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Africa seeks ways to make international trade cheaper, faster and easier

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Complex, time-consuming and inefficient import and export procedures are a major barrier to trade and hamper development, especially for low and middle-income countries.

In response, African countries seeking to make interregional and international trade in goods and services cheaper, quicker and more straightforward will gather for the First African Forum for National Trade Facilitation Committees in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 27–29 November.

The landmark event, organized by UNCTAD and seven partner organizations including UNECE, comes as Africa scales up its trade-easing efforts after the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement entered into force in February 2017 and as they prepare to implement the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement signed in March 2018.

A central tenet of the Trade Facilitation Agreement is the obligation of each country to set up a National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) with both public and private sector stakeholders to facilitate both domestic coordination and implementation of the provisions of this agreement.

With well-functioning NTFCs, countries will be able to make trade, easier, faster and cheaper. For developing countries, and especially least developed countries – the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa – implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement could lead to a reduction in trade costs of up to 15%.

“The Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), hosted at UNECE, has been a pioneer of trade facilitation. For many decades, it has been developing policy recommendations, standards and guidelines, including for the establishment and operation of trade facilitation bodies. UNECE stands ready to join forces with international partners to support countries’ efforts for effective integration in the international trading system”, highlighted UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova.

The recommendations and guidelines developed by UN/CEFACT are a key reference for advisory services to NTFCs in the African region provided by partner organisations, like UNCTAD and ITC. UNECE has also joined UNCTAD and other partners in training NTFCs and assisting them in the development of National Trade Facilitation Roadmaps. This has been the case for Benin, Gabon, Cameroon, and Sudan.

Furthermore, UNECE has supported Morocco, Nigeria, Mozambique and Senegal for the establishment and operation of their Single Windows and Port Community Systems, with real impact in terms of time and money saved. For example, thanks to Senegal’s Single Window system, the time associated with the custom clearance process has been cut by 50%, from an average of 18 to just 9 days. In the first three years of the system’s mandatory use in the country, customs’ revenue collection increased from USD 625 million to more than USD 1 billion.

Correctly implemented trade facilitation measures not only boost trade but also improve revenue collection, safety and security compliance controls (for example, improving food safety) and can help to streamline government agencies.

Such reforms help small traders, often women, enter the formal sector, make economic activities more transparent and accountable, promote good governance, generate better quality employment, strengthen information technology capabilities and generally modernize societies by bringing about benefits related to administrative efficiency. Trade facilitation reforms are also positive steps towards human, enterprise and institutional development.

For these benefits to be realized it is essential that the Trade Facilitation Agreement is implemented as foreseen. According to the WTO, the rate of implemented commitments under the agreement as of October 2018 stood at 60% – but broken down by level of development a new picture emerges, with developed countries having achieved 100% of commitments, developing countries having achieved 60% of commitments and least developed countries just 22% of commitments.

The Forum is the result of close collaboration between multilateral and international organizations and is supported by several bilateral donors. The alliance showcases the collaborative effort of these institutions and donors to assist in moving forward opportunities for developing and least developed countries to integrate in globalized trade.

Topics covered during the three-day event include the role of the African regional organizations, the role of NTFCs in the implementation of trade facilitation provisions in the AfCFTA, paperless initiatives at entry points, the involvement of the private sector in NTFCs, how to coordinate border agencies, and the role of transit corridors. There will also be sessions on the gender dimension in cross-border trade, and the application of digital technologies in future modes of trading.

The forum is co-organized by:

  • UNCTAD
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe / Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business
  • International Trade Centre
  • World Bank Group
  • World Trade Organization
  • World Customs Organization
  • Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation
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Making Globalization Work: Climate, Inclusiveness and International Governance Top Agenda of the WEF 2019

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The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 will take place on 22-25 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The meeting brings together more than 3,000 leaders from business, government, civil society, academia, arts and culture, and media, as well as the foremost experts and young leaders from all over the world.

Convening under the theme, Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the purpose of the meeting is to identify new models for peace, inclusiveness and sustainability to suit a world where further global integration is inevitable and where existing models of global governance struggle to foster concerted action among the world’s powers.

“This fourth wave of globalization needs to be human-centred, inclusive and sustainable. We are entering a period of profound global instability brought on by the technological disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the realignment of geo-economics and geopolitical forces. We need principals from all stakeholder groups in Davos to summon the imagination and commitment necessary to tackle it,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

The programme of this year’s Annual Meeting expands on the theme in depth and breadth across more than 350 sessions, nearly half of them webcast. Sessions are organized in a series of global dialogues:

A global dialogue on geopolitics in a multiconceptual world to enable candid and constructive discussion on how to drive future cooperation along with a global dialogue on peace and

A global dialogue on the future of the economy to better reflect the structural changes inherent in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and achieve sustainable growth and long-term societal well-being

A global dialogue on industry systems and technology policy to define the principles for new and emerging technologies to ensure that they are underpinned by a values-based framework

A global dialogue on risk resilience to promote systems thinking to radically improve our collective management of the key environmental systems and to ensure adequate digital cybersecurity

A global dialogue on human capital and society to revisit the notion of work and well-being and to move away from consumption and materialism to a more humanistic focus.

