment.

New Delhi (1988)

During the SID World Conference held in New Delhi, NSRT organized plenary sessions on (j) trade and debt and (ij) adjustment and basic needs. NSRT also organized five panels reflecting the themes of its current involvement: CO Human Development: The neglected Dimension; (ii) The Informatics Revolution and the Developing Countries; (iii) Trade Talks: Challenges and Opportunities; (iv) African Recovery and Development; and (v) Environment and Development.

Amsterdam (1991)

At the SID Conference held in Amsterdam, NSRT took the responsibility for organizing one plenary session and two global seminars. The Plenary was on the theme, Peace, Disarmament and Democracy, and the themes of the seminars were North South Agenda forthe 1990s and Africa in the 1990s.

Mexico (1994)

During the SID World Conference in Mexico City, NSRT organized one plenary session on the topic, UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions and two panel discussions on Gender Priorities for the 21st century and Transition in South Africa.

Thematic Roundtables

Since NSRT's restructuring in 1979, small, area-focused Roundtables have constituted the heart of its activities. These Roundtables have included Energy (1980-84), Food (1981-86), Money and Finance (1983-85), Human Development (1985-1988), Informatics (1985-1987), Trade (1986-1988), Africa (1985-1995), Peace(1990), Migration(1991), and Reform of the United Nations(1989 -1993).


Energy Roundtable

The emergence of energy as an issue during the oil crisis led to the formation of NSRT's first area-focused Roundtable, the Energy Roundtable. It was designed to assemble the best available information, analyses, and opinions concerning energy as it affects each of the principal groups of nations industralized, oil-exporting and oil-importing developing countries - and the relations among these nations which bear on the prospects for peace, security and prosperity for the entire world community. The meetings aimed at putting the energy issue in a rational perspective, outlining the options for global and regional cooperation for energy development, and assisting in the development of national energy plans within a broader global context.

NSRT first attempted to explode some of the myths about energy and outline future policy options in Energy and Development: An Agenda for Dialogue (1980).The next effort was a brainstorming session at Castel Gandolfo in prep ration for the U.N. Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in Nairobi. The Castel Gandolfo Report on Renewable Energy: Policies and Options (1981) emphasized that the maldistribution of the world's energy consumption reflected the maldistribution of the world's income and wealth. It called on developing countries to undertake a comprehensive assessment of their energy needs and on developed countries and oil exporters to provide financing for developing-country energy programs through the IBRD, OPEC, OECD, commercial banks and private corporations. Nonrenewable and renewable energy sources, their development prospects, and measures for successful global energy management were outlined in detail in NSRT publication, Energy for Development: An International Challenge (1981). A Roundtable Paper on Energy and Development: Policy Issues and Options (1981) undertook a review of the global energy scene since the 1950s, identified North-South convergences and conflicts of interest, and put forward proposals for financing.

Next, NSRT sent Energy Dialogue Missions to six developing countries (Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) to review their energy needs, resources, and policies. Results of these missions, published under the title Dialogue on Energy (1984), indicated that all these countries were spending a large proportion of their shrinking foreign exchange earnings to pay for oil imports, while their nonrenewable sources of energy were being badly depleted. Measures recommended included the formation of an energy development bank and strengthening of national energy planning, project assessment, technical screening and management capacity.

Finally, a regional Energy Dialogue Mission meeting in Santiago in 1984 gathered experts form six Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay) and representatives from international agencies to evaluate the continent's energy policies and options. Its findings, published under the title Dialogue on Energy in Latin America (1985), stressed that energy planners had to take into account the unstable market conditions and long time lags in energy exploration and development when working out a practicable balance between domestic and imported sources.

Food Roundtable

The fact that three-quarters of a billion people were hungry in an $11 trillion world economy that produced more than enough food for all the world's population was indeed a disgrace. What were the real causes of this tragic situation? How were national and international institutions and policy makers responding to this crisis?

The NSRT Food Roundtable, composed of researchers, practitioners and policy makers in the food and development fields, met twice in Washington and once in Rome between 1981-82 to discuss and clarify issues surrounding the question of food security. Its first report, Food Security for people and Nations (982), concluded that:

• Both increased food production and efficient distribution were essential components of any strategy to end hunger.

• The international food system needs an improved system of grain stocking and emergency food aid financing.

• Strategies to increase food production must aim at national self-reliance.

• Improved terms of trade in the food area are needed for food importers with scarce foreign exchange.

