Thursday, December 18, 2008

ECOWAS 2020 Vision website


Background Information 

The ECOWAS Vision Project seeks to capture what the ECOWAS Community as a collective body envisions or desires the future of the West African region to be, and the manner West Africans should go about to realize that vision. ECOWAS is currently soliciting the opinions or contributions of knowledgeable and concerned ECOWAS citizens through a variety of consultations. The public, especially ECOWAS citizens are invited to be part of this process by answering questions here and joining discussions at our facebook group.This strategic vision document centres around five pillars which are non-threatening to sovereignty, represent critical demographic trends and serve as vital links towards greater African unity and global values. These five pillars are:
Women, Children and Youth 
The business community (economic actors)
Infrastructure (both physical and "soft" i.e. ICT, HR etc.)

Components of the Project

The three main components of the Vision Project are:
ECOWAS Today: this section describes and analyses the current status of the West African region and the integration process. 
The ECOWAS of Our Dreams: this section sets out the vision of the desired West African future. 
Realizing the Vision: this section proposes recommendations on how to achieve the Vision. 


The ECOWAS Vision 2020 document is expected to be fully delivered to the ECOWAS Commission by mid December, 2008. However, the site shall continue to operate for the purposes of information dissemination and follow up on this project.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

ECOWAS--ECOWAS Community Court of Justice Frees Nigerien Slave

Rare is the case of civil society collaborating with regional bodies to bring about positive and constructive change; even more rare is when it is in Africa! So when I first heard the case of the 24-yr-old former Nigerien slave who was taking her case to court, I could only more than jump with glee upon hearing that she had taken the case to none other than the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.

Established in 2005, the Court has not been as high-profile in the ECOWAS region as one would have expected. I believe the ususal red-tapism and lack of political will will have played their parts in good measure. That said, the only case that might have registered in the minds of the sub-region's citizens have been that of the murder of a Gambian journalist. Truth be told, it's been rather difficult following the case on account of its protacted nature.

As for this case of the Nigerien slave who has been mandated by the court to receive the equivalent of some $20,000 as compensation, this particular case is not just unique, but unprecedented. It is unique because though slavery is an old ghost in parts of West Africa, it took a committed individual to usher in necessary change for people like her; and it is unprecendented because not only has it shown that ECOWAS has potential to bare its teeth, but equally the potential to chomp hard on injustice in t he sub-region.

The news that the ruling is binding and that the young woman will receive compensation is equally interesting. As Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International, told the BBC about how the case would be crucial in highlighting the plight of slaves in Africa:

"This is very important in terms of the community of nations, and particularly the African community of nations looking at other countries within that region and saying: 'What standard are we expecting each other to be held to in relation to international and national law?'"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Underwhelming Close of Sixth Session of ACP Summit

I came in some twenty minutes ago to see President Kufuor and a mini-phalanx of diplomats leaving this frightfully-chilling hall. I got wind that there was no press conference to end the whole affair, which also means that the twice-postponed press conference with the Ivorian diplomat fell through in a radically-twisted way.

These ACP guys must have a twisted sense of humour, because if they think this is the way of promoting transparency, accountability and whatnot, they better do a double-take.

Many of us are not amused. Even the delegates who stood almost-useless outside the foyer wondered what on Earth merited some of the discussions to be closed-sessions? Can anyone help?

The ACP Group needs a serious revision of how it does things. This does not make those of us hawkishly watching the EPA discussions encouraged that they can go onto better things!

They get a C+.

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Commentary on Closed Session of Closing Session

12h24: acp group should work towards lasting peace in Sudan (nuhue)

JAMAICA: unstinting support of all acp states for peace efforts in Sudan. Has a unwavering commitment to people of Sudan. Should not confuse matters of Sudan to matters over ICC, which jamaica subscribes to.

NIGERIA: Concerns over paragraph five. especially paragraph three on non-interference of states. for a distinguished body like this, language should not be tautaologous and language be overkilled.

who says that tomw we might not consider sanctions to bring pressure to bear on level of intl behaviour. want paragraph five deleted.

TUVATU? section two on sustainable devt. change be made...(wording on climate change).

CUBA: sorry, no access to headphones.

SUDAN: parag number 7. noted statements by Jamaica. statement consistent with arab league and african union. what is important is peace process in sudan. the indictment of Bashir could create problems. Necessary to keep paragraph and add other[which one?] one...

KENYA: security, peace and justice should not be overlooked. icc indictment will frustrate regional peace. clause seven should start as it is.

BENIN: paragraph 23: propose to add ..want to add another paragraph on AID EFFECTIVENESS...

ZIMBABWE: paragraph five and seven....

????-ask for suspension of ICC arrest warrant

SOUTH AFRICA retain parags five and seven. the use of sanctions. must as an act of solidarity, retin parag five. all potential parties in sudanese conflict...

ERITREA: express solidarity. retain paragraphs five and seven as is.

12h59 out of here. plenty deliberations over Sudan. And EPAs?

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Inside Closed Session of Closing Session

CARIFORUM: saw epa as a package,are of the view that it liimited market access will not be in best interest of cariforum. at 12h20

kufuor speaks: would urge quickly to get declaration ready. i propose that we take the declaration as a whole, listen to it as a whole and discuss.

someone is speaking? who? [located behind a flag up on the balcony, next to two sleeping security guys]

declaration is bein read out. Declaration in four parts..
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EPAs to Top Agenda on Final Day of 6 ACP Summit

I think it might be stretching it a bit to think that expectations might be raised. Currently sitting at the press centre, waiting for the press conference of the Ivorian minister on the EPAs. Should draw quite a crowd. Two of my colleagues are here, waiting to filter the technical aspects of the EPAs through the lens of the minister's utterances, I am sure. Or is that the other way round?

The picture shows a snapshot of the entrance of the doorway to the plenary meeting, which has been closed session since yesterday. The guys inside have special badges, " CLOSED SESSION". Even Dr.DICK Naezer(sp)of the EU delegation here in Accra was

stopped by security, as he went along with his colleague.

My colleague and I speculated that he will most likely bulldoze his way through the meeting this morning, which is supposed to be on FUTURE OF THE ACP GROUP.

The guy to the left of the picture is a journalist who is based in Abidjan. Don't know his name. All I know is the anecdotal information of EU Development Minister Louis Michel having had his stomach stapled, giving him the slimmer appearance, and how "despicable" a character he is. I always knew that;-) The lady to the right is a Balgian journalist who was keen to get a background of the guy on the left. I swear I was not eavesdropping. Being so close as I am, any information is great, dontcha think?

It's 10h17. Press conference ought to start soon! Before I go, let me show you a snapshot of the edition of Graphic Business of this past Tuesday:

It might all be about the money, but it's certainly all about the EPAs now!!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

President Kufuor of Ghana Speaks

He says thanks for condolences expressed for late Baah-Wiredu.

Ghana to take over for the next two years from Sudan. [I see ECOWAS president Ibn Chambas listening attentively to the speech] Kufuor is talking about the need for fair international trading systems, which he acknowledges is non-existent. Aid has tended to be given as charitu. These shortcomings have incapacitated Ghanaians and ACP countries.

Kufuor is talking more about subsidiesthan epas. In broaching the issue, he, too, has mentioned reciprocity. How would the eu take up our dilemma [of what?]

Sir John Kaputin, we wish u well. Summit is now opened at 11.31am

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Sudan President speaks, talks of "simmering cold war"

EPas have ignored development, they have proved that no meaningful devt can be achieved without systemic resolution of crisis in international system. Need better control of natural resources, and debt relief, among many things.

