UNCTAD Virtual Institute - IIA Section

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					    UNCTAD workshop on the teaching and research of Trade and Poverty
        for academics from the Least Developed Countries in Africa
                          19-23 November 2007
                         Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

                                 Speaking Notes
                By 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 Trade and Poverty, organized by the UNCTAD Virtual Institute
and the Division for Africa and LDCs, in cooperation with the Trade Division of UNCTAD.
It is my special honour and pleasure to have with us today the representatives of the two
donors that have made the organization of this workshop possible – the governments of
Norway and Finland. We are also most grateful to the University of Dar-es-Salaam, one of
the founding members 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 -
the relationship between trade, economic growth and poverty reduction – and, second, why
we have decided to have a workshop for academics.

        In the 1980s and 1990s, the development policy of both developing countries and
their development partners was strongly influenced by structural adjustment programmes
and enhanced structural adjustment programmes. As the evaluation of these programmes
has shown that they have rarely reduced poverty, the international community concluded
that poverty reduction deserved a special attention and emphasis. In the late 1990s, the
International Financial Institutions decided to shift their focus from structural adjustment
to poverty reduction strategies and in 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit
reaffirmed the commitment to poverty reduction, together with other important
development objectives.

               The focus on poverty reduction has led to a situation where many economic
and social policies are now evaluated against their positive or negative impact on poverty.
This is true for health and education policies, as well as investment or trade policies. In the
context of the multilateral trade negotiations, we have seen an increasing number of models
and studies which have highlighted the positive effects that trade liberalization can have on
trade performance, economic growth and ultimately on poverty reduction. At the same time,
however, empirical evidence show hat these positive links are by no means automatic. Some
countries have liberalized their trade regime but have not benefited from an improved trade
performance or economic growth; others that have benefited from an improved trade
performance or economic growth have not seen concomitant poverty reduction.

       It is for these reasons that we have we decided to focus our workshop on trade and
poverty. Poverty reduction is an important development objective and trade is viewed as an
important mean towards the attainment of this objective. In this context, the workshop will
discuss both theories and evidence on the relationship between trade and poverty.
Furthermore, it will look into the ways in which data and analytical tools may be used to
analyze the trade-poverty relationship. An finally, the workshop will highlight that the
relationship between these two variables is not automatic, but that it can be strengthened
through appropriate policies at the national and international levels.

        Let me now turn to the second question that I have raised: Why have we decided to
hold a workshop for academia? Developing countries face a number of constraints that affect
their capacity to utilize the opportunities of trade for economic growth, development and
poverty reduction. Lack of knowledge and skills is one such constraint; ensuring that trade
policies are development friendly and adapted to local conditions is another. In this context,
we believe that tertiary education and research institutions play an important role in
building the necessary knowledge and skills by educating their countries’ decision-makers
on trade and development issues. 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 these 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, through capacity building and networking
activities, to help developing countries strengthen teaching and research of trade and
development issues. The Virtual Institute supports academia in several ways.

        First, it provides them with up-to-date and topical teaching materials, some of which,
such as the material for this workshop, have been prepared specifically for the university
context. We have also developed materials on economic and legal aspects of foreign direct
investment, commodities production and trade, competitiveness and development, and are in
the process of finalizing materials on regional trade agreements, transfer of technology, and
a manual on tools and methods for the analysis of trade and trade policies. Second, we
provide developing country academics with opportunities to develop and update their skills
in specific areas of their interest – through professional development workshops and
through research fellowship at UNCTAD.

        Third, the Virtual Institute offers curricular advice on trade-related academic
programmes, and support to their delivery – either by supplying lecturers or organizing
tailored short-term training programmes for Masters students from developing country
universities at Geneva-based international organizations in the framework of Virtual
Institute study tours. Fourth, it facilitates exchanges among universities and works to build
a community of practice in trade teaching and research. And finally, we have been
encouraging policy-focused research and promoting dialogue between the trade policy
community and academia in order to enhance the practical impact of academic work. You
will be exposed to some of these activities during the workshop for which we have gathered
here today. A number of them are of course subject to the availability donor funding and I
would therefore once more like to express our thanks to the governments of Norway and
Finland for their generous support to Virtual Institute’s activities.



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       The Virtual Institute works with universities on a membership basis and in the
framework of a longer-term relationship. We have currently 21 core university members,
and 12 more universities affiliated to us as members of national networks in participating
countries. Our members come from all the continents, including Africa where we have 6
members - the University of Dar-es-Salaam, University of Dakar, University of Pretoria,
Eduardo Mondlane University, University of Mauritius and the Cairo University.
Additionally, we are currently discussing membership with Uganda.

        There is also a possibility for individual researchers or lecturers to become associate
members of the Virtual Institute. Associate members can benefit from information about and
access to new trade-related publications by UNCTAD or our partners, such as the World
Trade Organization or the UN regional commissions; 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, interesting web links, and activities of the Virtual Institute and its
members. You can find more information and updates 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
trade and poverty, 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 UNCTAD presenters and facilitators, namely Massi Sahami and Michael Herrmann
from the Division for Africa and Least Developed Countries, Lucian Cernat from the Trade
Division and my own colleagues from the Virtual Institute, Cora Mezger and 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 Benin, Cameroon, Kenya,
Lesotho, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe –
some old friends who know us from previous activities and some hopefully friends to become
- as participants and resource persons of this workshop. 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 trade and poverty
issues for their economies.

        Over the next few days you will attend a programme covering various facets of the
interrelationship between trade and poverty and debate trade-poverty concepts and research
methodologies, as well as policies aiming to maximize the pro-poor impact of trade. We do
hope that this workshop will provide you with some new angles and insights into the trade
and poverty 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 UNCTAD experts, invited speakers 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.




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