• People suffer as individuals. Aggregate data and nutritional averages tend to obscure the human dimension of hunger.

• "Entitlement" programs based on rural work projects, consumer subsidies for staples and direct feeding should be more widely employed. A safety net for the vulnerable is essential.

• Cooperation among developing countries could reduce their import dependency.

• One major impediment to achieving food security is the lack of political will.

The next meeting of the Food Roundtable in 1983 emphasized the need for joint action in increasing the productivity of small farmers, creating purchasing power for the landless poor, and integrating direct food aid with long-term development initiatives. It also added the new dimension of nutritional health to the discussion on food.

North South Food Roundtable on the crisis in Africa

NSRT was one of the first organizations to start an in-depth dialogue among policy makers within and outside the U.N. system on the causes of the African famine and the long-term policy responses needed to minimize the impact of, and eventually to prevent, the recurrence of the same situation. After meeting in New York in 1985, the Food Roundtable published the Report of the North South Food Roundtable on the Crisis in Africa (1985) which emphasized that the crisis was structural in nature, resulting from accumulating food deficits and exacerbated by drought. It emphasized the need to use the large amounts of emergency assistance flowing into Africa as a catalyst for development, addressing both immediate needs and the structural causes of the problem by placing emergency relief in a development setting focused on households, and in particular, on women.

Next, the NSRT held African Food Roundtables in Khartoum and Nairobi in 1986 to recommend ways of putting food aid to work toward both economic recovery and long-term development and to mobilize sustained, coordinated donor support in a debt-burdened climate. The Sudan National Roundtable focused on (i) past development patterns and the structure of decision making in Sudan; (ii) the special difficulties arising from internal conflicts; and (iii) the issues of donor coordination, debt relief, and the future of food aid in moving from a famine situation to a situation of rehabilitation and long-term development. The African Regional Roundtable in Nairobi came to the following conclusions:

• Drought will recur, but drought need not lead to famine

• The front line of defense against famine is the small farmer.

• African governments are moving toward more self-reliant patterns of development, but to do so will require substantial and sustained international support.

• An international compact is needed to coordinate long-term recovery and development.

Findings of both these Roundtables were published in two reports under the title Beyond the Famine: New Directions in Development {1986)

A special NSRT Consultative Meeting in Bommersvik, Sweden in 1986 noted that while consensus had been achieved on the U.N. Programme for African Recovery, no concrete arrangements for implementation had materialized. Its report, On The Progress of African Recovery (1987), concluded that:

• Major obstacles to implementation were lack of donor coordination, lack of African input into reform packages and African administrative control over their execution, insistence on extra conditions by donors, and lack of financial follow-up.

• African recovery would be impossible without decisive action to relieve African international debt.

• The World Bank must increase food aid flows to Africa and net annual transfers of assistance.

• African governments must further improve their resource utilization performance.

• Additional aid was needed for the African Frontline states.

• U.N. Steering Committee should be formed to monitor implementation of the recovery programme, improve coordination and provide feedback.

Roundtable on Money and Finance

The intimate link between the Financial and development issues led to the creation of the Roundtable on Money and Finance. The first meeting, held in Istanbul, asserted that external debt, shrinking world liquidity, constrained trade and aid and insufficient human resource development were all obstacles to sustained growth of the world economy, which was the only viable, long-term path to world economic growth and human development, particularly in the developing countries.

The Statement from Istanbul (1983) noted that:

  • While control of world economic and financial resources was being increasingly diversified, control of world financial policies remained
    largely monolithic.
  • The world was retreating from multhateralism precisely when interdependence was increasing, requiring cooperative solutions
  • The burdens of short-term adjustment were being shouldered mainly by the poor.
  • Creditor countries must bear more of the responsibility for adjustment.
  • Adjustment packages based on deflation in government expenditure were creating hardships without achieving the desired objectives,
  • Private banks were no longer contributing to world liquidity, and new SDR allocations would be needed to strengthen recovery.
    Additional confessional financial flows to developing countries were essential.
  • A systematic restructuring of developing-country debts was needed.
  • Institutional reform could contribute to successful adjustment and development.
  • Human impart resource development should be given a higher priority, and human welfare should be the yardstick for measuring the success of adjustment efforts.

