Civil society leaders meet UNCTAD Secretary-General in Geneva

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development . October 09, 2013

This was the first meeting between Dr. Kituyi and representatives of civil society since he took office in September, and was an opportunity to exchange views at the very start of his term.

Dr. Kituyi praised the role played by civil society organizations in promoting socially just economic development, and said that he wanted to see civil society organizations contributing to UNCTAD meetings at the highest level.

He also highlighted the "phenomenal" expertise - particularly in global trade and development - existing within Geneva-based international and civil society organizations.

It was critical, he said, to galvanize this energy and expertise on the road to the post-2015 development goals. He added that consulting and lobbying efforts needed to be coordinated in order to ensure that there is a strong "Geneva voice" and that trade and investment policies are given due importance as levers for economic development.

Dr. Kituyi also emphasized that he had walked in the shoes of civil society representatives, and understood the challenges they faced. In 1992, he was Director of the African Centre for Technology Studies, and visited Geneva in the role of focal point for African civil society preparations for the Rio Earth Summit.

Later, as Minister of Trade of Kenya, he formalized the role of civil society representatives in the country's trade delegation, so that involving them was "a duty and not a favour". He remarked that, at the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Cancún in 2003, members of his delegation went outside to protest against globalization while he was inside negotiating agreements on behalf of the country.

Representatives from organizations including the Consumer Unity and Trust Society, the Nexus Foundation, and the Our World Is Not For Sale network attended the meeting. Some had travelled to Geneva from as far afield as Kenya, the Philippines and Turkey.

In his first week in office, Dr. Kituyi highlighted the important role played by civil society organizations in advocacy and in connecting governments with communities. "UNCTAD and civil society already have a strong partnership, and I hope to build on this in the coming months," he said.

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