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    Dialogue with Stakeholders


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2004

    J. Denis Bélisle, Executive Director, ITC

    Since 2002, ITC has achieved 20% year-on-year growth in delivery, and it plans to keep up the momentum in 2004. Innovation in content and delivery, focus on synergies and greater involvement of national partners are helping make growth sustainable.

    ITC kept three objectives in sharp focus throughout 2003.
    They were:

    • to remain a provider of specialized trade-related technical assistance and grow within its niche by intensifying, rather than diversifying, activities;
    • to combine its expertise increasingly with that of others in technical assis-tance "consortiums" and continue to innovate in its technical assistance approaches; and
    • to work towards achieving greater impact and increasing efficiency through continued streamlining of administrative processes.

    Sustaining delivery

    Technical assistance delivery rose by 70% over the past three years. To help ensure that this growth is sustainable, ITC uses a number of approaches. It has joint programmes, it works with national partners and it offers "modular" programmes from which beneficiaries can mix and match elements to their needs.

    Sustainable platforms for delivery include:
    • the second phase of the Joint ITC/UNCTAD/WTO Integrated Technical Assistance Programme in Selected Least Developed and Other African Countries (JITAP);
    • the Business for Development initiative following the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancún;
    • increasing participation in the Integrated Framework;
    • the ITC/Trade Facilitation Office Canada Programme for Building African Capacity for Trade;
    • the new modular programme to promote trade in services; and
    • expanding activities in national and sectoral export strategy design.

    More and stronger partnerships

    ITC participated more in technical assistance consortiums and searched for partnerships proactively.

    Organizations with which ITC collaborates include UNCTAD and WTO, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN Development Programme, Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department, the Netherlands' Centre for Import Promotion (CBI), GTZ (the German technical cooperation agency), Commonwealth Secretariat, Agence intergouvernementale de la francophonie (Intergovernmental agency for French-speaking countries), UN Industrial Development Organization and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

    On the horizon is a major breakthrough with the European Commission for collaboration in Asia.

    Innovative content and delivery

    ITC has continued to innovate in what it delivers and how it delivers, for example with new approaches to global programmes in export-led poverty reduction, e-commerce and South-South trade. Under the World Tr@de Net Programme and the Executive Forum, ITC stepped up efforts to promote business advocacy and create effective public-private partnerships to better formulate export strategy and trade negotiating positions.

    Web-based tools for strategic market analysis continued to set standards around the world and are now used in more than 130 countries. At the same time, ITC improved efficiency in project planning and monitoring with the full installation of the computer-based Integrated Management Information System. The ITC Project Portal, a first in the UN system for daily monitoring of delivery and project implementation, is attracting substantial attention among other UN agencies in Geneva and New York.

    Focus on competitiveness

    These achievements illustrate the basic premise that guides ITC technical cooperation today - that ITC must go beyond the narrowly defined area of trade promotion. For programmes to have impact in a complex trade environment, they must address competitiveness and what it implies for countries, sectors and firms. ITC specializes in addressing the competitiveness of firms: the capability to produce and deliver, in a timely manner, a product or service at a quality and price that the market demands.

    It continues to invest in developing tools and programmes and is striving to maximize synergies between them. Building alliances with other technical assistance providers whose programmes can be complemented remains a high priority.

    This reinforces ITC's niche of delivering practical, down-to-earth technical assistance. The demand for ITC's type of support has grown tremendously since the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha.

    Ambitious but realistic targets

    Given the high level of demand, its 40 years of experience and the solid support of the donor community, ITC is using the opportunity of its 40th anniversary to set new and ambitious - yet realistic - targets for the future. On its agenda for 2004 and beyond are:
    • continued double-digit growth in annual delivery;
    • new initiatives under the Second Window of the Global Trust Fund;
    • partnerships with the European Commission beyond those in Asia;
    • partnerships with the African Development Bank;
    • increased synergy between ITC technical experts and those responsible for country needs assessment;
    • additional streamlining and computerization of operations; and
    • honest and realistic ways of measuring the impact of ITC work at field level.
    Developing local trade development skills and knowledge is key to achieving sustainable impact, and ITC focuses its field activities here. The organization is engaging fewer international consultants. Instead, it is paying more attention to involving national counterparts and local experts, including many trained by ITC.

    Building local capacities and local ownership through "learning by doing" is cost-effective but more time-consuming, because it requires heavier involvement of ITC headquarters staff to implement and monitor projects. However, indications are that this approach does have a greater impact for sustainable development. ITC intends to continue on this track.

    Challenge of assessing impact

    Today's challenge is to develop a rational system to measure the impact of trade-related technical assistance. ITC has made some advances but is not yet satisfied. It hopes that the joint evaluation team at work will provide concrete guidance on how to strengthen ITC's approach to this issue.

    Similarly, ITC is looking forward to the results of the OECD's (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) work to develop a common evaluation framework for trade-related technical assistance and capacity building. ITC partners - both providers and recipients of technical assistance - are invited to participate in this venture.

    40th anniversary

    For its 40th anniversary, ITC is proposing a number of activities that look at the past as a source of inspiration for the future. Five are summarized below:
    • An informal Technical Session at the annual meeting of ITC's Joint Advisory Group (JAG, 26-30 April), illustrating typical ITC in-country activities through presentations by beneficiaries of technical assistance programmes.
    • A half-day Open House at ITC headquarters, also on the occasion of the annual meeting.
    • Two special publications of Trade Forum magazine, one documenting success stories from the past 40 years of ITC's history and role in trade development, and the other featuring key trade development issues facing exporters today and ITC's related efforts.
    • The launch of a new fellowship programme in international trade.
    Fellowship programme on track

    On 26 April, ITC signed an agreement with AIESEC (International Association for Students in Economics and Commerce), a 50-year-old association of business students active in 84 countries. The agreement creates the ITC-AIESEC Fellowship in International Trade, which allows business graduates from the developing world to come to ITC for three to six months of intensive training in trade development techniques. The students will be sponsored by private companies which want to invest in the development of these talents and in their own recruitment efforts in the developing world.

    Hewlett-Packard (HP) will sponsor the first two trainees. Both fellows will combine their ITC training with internships at HP. HP and ITC have held preliminary discussions on a broader partnership, including some community-based initiatives in Africa. These ideas will be pursued with other trans-national corporations in the months ahead. ITC will also invite its traditional donors to extend the fellowship concept to include young and promising staff of trade support institutions.

    This article is adapted from J. Denis Bélisle's opening statement at the 37th session of ITC's Joint Advisory Group, on 26 April 2004.