    Further elaboration of the Istanbul principles appeared in the volume Crisis of the '80s (1984). The Roundtable on Money and Finance next met in Santiago in 1984, focusing on the efficacy and equity of the adjustment process. As the Statement from Santiago (1984) observed:

  • Adjustment was being secured at great human cost, yet the threat of a renewed financial crisis remained.
  • Adjustment policies should be expansionary, not concretionary.
  • All parties should share the burden of adjustment.
  • IMF conditionality should be linked not only to monetary and financial measures, but also to levels of output and employment and quality of life indicators.
  • External financial flows must be increased, particularly in the medium term.
  • IMF resources and SDR allocations should be increased, and a special fund should be created parallel to IDA to offset the shortfall in IDA replenishment.
  • Ad hoc debt rescheduling sidesteps basic problems which can only be solved by a worldwide reduction in interest rates, interest payment stabilization schemes and a ceiling on debt servicing.

    The volume Adjustment with Growth: A Search for an Equitable Solution (1988) presented the full case for these arguments.

    The Roundtable on Money and Finance met again in 1984, this time in Vienna. The Vienna Statement on World Monetary, Financial and Human Resource Development Issues (1988) warned that while ad hoc policies had been successful in buying time, projections for economic recovery and income growth in Africa and Latin America were grim indeed, The Roundtable advised a compromise between general solutions and country by-country measures, advocating linkage of the resolution of debt problems with freer and expanding world trade as well as greater attention to the human costs of adjustment. Specifically, the Roundtable recommended:

  • Capping of interest rates.
  • Long-term debt rescheduling for developing countries,
  • Forgiveness or cancellation of all official debts of the least-developed countries.
  • Establishment of a joint IMF-World Bank debt refinancing subsidiary.
  • A new multilateral round of trade negotiations aimed at increasing market access for the exports of developing countries.
  • Higher priority to human resource development within developing countries.

    The Lingering Debt Crisis (1985) detailed measures aimed at debt rescheduling and growth-oriented adjustment.

    Under the shadow of slow world economic growth, the negative transfer of resources from South to North, the continued downward trend in commodity prices, the deterioration of human conditions in countries subject to adjustment , and the resurgence of protectionism, the Roundtable met for the last time in 1985 in New York, where it attempted to draw some conclusions from two years of deliberations, The Statement of the Roundtable on Money and Finance(1986) noted that:

  • The fundamental objective must be to combine medium-term external accounts equilibrium with long-term growth and development.
  • Major changes in the world trading and financial systems were necessary to ensure growth with equity, including:
    (i) linking repayment terms
    with commodity price and interest rate fluctuations;
    (ii) reducing real interest rates;
    (iii) limiting or canceling the debts of the poorest countries;
    (iv) alternative conditionality through an extended time horizon, country-tailored adjustment packages, and a wider set of performance criteria.
  • Large additional financial flows were required from the World Bank, regional banks, new SDR issue, private sources and ODA.
  • A new Bretton Woods conference should be convened at the earliest.

Roundtable on Human Development

Thirty years of development experience have demonstrated that capital transfer and physical investment alone cannot achieve self-sustaining development. Reasserting the importance of human being as both the means and end of development became the task of the Roundtable on Human Development held in Istanbul in 1985, The Istanbul Roundtable Statement on Development, The Human Dimension (1985) and the subsequent volume, Human Development The Neglected Dimension (1986) called for a murdering of development priorities in the form of:
  • A general redirection of policy and planning toward human dimension, including
    (i) the development and use of quality-of-life indicators alongside
    economic indicators;
    (ii) more resources for human needs; and
    (iii) greater efficiency in their allocation and use.
  • Intensified action in education, nutrition and health, women's advocacy, and new technologies.
  • International commitment to human-focused objectives in terms of
    (i) additional financial flows and project support;
    (ii) a switch from adjustment based on economic targets to growth -oriented; human-Focused adjustment,
    (iii) support of South-South cooperation initiatives; and
    (iv) special attention to the African situation.
  • Convening of a World Conference on the State of the Human Condition. Next, the Salzburg session of this Roundtable examined the macro and country impact of the adjustment process of the 1980s on Africa, Latin America and Asia and their repercussions on education, health, employment, wages and nutrition.