A global dialogue on institutional reform to rethink the global institutional frameworks that emerged in the 20th century and adapt them to ensure relevancy for the new political, economic and social context

Top political leaders taking part are: Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation 2019 and Federal Councillor of Finance of Switzerland; Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan; Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil; Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany; Wang Qishan, Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China; Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy; Pedro Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain; Barham Salih, President of Iraq; Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Sebastian Kurz, Federal Chancellor of Austria; Ivan Duque, President of Colombia; Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minster of Ethiopia; Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland; Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Faiez Al Serrag, Prime Minister of Libya; Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; Jacinda Ardem, Prime Minister of New Zealand; Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway; Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Martin Alberto Vizcarra Cornejo, President of Peru; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Cyril M. Ramaphosa, Prime Minister of South Africa; Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda; Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Viet Nam; and Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe.

Leaders from International Organizations include: Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations; Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer, World Bank; Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Roberto Azevedo, Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO); Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF); and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Leaders from civil society are: Yasunobu Aihara, General Secretary, Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Jtuc-Rengo); Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International; Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International; Denis Mukwege, Founder, Panzi Foundation, 2018 Nobel Peace Laureate; Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch; Marco Lambertini, Director-General, WWF International; Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair, Transparency International; Maria Ressa, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Editor, Rappler.com; Elizabeth H. Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); Peter Sands, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GF); Debbie Stothard, Secretary-General International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); and Luca Visentini, General Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

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Is Haiti better prepared for disasters, nine years on from the 2010 earthquake?

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Half a capital city destroyed, 220,000 reported dead and 1 million residents displaced. This was the toll of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which struck on 12 January, nine years ago.

Staff at the UN Mission in Haiti were also affected, and there were 102 UN casualties, including the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Hédi Annabi and his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa. It was the “biggest single loss of life in the history of UN Peacekeeping,” the then-President of the UN Staff Union, Stephen Kisambira, said at the time.

One of the survivors was Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, today the head of communications for the UN Mission for Justice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), who was seven months pregnant at the time and just a few days away from home leave. She had been in the headquarters of MINUJUSTH’s predecessor, the UN Stabilisitation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), when the quake hit.

The building completely collapsed, but Ms. Boutaud de la Combe managed to escape through a collapsed wall. For many hours, she and her surviving colleagues searched through the rubble, looking for anyone still trapped under the building. Two days later, she reluctantly left Haiti, a situation she describes as “a trauma,” her instinct being to help the UN and the people of Haiti. She eventually returned to the country in 2013, happy to be able to play a part in the rebuilding of the country, and honour her lost colleagues with her work.

Some nine years after the earthquake, the situation in Haiti is very different. The government, says Ms. Boutaud de la Combe, is now much better prepared for similar natural disasters. “A few months ago there was an earthquake in the north of the country. The state was prepared and they sent their people to support those affected, without MINUJUSTH involvement. It was not a major earthquake, but now the population knows how to react. And most importantly, we hear regularly how important it is to build better, to build strongly in case an earthquake would hit, not to endanger the people.”

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UN welcomes progress in former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia naming dispute

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The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the naming dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Matthew Nimetz, has welcomed the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia parliament’s decision to ratify an agreement on a new name for the latter country, following a dispute that has lasted some 28 years.

In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Nimetz congratulated the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia parliament and the country’s citizens – who approved the name change in a referendum held in September 2018 – for the move, and the democratic manner in which the process was undertaken: “this historic Agreement between two neighbours opens the door to a new relationship between them and to a firmer basis for peace and security in the Balkans. I look forward to completion of the process as outlined in the Agreement,” said Mr. Nimetz, adding that the United Nations remains “committed to working with the two Parties in finally resolving the difference between them.”

However, in order for the country to be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia, the Greek parliament must also vote to ratify the deal. On Sunday, it was reported that the issue has led to a Greek government crisis, with the governing coalition split over the name change: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reportedly planning to call a confidence vote, which is expected to be held on Wednesday.

The dispute stretches back to 1991, when the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, and announced its intention to be named “Macedonia.” Neighbouring Greece refused to recognise the name, insisting that only the northern Greek region of the same name should be called Macedonia, and arguing that the former Yugoslav Republic’s use of the name was a challenge to Greek sovereignty.

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