UNCTAD workshop on the teaching and research of Economic and Legal Aspects of International Investment Agreements 10-14 November 2008 Kampala, Uganda
Vlasta Macku, Chief, UNCTAD Virtual Institute Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues, I wish you a warm welcome to this opening ceremony of the Workshop on the teaching and research of economic and legal aspects of international investment agreements, organized by the UNCTAD Virtual Institute, in cooperation with UNCTAD's Investment Division. It is my special honour and pleasure to have with us today a representative of the government of Finland, one of the two donors that have made the organization of this workshop possible, along with the Government of Spain. We are also most grateful to the Makerere University Business School, a member of the Virtual Institute, for their cooperation in the organization of this event, and to our sister organization UNDP for their most efficient logistical support to our workshop. Let me briefly highlight first why we have decided to hold a workshop on this topic foreign direct investment – and, second, why we have decided to hold a workshop for academics. Foreign direct investment, or FDI, along with other capital flows and trade, is at the heart of today's economic linkages between economies. Since the 1980s, many countries opened up to foreign investors and have been making strong efforts to promote themselves as good locations for investments by transnational corporations - those companies that invest abroad. On one side, mainstream economics suggests that particularly developing countries, which currently account for about 30 per cent of world investment flows, are well placed to benefit from FDI - in terms of increased employment, exports and efficiency, and strengthening of their technological base and comparative advantages. On the other side, however, there are concerns about social and environmental implications of foreign direct investment, as well as repatriation of profits into the home country. As developing countries are interested in FDI's contribution to economic growth and poverty reduction, and the logic of private enterprise is to generate profit, beneficial effects of FDI are not guaranteed. Policymakers, as well as researchers should thus put FDI issues high on their agendas, looking into questions, such as: Which types of foreign direct investments are beneficial? What policies enhance positive effects? How to avoid pitfalls? Do investment incentives matter in attracting FDI? Should countries conclude international investment agreements which protect foreign investment if they wish to attract more investors? As you will see throughout the workshop and also based on your own research and practical work, there are not always clear-cut answers to these questions…. The objective of this particular workshop therefore is not to provide such answers but rather to enhance the understanding of FDI issues based on facts, figures, cases and experiences, to look at methods that could be used in FDI analysis, and finally, to bring together academics and policymakers for a joint reflection on FDI and development.
Let me now turn to the second question that I have raised: Why have we decided to hold a workshop for academia? It is because we believe that that tertiary education and research institutions in developing countries play an important role in building the necessary knowledge and skills on trade, investment and development issues by educating national decision-makers so that they are equipped to analyze issues at stake and formulate appropriate policies. We also believe that it is important for developing countries to have academic programmes in this area that are grounded in local realities and mostly, if not entirely, delivered by academics and experts of the countries concerned. At the same time, economic and trade analyses delivered by local researchers knowledgeable of the situation in their countries can be very useful in informing economic policy decisions and contributing to policymaking processes in their countries. It is for these reasons that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which is the focal point in the United Nations system for questions related to trade, finance, investment, technology, and their links with development, decided to set up a special programme for academic and research institutions - the UNCTAD Virtual Institute. The purpose of the Virtual Institute is to help developing country universities strengthen their teaching and research of trade, investment and development issues. We also encourage policy-oriented research and promote dialogue between policymakers and academia in order to enhance the practical impact of academic work. We work with universities on a membership basis and in the framework of a longterm relationship. The Virtual Institute currently has 28 core university members, and 15 more universities affiliated to us as members of national networks in participating countries. Nine of these members - the University of Dar-es-Salaam, University of Dakar, University of Pretoria, Stellenbosch University, Eduardo Mondlane University, University of Mauritius, Cairo University, the Makerere University Business School and the University of Nairobi come from Africa. The Virtual Institute supports academia in several ways. First, we provide curricular advice and topical teaching materials which have been prepared specifically for the university context. We have developed materials on economic and legal aspects of foreign direct investment, commodities production and trade, competitiveness and development, trade and poverty, regional trade agreements, transfer of technology, and tools and methods for the analysis of trade and trade policies. We also support our member universities in their efforts to adapt these generic teaching materials to the context of their countries - by adding chapters and data and sometimes translating the material into their languages. The Virtual Institute supplies publications for members’ libraries and maintains an online library of trade-related studies and reports on our website. Second, we provide developing country academics with opportunities to develop and update their skills in specific areas of their interest – through professional development workshops like the one you are attending, and through mentored research fellowship at UNCTAD. Third, at times, the Virtual Institute offers training and opportunities for interaction with Geneva-based experts to graduate students of our member universities - either by organizing tailored short-term training programmes for them at Geneva-based international
organizations in the framework of Virtual Institute study tours, or through videoconference presentations of UNCTAD flagship reports - the Trade and Development Report and the World Investment Report. Fourth, we facilitate exchanges and cooperation among our member universities through network meetings and mentored joint projects in the area of research, development of teaching materials and professional development. A number of these services and activities are of course subject to the availability donor funding and I would therefore once more like to express our thanks to the governments of Spain and Finland for their generous support to the Virtual Institute. In addition to universities as institutions, there is also a possibility for individual researchers or lecturers to become associate members of the Virtual Institute. Associate members can benefit from access to new trade-related publications by UNCTAD or our partners, such as the World Trade Organization, the UN regional commissions, or the World Bank; information about courses and workshops on trade and development issues and calls for proposals regarding research in this area. They also receive a quarterly Virtual Institute newsletter with information about new teaching resources and interesting web links. You can find more information about the Virtual Institute on our website http://vi.unctad.org. The workshop that we are opening today aims to provide both you and us with an opportunity to share and discuss our work, be it the Virtual Institute training material on International Investment Agreements, our UNCTAD colleagues’ analytical work on these issues or projects that you have yourselves undertaken or would like to undertake in this area. I would here like to thank our presenters and facilitators, namely Zbigniew Zimny and Thomas Westcott, as well as my Virtual Institute colleague Joseph Clements, for all the work that they have done on the preparation of this workshop. I am also very happy to be able to welcome you, academics from Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – some old friends who know us from previous activities and some hopefully friends to become. We are also very pleased to have with us representatives of several participants’ countries, a sign of their interest in both academic and research programmes, and the recognition of importance of foreign direct investment issues for their economies. We do hope that this workshop will provide you with some new angles and insights into the FDI issues and that you will consequently be able to use some of the materials and knowledge in the courses that you are or will be teaching at your respective universities. It is also our hope that the discussions with our resource persons and your peers from other African academic and research institutions will spur ideas useful for your own research in this area. And finally, you may wish to use the workshop as an opportunity to network with other colleagues, share ideas with each other and perhaps create cooperative links for your future work, and if interest, explore possible avenues for cooperation with UNCTAD. And now, I think, there is nothing more left than to wish you an interesting, stimulating and productive week. Thank you for your attention.