    The Salzburg Statement on Adjustment and Growth with Human Development (1986) asserted that:

  • The economic and social costs of adjustment in the 1980s were unjustifiable and unacceptable.
  • "The health, nutrition, education and participation of the majority of the population were essential for economic growth.
  • The objective of adjustment must be to achieve economic growth while
    protecting and promoting human development and national and international equity.
  • Specific policy proposals at the national level included:
    (i) expansionary adjustment policies to secure balance in the medium term;
    (ii) employment generation, particularly in the rural sector;
    (iii) optimizing internal resource allocation,
    (iv) redirection of expenditures within and between sectors toward providing essential human services;
    (v) reducing government intervention and eliminating inefficient subsidies,
    (vi) special measures to protect vulnerable groups during adjustment and
    (vii) more developing country initiative and input in the design of adjustment packages.
  • Specific policy proposals at the international level included:
    (i) interest rate reduction and reflation;
    (ii) mobilization of additional resources;
    (iii) progress in GA1"I' talks on standstill and rollback;
    (iv) a longer time frame for debt renegotiations;
    (v) continuation of the trend toward flexible conditionality;
    (vi) consideration of human dimension in adjustment negotiations and
    (vii) special financial support for sub-Saharan Africa and other ailing economies.

    The companion volume to this Roundtable was Human Development, Adjustment and Growth (1987).

    The third session of this roundtable, held in Budapest in September 1987, focused on the longer-term issues of education and training in the management of human resources, giving particular attention to approaches and examples which offered points of hope for innovation at a time when educational systems everywhere were under strain from limited budgets and subject to considerable cutbacks. These issues were discussed in the context of long-term trends and technological change The Budapest Statement on Human Development in a Changing World (1987) noted that:

  • National plans and international policies must be based on a clear recognition of human-focused development strategies. Such a focus implies a major stress on poverty alleviation and the attainment of basic human needs.
  • The integration of women into the mainstream of development will require more flexibility in approaches to, and patterns of, work.
  • The advent of new technologies presents a new challenge to human development. All countries, and especially LDCs must work to offset polarizing tendencies both internationally and nationally.
  • Human resources must be managed at the enterprise and community level, as well as at the national level.
  • More international lending should be earmarked for education, health and other basic human needs programs.
  • Loan conditionality should be so formulated as to protect human development during periods of adjustment.
  • New strategies are needed to guarantee : (i) equity and relevance in education; (ii) responsiveness of manpower policies to economic and technological challenges; (iii) efficient management at the enterprise and community level, as well as the national level, (iv) the development and use of social indicators; and (v) the provision of adequate financing for debt relief and for tire maintenance and extension of essential human services.

    A companion volume, managing Human Development(1988), discussed these proposals in detail.

    The Amman Roundtable in 1988 was the culmination of the above three Roundtables on Human Development focusing on the longer-term issues of human development goals and strategies. The crisis of development continued, especially in Africa and Latin America, and, to some extent, in the Middle East. Thus the challenge was to go beyond the protection of the human dimension in the course of adjustment in order to reaffirm and reestablish human goals for die longer term. It was also a most opportune moment to discuss this topic. Amman Roundtable took place early in the international process of preparing the international strategy for the Fourth Development Decade which involved many of the Amman Roundtable participants. The Roundtable made important contribution to the formation of the Strategy for the Fourth Development Decade. The Amman Statement on Human Development Goals and Strategies for the Year 2000 (1988) asserted that:

  • A revised focus was needed to view development as a sustainable process of expanding the capabilities of people, to mobilize all the human and material resources available to an economy; and to system at icily seek out low-cost methods of production which would generate additional employment.
  • To stress expansion of human capability, development strategy must give high priority to:
    (i) health, particularly for mothers and children;
    (ii) education, particularly basic, primary and secondary, focusing on girls; (iii) nutrition, particularly for vulnerable groups;
    (iv) specific targets for enhancing the status of women;
    (v) increased productive employment for low income groups;
    (vi) a population policy, fully integrated into the overall strategy; and
    (vii) a better geographical distribution of human resources in order to avoid excessive rural/urban migration and international brain drain 'I' he overall approach should aim at generating environmentally sustainable growth.
  • The state should become an efficient and active partner in promoting human development by providing an enabling environment. The private productive enterprises and NGOs should also play a critical role in responding to community needs.
  • Planning for enhanced human capabilities should be rooted in country realities, based upon participation of all sections of society.
  • Most of the resources needed for human development can be generated internally, except in Africa where external resources would be needed to supplement domestic savings,
  • National and international statistical services should be strengthened and asked to develop and publish social and human indicators of progress, disaggregated by gender.
  • All countries should be encouraged to review and restructure their national development plans to include human balance sheets and human goals, The donors should stand ready to provide additional financial resources and technical assistance to countries reformulating their policies and plans.

    A companion volume, Development for People (1989) discussed these proposals in detail.