Situation in Darfur: ICC arrest warrant undermines peace process! In a sense, move is politically-motivated. want to settle conflict through negotiations...confident that with President Kufuor's vision, ACP objectives will be realized.

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Glennys Kinnock Speaks on Perfect Storm of...

She wants us to be clear on the turmoil. Weaker countries need assistance. In 2008, need more of the technology that is needed to resolve crisis. Mud-cakes are being given to children in Haiti. Many children die a yr from preventable diseases.

Military-spending would lift everyone out of poverty. UN summit last week was encouraging. Sixteen billion dollars pledged. Neeed to put in context of food crisis. Figures released by UN last week suggest only portion has been fulfilled. You know aid works, and it menas fewer children are dying. Promises must be kept. Many will not meet MDG 1, never mind MDG 5, which is on maternal mortality.

Investment needed not by luck or osmosis. Effective choices needed. There is no silver bullet.

Fr?m the outset, EC has focussed on epas as FTAs, with repition of mantra of reciprocity. If between equals, then fine! There are also concerns on

process, and serious anxieties for regional integration.

The ACP has in its ranks some of the poorest countries. EU council in June said...CARIFORUM EPA signed. ACPs need to be vigilant, and the EU should show flexibilty. This is on the cards in the Caribbean.

Global regulation needs to be strengthened. Addition of further devt before onset of liberalisation. Testing times, but times that require mutual respect.

Stepping down from podium to reveal a diminutive figure, she prompts a warmer clap for a rather powerful speech. Sudan president is about to speak in Arabic. Headphone alert!

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Opening Ceremony of ACP 6 Summit

It is 10h23, and the ACP Secretary-General Sir John Kaputin is about to make his speech. He says it is a priviledge and an honour to deliver preliminary remarks at this august summit.

He wants to express gratitude to the peoples of Ghana and the prez, being grateful for the warm reception being accorded since his arrival to beautiful ciity of Accra.

ACP Group has been involved in many different activities since Khartoum mtg, etc.

Yeah, the World Bank guy and UNICEF lady are here; I
would suppose the European commission is here as well. Press is in their large numbers here. I am seated fortuitously next to a lady I saw on tv last night reading TV Africa news--none other than my GHAJICT colleague Veronica Kwablah, who is listening attentively to the speech by Kaputin, as I type away on this OGO device to

bring you some of the highlights of the acp gathering.

Again, I learnt last night that --yeah, EPAs have been mentioned right now, and right now the guy is talking about aid effectiveness. yeah!--the wireless is only available in the registration tent. One wonders what the guys there would need it for??

Kaputin continues that missions to fiji, sudan and djiboutou have highlighted importance of intra-acp

Fact-finding mission will go to Mauritania. On a positive note, Togo and Sudan have assumed normal relations with the European Union.

The ICC indictment has caused some friction regrettably in Darfur. Negotiation on EPAs have concerned grouo for a copnsiderable number of time. Process have split states that have initialled full epas, with some saying no. He hopes way can be smoothed on epas. This impt topical issue is on the agenda, he maintains.

10h37--is it me or does Kufuor look sleepy? He was looking down at something till Kaputin inhis address went "Mr.President,...", prompting him to turn towards the speaker's direction on the podium! With all that travelling he has been doing, he naturally must be itching to get up, don't you think? Behind me, looks like some elderly-looking man has just found joy in annoying some of us with a strident ringtone.

As the press both listen attentively to, and pretend to listen to and look serious at what Kaputin is delivering, a quick scan reveals that people seem to be listening, altough I see quite a number are dozing off. Oh well.

People will get ready to clap as Kaputin thanks the President for his kind attention.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Reason for Delay of Start of Joint ACP MOFA and Council of Ministers Meeting Clarified

A few minutes ago, the chair of the meeting came to explain in French that they are duly sorry for the delay of the meeting, but key ministers of foreign affairs and others are battling out some issues around the document for the meeting. We have been asked to exercise patience, I guess.

In the meantime, I found out that the person I am sitting next to is no less than the ambassador of Togo to Brussels. He

is an affable-looking man, wearing a grey, pinned-stripe sut-like thingy. I only know, because some francophone guys came up behind me a few days minutes ago, introducing the ambassador of Côte d'ivoire here in Accra to him.

On a positive side, my colleagues--registered as delegates-- are capitalising on the tardiness of the meeting to do some serious lobbying of ministers around the EPA. I see one of them articulating a point to a Tanzanian diplomat.

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6 ACP Summit--Day Two: Raw Deal for the Press

I got into town to the Accra Conference Centre on a day after the public holiday to heavy traffic, coupled with the cacophonous noises of siren ushering commuters and motorists alike to move way for the oh-so-important delegates (comprising mostly ambassadors) to head to the AICC on a day that will see the joint meeting of ACP Council of Ministers along with the ACP Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

Yet again, the meeting is late.

If we forget the fact that the Press were politely asked to wait for delegates to get a bag before they could come for one, or the fact that local press is not factored into the free lunch, or even coffee break, we could simply sigh a huge one and get on with our business.

But there is more: the press is not getting the documents from the ACP press person Robert Irago (somehow, since yesterday, he has not been able to coordinate the distribution of material for them!) as expected. The ushers are unable to give us the documents we need to be able to read between the lines for the necessary reporting we need to do. Is it any wonder the Ghanaian press sometimes behave so mediocre?

Here is yours truly who is profoundly interested in what he is here for, but starved off information to do my job! Who can blame me when a neglectful minister or ambassador not here on time comes to his seat to find no documents:-) At least, some of us will put it to good use!

Speaking of which, I have the following documents here as I type this in the plenary hall, which regrettably has no wireless!! They are: [<i>le reunion va demarrer dans cinq minutes</i>] * DRAFT ELEMENTS OF THE ACCRA DECLARATION; *CONTRIBUTION OF THE ACP CIVIL SOCIETY TO THE 6TH SUMMIT OF HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT IN ACCRA (GHANA); *Draft agenda of the joint meeting of the acp council of ministers of foreign affairs to be held on Wednesday 1 October 2008 from 9.30 to 13.00 in Accra, Ghana.; *report from the council of ministers to the 6th acp summit of heads of state and government on the implementation of decisions of previous summits and important developments relevant to the acp group.

It is now some 29 minutes after 10. All sorts of people are standing up smiling to people both fake and genuine smiles. You know here that the laptops that are open are for serious business as the wireless is not set up in the building (unlike at UNCTAD XII in April).
Be-spectacled delegates of the slim,thin, fat, and pot-bellied type move around at all sorts of paces. The head table where the ACP SG and Assistant SG are seated are empty, with no signs of where they could be. The five minutes asked for is long-past, and it remains unclear when we are starting. Just overheard a member of the Ghanaian press sitting behind me that "they will hand over the chairmanship of the ACP to Ghana..." Unsure what that is about.

We live in hope--and plenty of it!

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

3-9-2008 New Chinese book series on comparative regional integration studies

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mrs. Pascale Vantorre <>
Date: 2008/9/3
Subject: September 2008 - Electronic Newsletter of UNU-CRIS (MAIL-755DE-39556)

New Chinese book series on comparative regional integration studies

UNU-CRIS is proud to announce its new book series on comparative regional integration studies in Chinese published by China University of Political Science and Law Press. The book series is a joint-venture between UNU-CRIS and the Centre for European Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing (RUC). Editors-in-chief are: Professor Xiaojin Zhang, Director of the Centre for European Studies at RUC; Professor Luk Van Langenhove, Director of UNU-CRIS; Professor Xinning Song, Senior Research Fellow at UNU-CRIS and Jean Monnet Professor at RUC.

