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    "Trade Justice" Network for 16 African Countries

     

     
     
    International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2007, © International Trade Centre

    Civil society can help trade negotiators take more development-oriented positions in trade talks.

    Civil society, including women's organizations and the media, can help Africa's quest for an equitable world trading system, said participants from these institutions at a workshop of the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme (JITAP) in Accra, Ghana.

    In November 2006, representatives from 16 countries in Africa discussed the development impact of issues on the World Trade Organization negotiating table. Experts from ITC, UNCTAD and WTO provided analysis and information on the status of Doha Development Agenda talks.

    As a result of discussions, participants decided to create a pan-African network on trade and development for civil society organizations (CSOs). They mandated its creation to the President of the Mouvement National des Consommateurs (national consumers' movement) of Cameroon.

    Research and advocacy



    Civil society organizations can take an active role in trade negotiations by producing research papers to bolster negotiations. In parallel, African media needs to report accurately on trade, explain the issues involved in negotiations and feed back to negotiators the views of people whose lives are affected.

    Seth Evans Addo, Chief Director of Ghana's Ministry of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development & President's Special Initiatives, stressed that media and CSOs must advocate for development. "With international trade affecting the lives of our people," he said, "the African media cannot, and should not, take a back seat in issues related to the global trading system."

    "Civil society organizations are instrumental in bringing about change in many areas of trade, economic and social activities through campaigns, lobbying and dissemination of information," Mr Addo added, and they "should seek an active participation in the activities of the WTO with a view to bring 'trade justice' and not to dismantle the process."

    Most African CSOs face challenges to taking part in trade debates, including lack of information on the world trading system, little knowledge of concepts and terms used in WTO negotiations and limited ability to analyse the impact of trade negotiations.

    To overcome these challenges, participants agreed that CSOs and media should become full members of their national Inter-Institutional Committees, set up under JITAP, which are responsible for coordinating national negotiating positions at the WTO. They can contribute to the Committees' work and be updated on the state-of-play of negotiations.

    In 2007, JITAP is organizing an "open-door week" on the multilateral trading system for national information points and others involved in trade talks in each partner country to enhance information dissemination on WTO issues.

    For more information, contactRoswitha Franz, ITC, JITAP Focal Point Adviser,  orAbdelkrim Ben Fadhl, JITAP Coordinator.