    Roundtable on the Informatics Revolution

    The problems and opportunities confronting developing countries, particularly in respect of human resource development priorities and policies, as a result of rapid advances in informatics technologies and their application to an increasingly broad range of development and development-related activities led to the formation of the Informatics Roundtable. Its first consultative meeting, held in The I Hague focused on ways to mitigate the comparative disadvantage that the developing countries face in taking advantage of the new technologies. A statement and subsequent volume entitled The Informatics Revolution and the Developing Countries (1986) identified a number of problems and suggested solutions. Among these were:

  • Developing countries must assess carefully the costs of acquiring informatics tools in view of alternative uses of limited financial and manpower resources, inadequate telecommunication networks and uncertain power supplies.
  • Although piecemeal applications of informatics tools may result in increasing productivity in selected sectors, it is imperative for each country to frame its overall informatics policy within the framework of comprehensive national development plans.
  • In developing countries there must be a balance between the introduction of new technologies and the continuation of traditional ones.
  • Technical cooperation among developing countries in designing informatics policies and producing software should be given a high priority. The second session of this roundtable focused on three principal themes: developing country perspectives, developed-country perspectives and international priorities for cooperation, keeping in mind the potential impact of the informer revolution on the rich and poor within and among nations. In its Tokyo Statement on the Informatics Revolution (1987), the session concluded that:
  • The acquisition of information technology by developing countries is not an option, but a necessity informatics uses in developing countries, now largely confined to financial and statistical computation and data storage and retrieval, could be widened to include such crucial management tasks as crisis prediction (e.g., the African famine). The relevance and potential of informatics as a supporting technology to development at large is unquestionable, but it is only a supporting technology, not an independent sector to acquiring foreign-made El, developing countries must choose carefully in order to
    (i) acquire the most appropriate technology
    (ii) guard against technological dependency, and
    (iii) avoid dumping of outmoded technologies by the more rapidly advancing countries.
  • Social and ethical considerations influence the introduction and use of informatics technologies and should be carefully evaluated so that they work to promote equity and democracy rather than exploitation and domination. Changes that will meet with resistance should be anticipated and planned for essentials of a national informatics plan include
    (i) ordering of priorities,
    (ii) identifying infrastructural requirements, and
    (iii) harmonizing plans with overall development goals.
  • Informatics development should influence employment in a socially acceptable, cost-effective manner.
  • Technical standards should be clearly defined, rigorously enforced, and periodically reviewed and updated.
  • Top priority should be given to the education and training of informatics personnel, particularly in hardware maintenance and software development, South-South cooperation can accelerate the development of appropriate national informatics legislation.
  • Urgent issues which need to be addressed on the international level include:
    (i) agreements to guarantee the free flow of information,
    (ii) the elimination of monopolies, and
    (iii) affirmation of the principle of respect for the common assets of mankind.
  • Opportunities for international collaboration should be fully exploited, but they are no substitute for the development of national self-reliance.

    A volume of papers presented in Tokyo was published in 1988 under the title Informatics for Development: The New Challenge

    Roundtable on Trade

    The roundtable on trade was initiated with the objective of organizing a special high-level task force of trade and development experts to review current International trading practices and to develop a body of policy analyses and options to assist participants in the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. This Roundtable first met in Geneva in 1987 to outline its areas of activity. Questions raised included: ( i) Can the South depend on export-led growth? (ii) Should the North expect reciprocity from the South? (iii) What strategies are available for dealing with normative measures, and can the problem of safeguards be solved? (iv) Should the scope of trade negotiations be enlarged? (v) What links should be sought between trade, private investment and global industrial policy? (vi) What institutional changes are needed in the field of trade? The work program for subsequent Roundtables covered traditional and new GATT issues, as well as the interaction of trade with money and finance.

    The next meeting of the Trade Roundtable, held in London, discussed "traditional" GATT issues, including: the reestablishment of GATT principles, with special reference to the export trade of developing countries; differential and more favorable treatment for developing countries; and improving monitoring, surveillance and dispute settlement. In Seizing the Trade Chance in '87:

    Proposals for Early Action in the Uruguay Round (1987), the Roundtable found a political "window of opportunity" for early action along the following lines:

  • Standstill and rollback must be clarified and monitored.
  • An early agreement on safeguard is essential.
    High-level monitoring, surveillance and dispute settlement mechanisms must be established.
  • Materialism can erode the multilateral trading system if bilateral agreements are built upon discriminatory arrangements.
  • Early progress on agricultural issues would yield tangible benefits for developing countries and could positively affect the Uruguay Round.
  • Early agreements could be reached on a framework for tarriff disarmament in tropical and natural resource product processing,
  • Developing countries should be "credited" in GATT negotiations for unilateral liberalizations.
  • There is scope for a tradeoff between agreement on rollback and the "graduation" of developing countries into full participation in GATT.
  • Success in the Uruguay Roundtable is crucial to the stability of the world economy in the 1990s and beyond, Next, the Trade Roundtable met in Geneva in November 1987 to address the following key issues:
    (i) flow can trade in services be defined for the purpose of multilateral trade negotiations?
    (ii) What are the specific developing-country gains and losses from trade in services?
    (iii) Should negotiations on trade in goods be linked to those on trade in services?
    (iv) What is the most practical strategy to secure an optimum package for the developing countries in negotiating trade in services? A summary of this meeting, published under the title North South Roundtable on Trade in Services (1987),identified the following as major issues:
  • Any universally adopted definition of trade in services will have to include the international exchanges of labor and or capital. Measuring the volume of services trade in a disaggregated manner will require much work,
  • Trade in services is different from trade in goods. New issues raised by the international movement of labor, the international distribution of gains, and government regulations must be resolved with a view to achieving predictability of trading conditions.
  • GATT principles may be an inappropriate conceptual basis for a services trade agreement, and alternatives may have to be sought.
  • Since service trade discussions arc influenced by conflicting political and economic philosophies, predictable trading conditions may be a more realistic goal than either "liberalization" or a universal framework.
  • Country-specific approached to trade in services may still be framed under an umbrella of general policy guidelines, even if no uniform policies are applicable.
  • It may be fruitless to address sect oral questions in the absence of a general framework. Sectoral questions should be addressed simultaneously with an attempt to reach a framework agreement.
  • Any agreement on services trade will carry widespread support only if it is consistent with an overall balance of advantage among all trading partners. The existence of separate negotiating tracks for goods and services need not preclude an agreement on a package covering both types of trade.

    A volume of papers presented to the London and Geneva Trade Roundtable sessions were published in Linking The World: Trade Policies for the Future (1998).

Roundtable on Economics of Peace

In 1990, North South Roundtable held a special session in San Jose, Costa Rica, on the Economics of Peace in order to discuss the new opportunities for peace and the prospects for diverting resources from armaments to social development. The meeting took place at an extraordinary moment of human history. The dramatic reduction of East-West tensions and the surge of democracy in many parts of the world provided a unique opportunity for a new way of ordering world relationships. A new vision of the world after the cold war needed to be developed in which territorial security was to be achieved through negotiations and not through military interventions; in which persistence of global poverty, economic inequities and social injustices were regarded as major threats to peace; in which protection of global commons was viewed as protection of humankind's common future; and in which collective security lay in adherence to the rule of law.
The Report of the San Jose session titled Economics of Peace(1990) suggested a concrete agenda for action. The Roundtable specifically called for
  • The redefinition of the concept of security and the development of a vision of a post-cold war world;
  • big reductions in military spending, conventional armed forces and armed transfers, the elimination of chemical weapons, and rapid progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons;
  • using the "peace dividend" from reduced military expenditure to ensure greater human development in both developing and developed countries;
  • easing the economic and environmental imbalances underlying many existing international and national tensions;
  • strengthening the UN and other international and regional machineries for conflict resolution; and
    reaffirming and extending the code of conduct contained in the UN Charter covering the renunciation of the use of military force, unilateral intervention in the affairs of other nations and the shipment of arms

Roundtable on Migration

In December 1991, a North South Roundtable was organized in Evianles-llains as part of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Roundtable discussions were forward-looking and wide-ranging, covering a review of:

  • The problems, prospects and new challenges of mass movements of people in the 1990s;
  • Emergencies, displacements and durable solutions; and
  • Required actions to achieve a better-balance between global economic opportunities and international migration.