An outstanding international Advisory Board gives intellectual and strategic guidance to this book series. Among its members are many leading experts from China, Europe and the United States including Bingran Dai (Fudan University), Miles Kahler (University of California, San Diego), Peter Katzenstein (Cornell University) and Emil Kirchner (University of Essex). Please click here to consult the full list.

The book series is designed to promote the publication of new scholarly work on comparative regionalism in China and to translate groundbreaking work from international scholars in Chinese. The ambition is to publish several books a year.

The first volume of the book series is entitled "The EU Constitutional System in Development" by Xiuyi Han (Liaoning Normal University, China).

More information on this book can be found here.

The Bruges Regional Integration and Global Governance Papers (BRIGG Papers)

UNU-CRIS and the College of Europe have launched together a new series of working papers dedicated to the study of the European Union and other forms of regionalism or interregionalism from a comparative perspective, the role of regional organisations in global governance as well as these regions´ external relations and diplomacy. The first three BRIGG papers are available online now.

Contributions may be submitted in English or French. The copyright remains with the author(s). Each paper will be reviewed by the editorial team or an external referee. Contributions can be submitted in Word format to and Further information about the BRIGG papers can be consulted here.
3/2008 (September 2008)
Daniele Marchesi, The Common Foreign and Security Policy in the UN Security Council: Between Representation and Coordination

2/2008 (July 2008)
Sieglinde Gstöhl, ´Patchwork Europe´? The EU´s Representation in International Institutions

1/2008 (July 2008)
Kennedy Graham, Towards a Coherent Regional Institutional Landscape in the United Nations? Implications for Europe


If you want to be kept informed about the latest UNU-CRIS news, please subscribe yourself to the UNU-CRIS RSS Feed.

© 2008 United Nations University - Comparative regional integration studies
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Free Trade Area officially launched for SADC region

This news was too juicy to resist posting, especially as it's coming in the wake of Mbeki's first headache--that of mediator for the Zimbabwe political permafrost...


Free Trade Area officially launched for SADC region
By: Bathandwa Mbola

Johannesburg: The Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states officially launched a Free Trade Area (FTA) for the region at the weekend, ushering in a new era of economic integration.

Launched during the 28th SADC Summit, the agreement ushers in a new era of economic integration and rapid industrialisation of the sub-region through expanded trading opportunities.

Speaking at the official launch, President Thabo Mbeki, who is also the new SADC chairperson, told delegates from SADC member states that the FTA was a collective milestone in the region's ongoing integration programme.

"Today we can say with pride that our collective efforts have borne fruits, and that we have successfully met the objective we set ourselves. Indeed it required hard work, dedication, resolve and an unswerving commitment to mobilise our limited resources so as to meet our objective," President Mbeki said.

With the goal of eliminating tariffs and trade barriers among member countries, the FTA agreement is part of the SADC's ongoing efforts to deepen long-term regional integration with the aim of accelerating economic growth while reducing poverty for the millions of people living on the continent.

By August 2008, producers and consumers would pay no import tariffs on an estimated 85% of all trade on goods in the initial 12 countries, excluding Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who will join the FTA later.

It is expected to create a regional market worth about $360bn, benefiting a total population of 170 million people and includes economies growing by up to 7%.

As the region is about to take on this extensive work programme, President Mbeki told the delegates that they needed to assess how best they could advance the integration effort and the region's trade performance.

He noted that the most serious constraints in growing the region were underdeveloped structures and supply capacity.

As SADC, the President said, the development of infrastructure and supply capacity should be their core priority.

"We must intensify our collective efforts to build and diversify the region's productive capacity to expand the range of products that can be traded."

As we do this, he said the region should continually strive to increase the value addition of those exports.

"In this context, our sectoral work at harmonising regional industrial, agricultural and competition policy should be prioritised as we move forward."

"Cross-border infrastructure development would continue to play an essential role in advancing the integration agenda," he said.

The implementation of the FTA area for the SADC has been a long deliberate process that formally started in 1996 with the signing of the Protocol on Trade, which then entered into force in January 2000.

It was implemented from September the same year following arduous negotiations on the tariff reduction schedules and rules of origin governing that Protocol.

Since then, the liberalisation of tariffs has taken place at different rates.

In general, the developed countries have reduced tariffs at a faster rate. South Africa, Botswana and Namibia removed most tariffs in 2000. Middle income countries such as Mauritius have gradually reduced their tariffs each year between 2000 and 2008.

For least developed countries such as Mozambique and Zambia, tariff reductions have generally been introduced during 2007-2008.

The SADC FTA programme includes establishing a Customs Union by 2010, a Common Market by 2015, a monetary Union by 2016 and a single currency by 2018.

The gains and benefits to be achieved by member states would not be possible otherwise due to the economic size of the countries.

These gains and benefits to be achieved include production, income and employment which would derive from larger economies scale, reallocation and best use of resources.

This is because in a FTA, member states would be able to produce goods and supply them to the larger regional market as opposed to their national markets alone.

The SADC FTA would have far reaching implications for people, companies and the economic process in all member states.

The SADC member states that are to benefit from the FTA are Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Article published courtesy of BuaNews.

[18 Aug 2008 12:10]

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SADC--Mbeki's other Headache: Getting SADC to Get More Proactive on Peacekeeping Force

As if Mbeki doesn't have enough on his plate with issues on Zimbabwe, BusinessDay reports that in the upcoming weekend, SADC ministers will meet to plan for the activation of a SADC regional peacekeeping force, which has already been mooted since August 2007. The objective of the meeting, really, is to brainstorm on how it can begin to deploy on peacekeeping missions.

The meeting in Durban--to be chaired by Angola--will take recommendations for a SADC summit next month when President Mbeki is "expected to take over the chairmanship" of tyhe 14-member SADC from Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.

Discussions are in the offing also on a regional early warning centre that is scheduled for the end of the year.

More importantly however is the significance of this regional standby force.

By 2010, the African Union plans to have completed an African Stanby Force, with regional standby forces for the regional economic communities (RECS). This falls into line with the AU's protocol on peace and security, "

...which required all regional economic communities to have units that fed into the standby army. So far, the Economic Community of West African States is the other regional bloc that has made the most progress.

It's easy to check that. Only in June this year, a training in Bamako for ECOWAS Standby Force -- codenamed "Jigui 2008" took place, with a Malian logistic sub-command; a Nigerian East Sub Command and a Senegalese West sub command, as well as ECOWAS Staff from the Commission in Abuja.

East Africa established its regional peacekeeping force also in August 2007, with IGAD hoping that it might ease the pressure, what with demands for Darfur.

Monday, July 28, 2008

SAARC--What's SAARC Got to do with India's Latest Serial Bombings?

At a time when Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso as ECOWAS neighbours, are meeting as a way of reconciling after tremendous tensions brought about by the September 2002 coup that saw finger-pointing from Ougadougou that its neighbour supported an abortive coup of Burkina Faso in 2003, it remains a great shame that a number of serial bombings would take place in India only over the weekend, prompting fears that it was a "foreign hand", identified as Pakistan.
A very interesting BBC article above chronicles the number of bombings that have taken place since 2005, listingbthe total number of dead as 400!

So, when I ask--despite a one-month hiatus!![mucho apologies!!!]--what SAARC has got to do with it, it is not without reason.

The example of the two ECOWAS neighbours above shows that reconciliation can take place even without the carrot-and-stick of the EU, or any foreign donor, when there is political will. I do not know ebough about the India-Pakistan conflict to offer anything, except to say that I do know their atavistic conflict has scaled down dramatically. Also, given the rise of India, it is a shame for it to be entertaining terrorists or freedom-fighters of any kind that could harm its prospects for growth.

