Trade policy capacity-building statement

25 March 2002 | Press release

Joint Civil Society Statement Originally Prepared For Donor Pledging Meeting, 11 March 2002

Technical Assistance and Capacity Building emerged as important issues for Least Developed and Developing Countries in the Doha Ministerial Declaration following the WTO 4th Ministerial last November. Ministers agreed to “well targeted, sustainably financed technical assistance”, acknowledging “that technical cooperation and capacity building are core elements of the development dimension” (Declaration, para. 38).

Whilst the objective of building capacity of all WTO members to define and act on trade policies that are in their best national interest is widely shared, important questions remain about how capacity building will be delivered and by whom. On February 14, 2002, government representatives in Geneva pointed to significant problems with the WTO Technical Assistance Plan and asked that it be revised with input from member governments. Civil society groups also want to take this opportunity to register concerns about the revised Technical Assistance (TA) Plan and hope that they will be taken seriously at the “Pledging Conference for Doha Development Agenda Trust Fund” on 11 March at which donors are likely to make available 16.5 million Swiss Francs for this work.

Some of the major Civil Society concerns include:

  1. The Technical Assistance Plan, thus far, has been largely devised by the WTO Secretariat rather than by the intended recipients of the assistance: 40 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and over 80 developing countries. We urge further consideration to be given to the proposals made by LDCs’ for TA in the Zanzibar Declaration last July.
  2. The nature of the Technical Assistance Plan is in itself problematic. A large part of the Plan involves the Integrated Framework for Trade Related Technical Assistance to the LDCs (IF), a programme which has already been tried and failed. The IF is composed of the IMF, ITC, UNCTAD, UNDP, World Bank and the WTO. The allocation of responsibilities in the revamped IF seems again unbalanced, and the major role being allocated to the World Bank in particular is a cause for concern. Governments should have the flexibility to choose the agency and the form of assistance that they feel to be most appropriate.
  3. Inter-agency assistance seems to prioritize the highly contested “Singapore Issues” (which include Investment, Competition and Government Procurement). This prioritisation of the new negotiation issues over the needs of the LDCs and DCs to improve capacity on ongoing issues is problematic. The Doha Mandate does not give priority to these issues and specifically mandates that TACB be given to “better evaluate the implications” of issues such as Investment and Competition.
  4. WTO Secretariat seminars and workshops have been widely acknowledged to be too general and ineffective. This points to the need of more independent evaluation of the Secretariat’s past efforts on TACB when approving the new TA plan. The Strategic Partnerships with Regional Banks for implementation of the Doha Mandates are particularly unclear. The Secretariat is already engaged in drafting MOUs with regional banks, however, very little information on these MOUs has been made public, or shared with the trade delegations themselves.

We urge donors to work more closely with all WTO member countries and with civil society stakeholders to define a programme for trade capacity building that will strengthen the overall capacity of these countries to identify and pursue their own trade objectives in the context of a broader development plan. To ensure that the post-Doha capacity building is indeed given in that vein, it will be important to put in place a mechanism to independently assess its effectiveness. The current plan to allow another branch of the WTO Secretariat to perform an audit on capacity building is insufficient.

We urge you to take seriously these concerns about the Post-Doha Capacity Building Agenda.


Organization and country (global or regional organization where not marked):

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Switzerland
Bretton Woods Project, UK
Focus on the Global South, Thailand
International South Group Network
DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era), Fiji
Public Services International
Center of Concern, USA
Kepa (Service Centre for Development Cooperation), Finland
WWFUK (World Wide Fund for Nature)
Integrated Rural Development Foundation, Philippines
Resource Center for People’s Development, Philippines
The Norwegian GATTWTO campaign
Berne Declaration, Switzerland
World Development Movement, UK
COASAD (Coalition des Organisations Africaines pour la Sécurité Alimentaire et le Développement Durable)
Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations, Switzerland
Action Aid UK


Roshan Malik, Program Officer, NOOR Pakistan
Matthew Sanger, USA
Jerker Thorsell, Attac Sweden
Reidun Heiene, Norway
Marinela R. Castillo, Philippines

Further signatories welcome. Email us your name, organisation (if any) and country.

This statement was prepared and circulated by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Bretton Woods Project

Zanzibar Declaration, LDC Trade Ministers’ Meeting, 22-24 July 2001

See also our: Briefing on WTO, World Bank and IMF linkages