    The Roundtable Report, Movement of People in the 19905: Challenges for Policy Makers (1991), identified a number of solutions. Among these were:

  • New and more effective international policies would be required to promote voluntary repatriation and reintegration; encourage prevention and
    preparedness as well as effective emergency responses; give attention to the less visible human emergencies; reach all categories of displaced persons; and encourage a more coherent approach to migration, so that the main emphasis could be placed on the protection of people rather the protection of governments.
  • Greater attention should be given to special groups; 7580 per cent of refugees and displaced persons are women and children who require special care and support.
  • longer-term solutions depend on the world's achieving a more balanced pattern of development. Aid should go some way towards removing the existing extreme gaps in living standards between people in different parts of the world.
  • There is a need for a more serious dialogue on aid negotiations across the whole range of issues relating to migration, displacement and repatriation.
    These issues must be addressed at the global level in order to prevent crises before they occur.
  • letter coordination of international action was required. The Roundtable stressed that the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance should facilitate the organization of rapid and coherent international response. This, however, would not diminish the need for strong, effective capacity
    to respond to emergencies within the key agencies.
  • There must be greater recognition of the constructive role of NGOs in many emergency situations, channeling some US$3 billion of development assistance.
    The background papers prepared for this Roundtable were published in the SID journal, Development.

North South Roundtable on Africa

From 1985 to 1987, four Roundtable sessions were held in different parts of the world in order to start a serious dialogue among the policy makers on the causes of African famine and the long-term policy responses. Since 1988, NSRT met three times on Africa in order to discuss a broader agenda for Africa's overall socio-economic development issues. A North South Roundtable was held in 1988 in Juliasdale, Zimbabwe to focus on the problems of the Southern Africa region, to identify what was needed to sustain and accelerate their development and what the donors could do to support this process. The focus on the development problems of the region invariably raised issues linked directly with South Africa - and the political and military dimensions of these links, in addition to the economic and social.

The Report of the Juliasdale meeting, titled Total Response to Total Strategy (1988), summarized the major issues and recommendations, including the following:

• An integrated international response on several fronts by international organizations and governments was required to assist the region in meeting its vast potential.

• An integrated "total response" from the international community must address the four components of South Africa's "total strategy": economic, political, diplomatic (information) and security. These components must" be analyzed in response to the specific situation of each country and in relation to the reality of the region as a whole.

• To mobilize an integrated response, it was proposed that the United Nations and the World Bank exercise more leadership, building upon their past involvement and organizational strength.

• Toward this goal, there should be a major international conference on global support for Southern Africa.

In 1991, NSRT organized another session on Africa, this time in Ottawa., in order to review the progress of Africa's development, in particular the achievement of the UN Programme of Action for Africa's Economic Recovery and Development (UNPAAERD), and to identify some priorities for Africa's development in the 1990s. The meeting concluded that the overall record of the UNPAAERD period was negative, except that Africans developed a greater sense of realism and made major move towards serious economic management. The meeting identified some priority goals for the continent for the 1990s which were contained in the Report, The Challenge of Africa in the 1990s (1991).

• Africa must set its own agenda for the future, and a more equal relationship between Africa and its development partners should be worked out.

• The development process should be human-centred with a particular focus on women who playa central role in Africa's economic and social life.

• While adjustment and reform will remain necessary, both must be part of a broader strategy of fundamental economic and social restructuring.

• Political will must be found within the continent to deal with the growing number of armed conflicts, to make governments more accountable and to promote greater popular participation in the development process.

• Although reform and action within Africa is vital, without greater external support, none of these would bear fruit. Any new agreement at the United Nations must be more concrete and workable than UNPMERD was. "Development contracts" between individual African Countries and a small group of donors would be one way of making agreements more specific and more serious.

Last meeting in this series was held in South Africa in 1995, a country whose remarkable political transformation and democratic vibrancy brought new hope to all Africa, and to the world about Africa. The Roundtable focused on how to build on this and other changes, by formulating an agenda for Africa's renewal.

The Report of the Johannesburg Roundtable, An Agenda for Africa's Renewal (1995), provided a list of key recommendations which included:

• African leaders and their peoples need to develop a shared vision of Africa's future in the 21st century, developed through a creative interaction between civil society and democratic leadership.

• African people must be placed at the center of all African development, through a massive investment in basic education, health, and other social services and a political commitment to accelerated poverty reduction.

• Africa will need to display a new political resolve to find the necessary resources for human development strategies, both by mobilizing additional domestic and external resources and by restructuring budgets, cutting down military expenditures, privatizing inefficient public enterprises and cutting non-development expenditures.

• Africa should devise specific strategies to improve the position of women. These would include education and training and access to reproductive health, and the introduction of affirmative action to ensure a critical mass of women at all levels of decision-making.

• Africa must renew its dialogue with the rest of the world in order to change the present realities with regard to debt, aid and the process of globalization.

• Africa should develop a concrete programme of action to turn increasing globalization into a new opportunity for the continent by diversifying production and export patterns and by acquiring new technical skills to break into new markets.