My concern about it all, really, is just because India is big and has clout, is insufficient reason for it to ignore SAARC. SAARC may be going through some existential angst, but as long as the institution is there, India has every reason to pump resources to support its growth--even for its own interest.

The 2-3 August SAARC Summit in Colombo on Food Security, Terrorism and Energy offer an opportunity to do that--as well as put paid to the tensions that exist between itself and Pakistan.

The BBC has been offering the so-called Insider Debate, with the last one (over the weekend) featuring: Jonathan Powell, Martin Griffiths, Alvaro de Soto and Francesc Vendrell, who have all "[b]etween them...negotiated in most of the world's intractable conflicts".

I daresay most of the four who were interviewed would say that "no conflict is insoluble" and that India must continue to talk to Pakistan.

The article maintains that one of the outcomes of the meeting is:

The SAARC Summit is set to adopt four agreements, including SAARC Development Fund (SDF) with a corpus of $307 million, South Asian Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, an agreement on the establishment of the South Asia Regional Standards Organization and a pact for formal entry of Afghanistan into the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

Among the other issues that would be discussed are a fund to manage food crisis, an approach towards SAARC common currency and mechanisms to augment resources in the region to tackle the situation arising out of the fuel price hike.

At the end of the day, for anything concrete to happen, it's about political will. That's the only way of ensuring a progressive perspective on any type of regional integration...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reflections on Regional Integration: Kenichi Ohmae Makes his Stance on Region States

Irishman Eamonn Moran is a nice guy whom I found on facebook last year. He also believes in the power of the State. Back in 2002, when he and I were working as colleagues at a Brussels-based NGO, we had many discussions about neo-liberalism and the role of the State on countering it. His thesis on that genre was a good read. I guess I waxed so lyrical about regional integration that he decided to shut me up by giving me this book, which I have captured in the inset picture. The book in question is Kenichi Ohmae's The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies, which I have only recently begun to read after a good six years!!

In any event, I think it's about time that book featured highly on this blog. The contribution that it offers is as controversial as it is interesting. His stance is clear: he believes the State is being rolled back, and in classic neo-lioberalist theory, he feels that it is a good thing. I am inclined to disagree, but I think it never hurts reading the other side.

So what I've resolved to do is that over the next couple of posts, sprinkle summaries of the chapter of the book, among regular reporting of what's happening in the other regional groupings. To that end, I can offer a perspective that engages in the thinking around the discipline of regional integration.

New trends
The last article hints at a new thinking on regional integration, and I realise the more I read, the more questions arise. These include:

1. Is it possible to conceive of a Committee of Regions à l'Africaine that will cater for the needs of all those regions in Africa?
2. Will twinning African regions help facilitate a more efficient regional integration?
3. Are micro-regions the way to go?
4. How do I reconcile some of the new trends around regional integration with the need to develop the Un Regional commissions?
5. What about my three-tier proposal on regional integration where:

First, there needs to be identification of imperatives of each region. Simply put, what is unique about a particular region that that region can capitalise on to bring to bear in the conception of an AU government? So, we can say, for example, that ECOWAS's sub-regional imperative is that of conflict prevention/resolution /management, given its experience with Liberia/Sierra Leone/and the instrumentality of ECOMOG. SADC's might be a different one; the EAC's might be on, say, regional infrastructure. For example, § A paper from UNU-CRIS cites that: “the AU has been the first regional organization to establish a clear relationship with the UN as it is consciously aspiring to closely coordinate, if not integrate, its mission planning and execution of peace and security action with the prevailing structures/plans of the UN”.

Secondly, there needs to be comparative approaches. By this I mean what best practices are there from each of these regional communities that can best be put to good use in any conception of an AU government? This means that ECOWAS's peacekeeping/peace enforcement wing ECOMOG could be analysed for use in a regional organisation like SAARC that has experienced problems over Kashmir/India and Pakistan. What is it that ECOMOG has been able to do in enforcing peace that SAARC can learn from?

Thirdly, there needs to be collaboration, as exemplified by the donation of $1m by the Arab League to the African Union's peacekeeping forces.

I have further arguments that can be elaborated on in later entries, but for now, these three points remain the crux of my personal vision of an AU government. Even then, ramifications of these elements remain, and can be very much expounded upon.

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Back to Ohmae's point in his introduction, he talks about how the end of history was a false idea, and that the "voiceless" and "invisible"..."have entered with a vengeance, and they have demands--economic demands--to make." The question though is to whom should the demands be made? He believes that people turn to the UN, which is nothing more than "a collection of nation states", but also other regional groupings like OPEC/G7/ASEAN/APEC/NAFTA/EU. For him, all these are nothing more than groupings of nation states.

He wonders whether these actors are truly players in the global economy, by coming up with 4 "i"s:

1. Investment
2. Industry
3. Information Technology
4. Individual Consumers

Along with these 4 I's is the global economy that works very well, thankyou, with them. It probably means, in his view, that "the middleman role of the nation states [is] obsolete". Instead "geographical units", such as Hong Kong, Kansai region, or Catalonia wield more significant power.

Though he believes in the "region states", his port of entry is that nation states--as understood in the traditional Westphalian system" are obsolete, and that they have become "unnatural."

The next couple of chapters promise to be exciting!

Till next time!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Will the Real "Regional Integrationist" Stand Up?

Rare is the "regional integrationist that will not concede defeat against what I consider the Eurocentric paradigm of the EU being the de facto trend-setter of global regional integration. Even more rare is the one that will openly advocate "the possibility of a UN reform in which regional organisations would be given seats in the Security Council along with states."

What is not strange is who is doing the advocating -- none other than Luk Van Langenhove of the United Nations University Comparative Regional Integration Studies [UNU-CRIS]. It is a delicious irony that the Belgian be based at a research institution on regional integration that is also home to one of the most advanced regions in the West--Flanders.

This ostensible little detail about the regions is important, in my view, because as I read the article linked on the UNU-CRIS website, I could not help but mull over the use of the word regions, especially in the context of EU integration.

Langenhove makes an interesting an important point that:

The EU is the world's most advanced form of supranational regionalism. It has managed to develop a model that incorporates political elements in a deep economic integration, and challenges existing assumptions about governance.

This level of sophistication seems to have a lot to do with the EU's Committee of Regions that has played an important role in cementing this so-called "deep economic integration." One website describes the CoR as:

The Committee of Regions is a new advisory body established by the
Maastricht Treaty, to take into account the views of regional and local
government in European decision making. The advisory Committee of Regions is
a compromise between the aspirations of powerful regions in federally
organised member states (such as Germany, Spain and Belgium), which have
long asked for direct influence on EU decision making, and the views of much
more centralised member states (such as the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands)
whose regional governments have only derived powers from a strong central

A very superficial response to the EU's Committee of Regions was to think how one could be replicated elsewhere, say, in the African Union countries, where a number of countries--say many along the West african sub-region--fall under the ambit of regions. In my own country of Ghana, there are no less than ten regions, with regional ministers and district chief executives of those regions. This all for a country of roughly 22 million!

So, I can most definitely conceive of an AU that has a system like the EU's CoR, where regions are twinned and affiliated in a manner that they act as separate entities within the states they are part of.

But the operative word, today, is "states".

Van Langenhove prefaces his article with some history about states and the Westphalian order. As regards the latter, he maintains:

The Westphalian order that emerged in Europe and now spans the world proved to have a stabilising effect, making it difficult to change borders to create bigger units, especially now that war has largely been abandoned as a means of expanding territory. But some existing states are under pressure to split up as a result of nationalism and calls for cultural autonomy.

