The Integrated Framework for Technical Assistance to the Least Developed Countries (IF) is a multi-agency initiative to coordinate national ministries, donors and multilateral agencies in the provision of trade-related capacity building. The IF is being touted as a model for cooperation in capacity building, with the World Bank taking a lead role in the diagnostic studies which make up the first phase of the work programme. These studies have been completed in six countries and are currently underway in six more. Some twenty-two further studies for both least developed and low-income countries are planned within the next two years.
After several months of delay from the WTO Secretariat over the terms of reference, a Canadian firm, Capra International, has been chosen to carry out a review of the IF. Controversy continues over the use of the UNDP-managed trust fund. The WTO Secretariat recently echoed members’ calls for more money for work on the ground and for LDCs to do the diagnostics themselves. The link with national development strategies is also debated. In its trade agenda for the coming year, the Bank says “reflecting the findings of these diagnostic studies in development plans would represent an important signal that trade is being mainstreamed.” Vigilance will be required by PRSP monitors to ensure that “reflecting the findings” does not become ‘inserting the findings’. The diagnostic cart must not come before the national strategy horse.