• Africa needs to protect its biological, animal and genetic diversity - all of which would be accorded increasing value in the next two to three decades. A preserved and diverse environment could well be the basis for Africa, the cradle of humankind, becoming a super continent in the next century.

The background papers prepared for the Roundtable were published in the SID journal, Development.

Roundtable on UN Reform

As a result of the end of the cold war and a greater understanding between the super powers, the United Nations was increasingly being used to settle political conflicts. However, the UN was making less headway in the social and economic fields. The real challenge for the global community was how to strengthen the role of the UN system in the development field - especially in the areas of human development, global environment and increased economic opportunities for the developing countries. In meeting these and other interrelated challenges, the multilateral system needs to become more effective. Some of these issues were discussed by the North South Roundtable in Uppsala, Sweden in 1989. The Uppsala Roundtable identified four vital areas as key points of focus:

• New approaches to security concerns, especially in the area of regional conflicts and in support of concerned international actions to diminish the causes of economic and social conflicts.

• Human resource development, especially in low-income developing countries.

• Long-term ecological security, encompassing environmental protection and sustainable development.

• Disaster prevention and build-up of international capacity to enable a rapid coherent response to disaster when they occur.

The North South Roundtable organized a second Roundtable on Strengthening the UN for 1990s in Tarrytown in 1991. Like the Uppsala Roundtable, the agenda in Tarrytown concentrated on economic and social development aspects of the UN, focussing on the activities of the specialized agencies, financing of the multilateral system and the relationship between the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions. The Report of the Tarrytown Roundtable, Strengthening The United Nations For The 1990s (1991), concluded that:

• The increasing levels and complexities of interdependence require new levels of effectiveness in supranational governance and action. Thus the UN needs to be strengthened for the challenges ahead.

• The strengthened political role and visibility of UN can be used to assert its presence in the economic and social fields.

• ECOSOC should be converted into a more relevant forum by focussing on priority policy themes.

• At field level, there is scope for the UN agencies to work more effectively together in pursuit of common objectives, such as human development, environmental sustainability and progress for women and children.

• Present funding arrangements for the UN are inadequate. A better balance has to be achieved between core resources and various trust funds which have been set up for specific purposes. Also closer cooperation must be established between various UN agencies, between UN system and the international financial institutions, and between bilateral agencies, NGOs and private funding channels.

• A new division of labour should be worked out between the UN system and multilateral development banks, exploiting the relative strengths and comparative advantages of various agencies.

The third session of this series was held at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in September of 1993. The Bretton Woods Roundtable considered the reform of the global economic governance by taking an integral view of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions, by giving importance to social issues and not just economic and financial issues, by taking a long term perspective, and by taking account of the concerns of both developing and developed countries. The Report of the Bretton Woods Roundtable, titled The United Nations And The Bretton Woods Institutions: New Challenges For The 21st Century (1993), presented several proposals for the consideration of global community. These included:

• A world social charter. The Roundtable suggested that a world charter be drawn up to give a concrete shape to the emerging concept of global human security which should include specific commitments in economic and social fields already endorsed by world leaders in various summits and conferences.

• A development security council. The Roundtable proposed that a development security council be set up to review critical social and economic threats to people all over the world and to reach political agreements on specific policy responses. The council would deal with such basic issues as global poverty, unemployment, food and ecological security, drag trafficking, migration, humanitarian assistance, and a new framework for development cooperation.

• A new framework for development cooperation. The new framework must be based on mutual interests, not charity; on greater cooperation between nations, not increased confrontation; on a more equitable sharing of global market opportunities, not greater protection; and on growing internationalism, not increasing national isolation.

• Restructuring and strengthening existing institutions to include a new SDR allocation, a third window of the World Bank to recycle surplus funds of some developed countries, strengthening the resource base of regional development banks, concluding the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, strengthening the UN for sustainable development, and to create a major increase of resource support for the least developed countries.

• A UN agency for advancement of women to elevate women's empowerment to the top of the national and international policy agendas, to monitor specific achievement') and failure in this area on a regular basis, and to provide a coordinated policy framework throughout the UN system.

The Roundtable concluded that the ultimate aim of all these efforts must be to build a new global civil society where people matter, where development models are woven around people, where a concept of human security is adopted by the entire international community and where a new frame work of development cooperation is designed by people. Reforms in global institutions are only a means. People must remain the ultimate end. The background papers prepared for the Bretton Woods Roundtable were published in a volume, The United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions (1995).


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