The alarm bells that the author gives about the stability of the Westphalian system--and how that is is danger is more relevant, because it means that the system is imperfect and can be modified. But does that mean that regions are the answer to resolving those potential dangers?

The author does not go this way in saying the region is a panacea. Rather, he argues that:

I myself believe that an announcement of the "death of the state" is – to paraphrase Mark Twain – gravely exaggerated. In the foreseeable future, states will remain important centres of governance. But in an attempt to face the challenges of globalisation, states can – on a voluntary basis – turn to world and local regions to complement and even strengthen their power. As such, the world of states would gradually become a world of states and of regions.

Regions as Complementary Roles
So, in fact, regions are complements to the nation state--and not substitutes. World and local regions helping to complement and strengthen the power are important in going this way. Note what Van Langenhove says about the EU:

European integration has been accompanied by "de-federalisation": the emergence of sub-national regional governance. The EU is not just a collection of 27 member states; it is also an association of hundreds of local regions. Regions can be found at all territorial levels. One could organise nice academic debates about what a region actually is, but a more pragmatic approach is just to accept the plurality of the concept and focus on what regions are not. They are not sovereign states!

In my own country of Ghana, the Ashanti region--the second biggest region after the Northern region--is renowned for having called for independence from Ghana many years ago. Belgium's own recent troubles that lasted more than six months when the relatively stronger Flanders region wanted to do what looked like a split from Bruxelles-capitale politicking is a testament of the potential divisiveness of ensuring strong regions within states.

States won't disappear
Thing, though, is that states are not going to go away any time soon--neither will regions. Extrapolate this to the international level, and it seems likely that most regional organisations that we know will not go away any time soon either! Rather, I foresee that they will do the natural thing of evolving and transforming into bigger entities, such as ECOWAS Secretariat into an ECOWAS Commission, and the former OAU into the African Union in 2003--very much modelled on a hybrid between the United Nations and the European Union.

That ASEAN now has a charter, where the EU does not is not necessarily an indication of the sophistication of that ten-member grouping, but rather one of the decision to evolve into a more supra-national entity with what is considered legal personality.

These are certainly big ideas coming from a big article, and a lot more could be said. In the interests of time, I will broach this article at another time, for the ideas have tremendous resonance in the regional integration paradigm. That the EU is to play a greater role in the development of regional integration worldwide is a palatable idea.

It is a shame, therefore, to see it using the Economic Partnership Agreements as a stick to disrupt the regional integration initiatives of the AU countries.

Still, Van Langenhove's point here is not to be sneezed at, and I sincerely believe that it is providing the grounds for a critical and progressive look at regional organisation as well:

The multiple world of regions could be a way to replace the illusion of a single national identity with the more realist view that people hold plural regional identities. As such, the world of regions might not only be a more complex world but also one with more chances of peace and freedom. Europe can help to make this challenging vision real.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Africa Unity Day that Wasn’t

By E.K.Bensah II

The last holiday that Ghanaians enjoyed might have gone unnoticed to many in its symbolism purely because they did not understand the significance of it. It is interesting to note on the news wires that even the US government congratulated the African Union(AU) for the celebration of forty-five years of its existence on 25 May. So when in scanning the Ghanaian media, one heard and read almost nothing symbolic about that celebration, it struck me as a worrying trend in our psyche of “Africanness”.

Granted, we do not need a holiday alone to remind ourselves that we are Ghanaian in particular, and Africans in general, but I do wonder whether it animates us sufficiently. For a country that played host to an African Union (AU) summit in June 2007 in the fiftieth anniversary of the country’s history, it is downright unacceptable, in my opinion, that Africa Unity day came and went with a non-existent fanfare.

We can speculate as much as we can—that it is an election year, or that it fell on a Sunday, therefore the media’s antennae were not awakened to the significance of it, and then some. In my view, we have no excuse about the silence, especially at a time when the regional is taking centre stage.

Take the case of Burma and the cyclone that it experienced a few weeks ago. Two weeks ago, British foreign minister and former senior UN official Lord Mark Malloch-Brown toured the region to try to establish whether there could be greater collective Asian/ASEAN response to the disaster. This was important, because the reluctance of the regime suggested that a regional response—translated through the ten-member grouping of the Association of South East Asian countries (ASEAN) – that includes Burma would elicit a more effective response. His efforts proved useful, because ultimately, a Franco-British deal would eventually facilitate ASEAN’s greater role in the disbursement of aid to the victims of the cyclone. All this has come against the backdrop of criticism in some quarters suggesting ASEAN should be disbanded.

One particular article in the *Jakarta Post” entitled “Myanmar disaster challenges ASEAN’s utility” went so far as saying that ASEAN has been lethargic in the manner in which it has been implementing its programmes, including a 2005 Agreement on Disaster Management and Disaster Response that was never signed.

The case is not that much different in this part of the world, where ECOWAS, established since 1975, has, many times, come under some flak for not living up to its agreements. To date, the “real” meaning of ECOWAS integration is debatable, considering the hassles citizens of West Africa—comprising some 230 million—experience traveling through the sub-region.

Food crisis
The challenges notwithstanding, what we can say ECOWAS has done off late is respond regionally to the food crisis that has afflicted much of the developing world.

Last week, the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) agreed to provide $1billion annually to support agricultural productivity in the West Africa sub-region as part of its contribution towards resolving the food crisis. This was part of the outcome of an extraordinary meeting of the regional grouping and their ministers of agriculture, trade and finance. This development has spawned a number of discussions around ECOWAS and the implementation of a common agricultural policy.

Truth be told, it would be as far back as 2005 that the grouping would adopt the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP). Three years later, its implementation remains moot. According to TRADENET website, in Senegal’s attempt to implement ECOWAP, the country begun putting in place a National Programme of Agricultural Investment. The question now is getting the mqjority of ECOWAS countries adopting the policy.

Any regional grouping learns from demands—or imperatives—that are placed on it. This means that when the Liberian conflict broke out in 1990, ECOWAS was compelled to send troops through its peacekeeping/-enforcement wing of ECOMOG. Today the Labadi-based Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Centre(KAIPTCE) is a testament to the ECOWAS imperative of conflict resolution and prevention. I daresay considering earthquake-struck China’s proximity to the ASEAN region, the grouping’s new imperative could be that of disaster management!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Regional Integration Perspectives: Closer Towards an East Asian Community?; AU-GCC FTA in the Offing?

There is some ground-breaking stuff going on in the area of regional integration: no less than the fifty-three member African Union has instituted an audit of its institutions.

It goes without saying that policy without direction is policy in a vaccum. An audit as a self-evaluating and self-monitoring tool can help the AU look deep into itself, and attempt at a resolution of some of the existential angst that it is suffering from. Arguably, one of the biggest of these is the proposed union government that was the subject of debate at the AU summit here in Accra last June.

An article in maintains that according to a report by Regional Economic Development and Integration, debate has been mounting on the appropriate form of a proposed union government. The report went on to say that conclusion on the debate of a formation of a continental government was subject to the finalization of the report.

AU-GCC Pact?
Meawhile, a very short article from points to a desire by the de facto SADC hegemon South Africa to complete an FTA between the AU and the Gulf Cooperation Council. On reading the news, my visceral question was to ascertain since when South Africa had become the spokesperson for the AU; and secondly, was this not a masked desire by the country to itself establish an FTA with the GCC.

Interestingly enough, Pretoria maintains that it is impossible for one to be set up between itself and the country that will host the next session(XIII) of UNCTAD in 2012—Qatar, but one can be arranged between the GCC and the AU.

The reason being that South Africa is a member of a customs union, comprising the so-called BLNS countries (Botswana; Lesotho; Namibia and Swaziland).

