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Building trade and environment skills

An african village

The enhanced globalization of trade and investment flows offers opportunities, but also poses challenges to many developing countries and transition economies at the interface of trade, environment and development. Contributing to identifying and harnessing realistic win-win-win options on environmental, social and economic issues is the key added value of the CBTF.

Learning by doing and international dialogue can increase negotiating expertise and policy decisions.

Hussein Abaza, UNEP, and Ulrich Hoffmann, UNCTAD

Launched in 2000, the UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity Building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development (CBTF) is a collaborative initiative between UNEP and UNCTAD. Created in response to requests by governments, its main objective is to provide support to countries in pursuit of national sustainable development and poverty reduction goals.

Its cooperation with the WTO, other UN agencies, interested governments, inter-governmental organizations and NGOs, CBTF provides a flexible framework for this work. CBTF thematic research and country projects provide for self-initiated learning by doing. Policy dialogue and networking reinforce the learning process by allowing CBTF beneficiaries to exchange ideas, experiences and perspectives and to develop partnerships for sharing and passing on expertise.

Over 1,000 policymakers and negotiators have benefited from capacity-building workshops and seminars mainly focusing on key trade and environment issues including those being discussed at the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE). These include six workshops in Asia, six in Latin America and the Caribbean, ten seminars in Africa and advisory missions to five more countries.

Among current projects, CBTF is building national capacities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to promote production and trade of organic agriculture.

As part of this East African Initiative on Organic Agriculture (OA) a final draft of an East African Organic Standard (EAOS) has been submitted to the East African Council for formal approval. Once approved, EAOS will be the first regional OA standard of developing countries , which was also developed through an in-depth process of public-private partnership. The EAOS will help boost organic production and trade by enhancing market access for regional trade among East African countries and to oversees markets, in particular the EU market. Three country projects aimed at assisting policy makers to integrate trade, environmental, and social considerations into policies that affect OA are being implemented by national teams lead by government agencies.

CBTF is also strengthening national capacities to undertake wildlife trade reviews in four countries (Madagascar, Nicaragua, Uganda and Vietnam) in collaboration with CITES and the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of Development Studies (IUED). This Initiative is the first global response to CITES Parties' call for support in reviewing their wildlife trade policies.

The UNEP-UNCTAD CBTF is carrying out four pilot projects to enable countries to analyse and implement wildlife trade policy.

It is estimated that wildlife trade is worth billions of dollars annually on an international scale and includes hundreds of millions of plants and animals, much of this quite legal because it does endanger the survival of these species. The CBTF initiative is helping the four countries to implement pilot projects. As a first step, a Wildlife Trade Policy Assessment Framework has been developed, mainly drawing on previous methodologies developed by CITES and UNEP. National institutions, working closely with government ministries, then choose the methodologies they prefer from the Framework, customize these to reflect particular national circumstances, and apply them in their review of national wildlife trade policies. Integrated national responses, including traditional regulatory policies and economic incentives, are developed.

Concurrently IUED has undertaken several studies to contribute to the development of national institutional capacity-building and to evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative in achieving its goals. The outcomes are summarized in a Final Synthesis Report for wide dissemination. Finally, an international meeting disseminates results from the initiative and encourages the implementation of wildlife trade policy reviews in other countries.

In the area of environmental goods and services, CBTF was instrumental in setting up the Bangkok Group, which serves as a consultative mechanism for developing WTO members that have taken an active part in the WTO negotiations on environmental goods. Currently, the Group comprises Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand, Philippines and South Africa. CBTF acts as a facilitator of and provides substantive support to the meetings, including documentation, studies, and briefings prepared upon request. The Group has proved very effective in coordinating and articulating negotiating positions the developing members take in the CTESS.

As an extra-budgetary programme, CBTF depends on donors and contributions from governments and institutions. The first phase was launched with the support of the European Union, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The second phase was launched in 2004 with continued support from the European Union and the United States, and the additional support from Italy and the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN). It is now seeking funding for its next phase of activities.

Hussein Abaza is Chief of the Economics and Trade Branch, UNEP. Ulrich Hoffmann is Chief of the Trade and Sustainable Development Branch, UNCTAD