Aren’t we going in circles here I wonder? Point is: the AU can set up one with the GCC. Fine, but why does SA have to speak on the 53-member body’s behalf as it did, when the South African Trade minister Mandisi Mpahlwa, speaking on the sidelines of a business forum organized by the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told reporters when prompted by reporters. That in itself raises questions as to why reporters were asking about such an FTA to the country itself? What made them think South Africa would have the answer? Last time I looked, the AU had a Commission, which would take care of such questions!

EAC’s all the rage!
Though it’s been a while since I talked about the five-member regional organization that saw Rwanda and Burundi join its ranks in July last year, this is an EAC of a different kind. We’re talking about the East Asian Community, which has been promoted and promulgated so many times in the ASEAN world it’s no longer funny. ASEAN’s issues with Myanmar notwithstanding, it seems clear that an East Asian Community—probably modeled on the EU and NAFTA—would be a model that could work for the region. I suspect that one that worked like ECOWAS (in whichever form or content it exists) with a commission and commissioners is what might work best. The EU at 27 members seems a tad unwieldy these days, what with its aspirations to have an EU president and all that. Furthermore, with little movement on a referendum, and with ASEAN having adopted a charter where the EU failed, it seems, IMHO, that a hybrid of regional forms is what might best work for the proposed EAC.

But who am I to propose that? After all, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), described as "a key initiative to support the formation of the East Asian Community has received full support from senior government officials in Brunei". This means, in short, that a considerable amount of resources are going to be put its way to chart the course of a putative Asian Community. Note what the article says:

The think tank, which will formally be established this year in Jakarta, will receive Y1 billion from the Japanese government for 10 years, said Hidetoshi.
The think tank will also be publishing 55 volumes of research on all 16 countries in the region soon, said Hidetoshi. Brunei's Centre of Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS), one of the ERIA member research institutes, is involved with over 300 researches in 16 countries, including the 10 Asean countries and its dialogue partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Friday, April 25, 2008

UNCTAD XII Diary: Day 5: Final Outcome--UNCTAD XIII in QATAR!

Final session is being given by UNCTAD official

RESEARCH and ANALYSIS--solid mandate. Conference has reinforced official mandate. Innovative work. Short mandate for UNCTAD. Great. Policy options and independent analysis for developing countries. Significant.

Another area is the...role of trade and development board in conducting policy dialogue...has been retained and reinforced. So UNCTAD will continue with that on the inter-governmental level. Will review some of its flagship documents. Ministerial meeting in Addis Ababa, UNCTAD should have a commission on globalisation; this was a problem for some UNCTAD members...theer will be some discussion on globalisation issues; atr least some compromise.

UNCTAD will have two commissions--one on trade and development and will address any topic that UNCTAD has; second one will be on enterprise development and ?? Multi-yr extract groups. Issues identified by Trade and development board will be taken to the Commissions. Secretariat is still very important.

12.03pm Palestin issue being retained. Slightly problematic yesterday. A rather contentious issue that could have affected outcome. Last few hours, agreed on s.o. that satisfied everyone. UNCTAD continues to support Palestine liberation with technical assistance.

any questions?

YAO GRAHAM: Commissions reduced from Three to two. Commission on enterprise...what are practical implications of having globalisation as standing issue. How will it have a cross-cutting effect on how the Commission does its work? Doesn't strike as a mandate to work, but something to discuss?

RESPONSE: Our view is not the number of commissions that matter; more about what they do. Will feed into general assembly. The proposal by Africa group to have one on globalisation is not because we do not, but there will be continuous work on it.  Partly political, partly practical. Every year, we will have to prepare a background document on a specific area of globalisation.

EKB: my questions are answered below:

WORLD INVESTMENT REPORT--continued interaction with private sector. Outcome emphasises UNCTAD working with civil society and private sector

COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY--there was a paragraph in the document that referred to that.

Jo Butler speaks @ 12.13pm--Irish government provided minimum transportation and living costs. WIll try and get funding in future to go to Geneva. Commend the document. We are very pleased we have an accord. It is a good accord. Everyone will find something missing. Can be built upon the next four years.

In SAO PAOLO(UNCTAD XI), we can say it is Sao Paolo plus. WE will still have hearings once a year in context of trade and devt board; will also ensure civil society is part and parcel...CS needs to be heard, and member states need to be advised on how to be prioritised. Having a hearing once a year whereby civil society comes to Geneva is certainlhy not enough. Need to know that CSOs are an integral part. Ideas and suggestions forward so that work can be realised.

CHALLENGES IN ACCRA: we can congratulate Ghanaian govt to having sacrificed much to pass it over. Constraints to documentation. Let us not have Ghanaian govt to make one million copies, etc. Lots of statements would be avaliable on the Web. Happy to send statements through the mail. We try to take an attitude to constraint and restraint. If you heard speech on Monday and did not get it, probably because we did not have it.

HOTEL ACCOMMODATION; ensuring that all participants had a suitable room was responsibility of host, but we had to be creative by checking homes, apartments, etc. To that end, team came THREE weeks in advance. Happy to answer any questions. 12.19pm.

INTERACTIVITY--everyone wants to be heard. Panellists to a minimum and interactivity to the highest leevl, but when you have so many coming from afar, they want to be heard! For the future, going beyond read statements. The ACCRA Accord does not stop here. It is a work in progress. How we implement mandates in next four years matter.

Look forward to hearing from you in the future.

YAO GRAHAM: we will put together a report about the forum to put on the website. We have compiled a list of participants. Some registered but did not turn up. UNCTAD also haas its own lists. Have had a summary of some events and that will all go up. We can optimise the amount of information. We have a common interest,. That networking part is where we have a responsibility. Just last word on the costs, some brought by UNCTAD, daily amount not enough for costs. Some future work for the UN and their data. Hotels are expensive in Accra.

Let me say here on behalf of the African participants, there is a pattern. Very little African representation. Certainly more than in Sao Paolo. Next meeting in QATAR , challenge. Prices went through the roof in Doha 2001, let alone in 2012, UNCTAD XII. Nothing more to say. Just again to thank you for your forbearance.

Thankyou all very much; have a safe journey back home.

done @ 12.27pm (uneditted)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Re: Briefing of UNCTAD XII Negotiations--The Killing of UNCTAD?

6.04pm--UNCTAD does not have an effective communications strategy (what does that mean?)

missed quite a bit, but interventions should seek to clarify some of that which I missed.

here goes.

6.05pm SESSION ON COMMODITIES, where developed countries wanted to push commodities on the shoulder of national govts. Last night, issue not resolved. Can you help on that? If not, how. Commodities are coming up strongly.

Secondly, can you explain what are the different groupings--and who was part of it.

THIRDLY--Strengthening of UNCTAD. How contentious an issue do you see this point where CSOs are pushing the strengthening of UNCTAD, thank you.

I would like to know the main reason why US and other countries want to abolish the policy...commissions? of unctad.

INTERVENTION--possibility of UNCTAD in the field. What is your view..why is it impt to have business at UNCTAD? what is motive of proposal? does UNCTAD have a mandate on???


6.08pm. On commodities, there are about three or four issues that they are trying to come up with. One on commodities ; One on Palestine. Third one is on unilateral sanctions on Cuba. They are still working on them. By eight o'clock, it would have been finalised. Different groupings--changes over the years. There are about one hundred and seventy-four countries, including China. Latin America, Caribbean, Asia, Africa. Then ofcourse, the EU, with its twenty-seven countries. Former soviet countries, etc. Then there is the loose grouping--Japan, the US, Norway, Australia; New Zealand, Japan. They do not always coordinate. This is the tradition in UNCTAD.

On the commission, this is contentious issue--for about three of five months. Official line is that they believe that the commissions do not add value in terms of policy. Many experts do not come from developing countries. Reps from member states of Geneva. They are the ones that attend and they sit there going through the same issues, etc. Also, to add value, the commissions have to come up with recommendations. At unctad, we work on consensus; the commission ends up coming up with a few conclusions and most of the time, the developing countries block it. This goes to trade and development board. It does not add up to anything...

Recently, Brazil and India have used language from UNCTAD forum to make case at WTO dispute settlement. Big countries cannot object to such language...there is that aspect as well. The time they spend debating with other countries should be addressed elsewhere

UNCTAD in the field--again tradition in core area, which is research and analysis. This is where it has been strong...we are very proud to come up with ideas that challenge...This is what has made UNCTAD different from the past. Some members think this is not helpful. They want UNCTAD more on technical cooperation; more capacity-building. Non-resident agencies; no presence in countries--c.f. imf/wb

EVALUATION--we have a mandate on regional groupings...usually, we work on agreements. We do for example assessments on services at the WTO...sometimes preparing position on working parties, etc...

NEXT ROUND OF QUESTIONS: if no more questions, we thank spokesperson from conference. THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH session is ended @ 6.17pm

--editted@6.26pm Accra time--GMT

Briefing of UNCTAD XII Negotiations--The Killing of UNCTAD?

6.04pm--UNCTAD does not have an effective communications strategy (what does that mean?)

missed quite a bit, but interventions should seek to clarify some of that which I missed.

here goes.

6.05pm SESSION ON COMMODITIES, where developed countries wanted to push commodities on the shoulder of national govts. Last night, issue not resolved. Can you help on that? If not, how. Commodities are coming up strongly.

Secondly, can you explain what are the different groupings--and who was part of it.

THIRDLY--Strengthening of UNCTAD. How contentious an issue do you see this point where CSOs are pushing the strengthening of UNCTAD, thank you.

I would like to know the main reason why US and other countries want to abolish the policy...commissions? of unctad.

INTERVENTION--possibility of UNCTAD in the field. What is your view..why is it impt to have business at UNCTAD? what is motive of proposal? does UNCTAD have a mandate on???


6.08pm. On commodities, there are about three or four issues that they are trying to come up with. One on commodities ; One on Palestine. Third one is on unilateral sanctions on Cuba. They are still working on them. By eight o'clock, it would have been finalised. Different groupings--changes over the years. There are about one hundred and seventy-four countries, including China. Latin America, Caribbean, Asia, Africa. Then ofcourse, the EU, with its twenty-seven countries. Former soviet countries, etc. Then there is the loose grouping--Japan, the US, Norway, Australia; New Zealand, Japan. They do not always coordinate. This is the tradition in UNCTAD.

On the commission, this is contentious issue--for about three of five months. Official line is that they believe that the commissions do not add value in terms of policy. Many experts do not come from developing countries. Reps from member states of Geneva. They are the ones that attend and they sit there going through the same issues, etc. Also, to add value, the commissions have to come up with recommendations. At unctad, we work on consensus; the commission ends up coming up with a few conclusions and most of the time, the developing countries block it. This goes to trade and development board. It does not add up to anything...

Recently, Brazil and India have used language from UNCTAD forum to make case at WTO dispute settlement. Big countries cannot object to such language...there is that aspect as well. The time they spend debating with other countries should be addressed elsewhere

UNCTAD in the field--again tradition in core area, which is research and analysis. This is where it has been strong...we are very proud to come up with ideas that challenge...This is what has made UNCTAD different from the past. Some members think this is not helpful. They want UNCTAD more on technical cooperation; more capacity-building. Non-resident agencies; no presence in countries--c.f. imf/wb

EVALUATION--we have a mandate on regional groupings...usually, we work on agreements. We do for example assessments on services at the WTO...sometimes preparing position on working parties, etc...

NEXT ROUND OF QUESTIONS: if no more questions, we thank spokesperson from conference. THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH session is ended @ 6.17pm

--editted@6.26pm Accra time--GMT

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Piece on UNCTAD for Ghana's only Sunday Newspaper Sunday World

EVERY four years since 1964 when it was established, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been holding its highest level meeting, where member States make assessments and reviews of current trade and development issues, discuss policy options and formulate global policy responses. The conference also sets the organization's mandate and work priorities.
UNCTAD is in fact an organ of the UN's General Assembly, and seeks to add value by enabling intergovernmental agencies arrive at a consensus regarding the state of the world economy. The last time an UNCTAD conference was held in Africa was in 1996, when it was hosted by the South African government under UNCTAD IX. This year, it is back in Africa-specifically Ghana, where the 12th session of UNCTAD is to take place.

The theme of UNCTAD XII is "Addressing the Opportunities and Challenges for Development" , and comes at what some might consider an appropriate time when the global economy is beset with a number of significant challenges-as exemplified by the rising prices of food stuff, which has been triggered by the interest by the West in bio-fuels; as well as the impact of the US's sub- prime mortgage crisis that saw poor people in America being given loans they were unable to pay back, triggering a crisis of confidence in the credit markets.

The ramifications of these two events have stretched far and wide to even Europe, where not only has the British-based Northern Rock collapsed, triggering its nationalization by the Brown government, but there have been instances of riots in countries as far apart as Haiti, d'Ivoire and Senegal. Against backdrop, it might seem difficult reconcile the fact that there is a commodity boom.

Put into context, these elements an apparent commodity boom, in foodstuffs and general malaise he global economy point to a globalization that continues to create opportunities and challenges. stands to reason that because of civil society organizations (CSOs) particularly keen to make an impact in the outcome of the conference. One way of doing so is at the Society Forum that will take place from 17-19 April in Accra before conference. CSO Forums not new practice
Parallel civil society forums for many years been an important component of UN conferences. Accra conferencee is no exception. civil society, the primary concern bringing collective energies to from all the participants to finalize the civil society statement that be delivered at the opening plenary of the main conference.

Even before the conference, society has already initiated activities that will seek to influence outcome of UNCTAD XII-as exemplified by the many workshops, seminars and forums that will take place in those three days. The tradition has been for CSOs-which incidentally include the media-to unite around common positions that are enshrined in a Declaration that is formally presented to the UNCTAD conference. Here in Accra, the collective statement will be finalized during the 17-19 period. For this reason, the drafting process was started ahead of time so as to ensure the broadest possibilities to input into it.

As for the main conference, the main theme has been framed in a way as to invite Ministers to identify the changes that need to be made to tackle the challenges around globalization, as well as capitalize on the attendant opportunities.

According to one Ambassador Stepenson's outlines on the UNCTAD website, the first sub-theme invites a discussion on how to continue to enhance policy coherence at all levels, including global, regional, bilateral and national.

The second involves examining the new policy environment and how new realities-such as terrorism and climate change-are affecting strategies for the promotion of development; the third is more proactive in the way it which it invites action on enhancing the enabling environment at all levels. Finally, sub-theme four focuses on how to strengthen UNCTAD by enhancing its development role, impact and institutional effectiveness.

In fact, for Ghanaians, the role of UNCTAD might hold resonance not just because there is a general impression that many Ghanaians are unaware of this forty-four -year old UN agency, and therefore a better appreciation

of it can be obtained here at the CSO Forum, but also because there has been a lot of talk about the WTO and its influence of developing countries, including Ghana, but rarely has there been an understanding of how a countervailing influence it can represent to the neoliberalism enshrined in the WTO, where trade matters above all else.

UNCI'AD's edge over the WTO is in the manner in which it consistently undertakes research, policy analysis and data collection for the debates of government representatives and experts. Furthermore, it offers technical assistance that is specific to the needs of developing countries. In the last Trade and

Development Report on regional integration for example, UNCTAD talked about the need for developing countries to be given policy space to develop their own regional integration, simultaneously castigating the offensive launched by the West against poor countries and the tremendous pressure they are often under to sign FfAs.

Regrettably, the report went little-noticed among many Ghanaians. UNCI'AD XII is an opportunity to make a loud noise and re-dress constructive and proactive debates on the imbalance that has been created by forces greater than that of poor countries.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ASEAN/SAARC Integration Gospel, according to The Economist

You have got to give it to the Economist. Once it propounds theories on regional integration, people are bound to listen. It hasn't been in this business of writing and influencing for almost two centuries for nothing. But that has got to change.

On issues of regional integration, people are getting smart, and being more discerning. Old attitudes that seek to see the EU as the precursor of regional integration everywhere, or those that seek to perpetuate the idea that it is because of countries against each other that cause the fragmentation of regional block are not quite fading into insignificance, but fading...somewhere!

Whilst there is some truth to these ideas, it's always important to look beneath the surface.

The Economist sadly, in its latest article looking at ASEAN, fails to do so. In my view, any generalist on regional integration could have come up with the view.

It starts off by saying all that we know: "The European Union has plenty of critics".

By gum, surely a secondary school leaver could have come up with that!

Then it goes on:

"For Asian leaders who seek greater regional integration across the continent, however, the EU surely provides at least a distant goal, if not a model. But time spent in Brussels talking to officials at the European Commission about the EU’s relations with Asia highlights the gap between the EU and its nearest Asian equivalents"

Let me not begin to presume that I am cognisant of the discussions that transpired between EU officials, but I can say authoritatively that this post goes to fly in the face of the Economist magazine's claim. In that article, EU officials from the 28th session of the Inter-Parliamentary ASEAN Assembly were claiming that ASEAN's model was a commendable one. They went on:

"We have good relations and strong economic links. The EU is a large investor and we create a lot of trade in Asean and vice-versa."

2. "Apart from having a common economic interest, our regional cooperation is the most advanced and successful in the world,"

3. "Until last year AIPA was still called the Parliamentary Organisation. It stresses parliamentary influence in Asean just like the European parliament"

Clearly, saying that there is work to be done does not discount the commendable nature of the organisation that is ASEAN, but in my view, the Economist should not go away making readers feel that ASEAN is clamoring to be like the EU--otherwise the ASEAN Charter would not have been passed!

Still, it is interesting to note that the article talks about war having been fought among the current 27-member-strong EU several decades ago, so why does it feel that if there are issues between India and Pakistan in SAARC over Kashmir, the two countries cannot sort it out? It writes:

In comparison, the two big Asian integrative ventures—the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC)—are puny striplings.

ASEAN has at least achieved the first aim. Formed in 1967, just after a period of “confrontation”, just short of war, between Indonesia and Malaysia, it has made armed conflict between its members (now ten of them) seem very unlikely.

SAARC is not even there yet. It is riven by bloody internal conflicts in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and a dormant but unresolved dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan that has sparked three wars in the past. A regional conflagration, sadly, cannot be ruled out.

In Brussels, SAARC hardly gets a mention. This is not just because its contribution to regional integration is so inchoate. It is also because, within South Asia, India physically, politically and economically dwarfs its neighbours.

This reference to India/Pakistan is a development that needs must be talked about in discussions over any SAARC integration, but I would have assumed the esteemed magazine to have elaborated a bit more than the sentiment that things can turn into a "regional conflagration."

It is fair to say that integration in SAARC is slow and, well, very slow, but it is important to put things into perspective. SAARC and the EU are far from comparable. EU and ASEAN, yes, but SAARC and EU, no!

I like the fact that the Economist has woven a news story of the EU wanting an FTA with India and ASEAN around this piece, but it has done some selective interpretation of the story, in my view, to underscore how formidably efficient the EU is--and, frankly, that's not on.

Sure, the EU had problems with Burma, but let's face it, ASEAN has not kicked that country out. The ASEAN Charter is a reality and Burma does not look to be going anywhere!

It is true that the Charter might have issues on voting; and the beefing up of the Secretariat, inter alia (note that ECOWAS without a charter transformed into a Commission so as to become more "efficient"), but it is not as if ASEAN will do it today is it?

Even the much-maligned African Union has moved away from the doctrine of non-interference, albeit slowly. ASEAN will go that way some day.

In my view, it's all about shades of gray.

It is important to talk about SAARC and how it can be helped, but the EU, I suspect, knows that it because it has preferential relations with the India (a rather dominant figure within SAARC), the organisation can probably go fish.

I suspect further that any greater proactiveness by India within SAARC might go to ruffle the EU's growing feathers.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging

Oh the tomes! The tomes I have written in my head, and in my heart. Not to forget on paper, as well!;-)
Regrettably, the proverbial refrain of work has hit -- truly, madly, and deeply. And rather intensely.
As such, blogging has been light, and promises to be for the next w eek or so. Please bear with me.
I am still around!
Enjoy the weekend,
Keep safe. Keep cool.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Expansion, ECOBANK-Style

For a bank whose genesis is West African, it strikes as rather odd that a bank with the pedigree of ECOBANK would now only in 2008 be opening in the West African country of Gambia.

The news that it has joined the ranks of ECOWAS countres in which ECOBANK operates is great news. ECOBANK now covers all of the ECOWAS countries, reminding us first of its West African roots and, secondly, underscoring the importance of the its expansion into the eponymous role of a "Pan-African Bank".

One of ECOBANK's major tactics is in the acquisition of percentages of the banks in which it now operates. Speaking of which, let us remind ourselves that ECOBANK continues to expand --as exemplified by Ecobank's acquisition of 75% of no less than the East African Building Society Building.

The script runs that ECOBANK has a comparative advantage in mortgage financing, therefore this takeover is both useful in expanding respective portfolios and consolidatiung expertise.

Rememeber when ECOBANK opened a branch in Rwanda? I wondered whether this was carte blanche for the group's entry into East Africa? Well, it's a foregone conclusion now!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

This is the Way Regional Governance Should be Done

In my first Reflections on Regional Integration last year, I mentioned the importance of UN regional commissions playing a greater role in so-called regional governance--whatever form it may be expressed in. In my view, it is about the beginning of a harmonisation process between the regional organisations and the UN, which is so badly-needed.

It is therefore great stuff to read that the West African sub-regional grouping of ECOWAS is seeking to collaborate with the UN's regional commission on Africa, that is better known as UNECA.

Tongues have wagged between the head of these two organisations--Chambas and A Janneh, and it has become clear that they have

reiterated their determination to strengthen the existing partnership between their organisations, with the objective of consolidating the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the building bloc for Africa's integration.

We hear so much about the RECS and the RIAs, which are interchangeable terms to describe the regional groupings in their personality as economic entities, that if we are not carefu, we run the risk of being caughtnapping if we don't synergise. And when I talk about "we", I am referring to both citizens and policy-makers.

In my view, any arrangement of this sort that deflects attention away from the work of the UN should revise its note on the work that it does.

While talk is cheap, it is also an expensive enbdeavour for regional organisations to ignore the UN's regional commissions in the pursuit of what often looks like narrow-focused economic ones, which do not necessarily add value to the policies of the region.

That the ECA is intent on supporting ECOWAS towards the realisation nof a Strategic Vision adopted by ECOWAS Heads of State is a good start towards fostering a progressive look at regional integration--the way it should be done!