All governments increasingly devote significant time and resources to the negotiation of treaties with other states and, especially for governments in Africa, the negotiation of large scale and long-term contracts with multinational corporations for the exploration and development of natural resources or for infrastructure projects.
This year alone, we have seen progress in economic negotiations on multiple fronts – within Africa (e.g. on EPAs, the tripartite FTA, the launch of the CFTA negotiations, etc.) as well as globally, including the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and movements in WTO negotiations.
As the adoption of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan for Agenda 2063 testifies, the drive towards the realization of long-held Pan-African political and economic visions is gaining momentum. Particularly notable in this respect is the Agenda 2063 aspiration “to advance international cooperation that promotes and defends Africa’s interests, is mutually beneficial and aligned to our Pan Africanist vision; continue to speak with one voice and act collectively to promote our common interests and positions in the international arena.” The terms on which Africa engages in economic relations with the rest of the world determine the realization of this and other laudable goals.
Regrettably, however, the use of highly technical and legally binding agreements and contracts to tilt the playing field against Africa’s interests has been commonplace for far too long, making institutional capacity building an enduring challenge. That this institutional capacity deficit needs to be addressed has been recognized for a long time now. Already in June 2003, the African Ministers of Finance declared, at their meeting on Aid, Trade, Debt, IMF and HIV/AIDs, that there was a need to establish a legal technical assistance facility to help Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (“HIPCs”) in Africa to address the problems of creditor litigation, which ultimately led to the establishment of the African Legal Support Facility. Most recently, the Report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa noted how the natural resources sector is prone to the generation of illicit financial outflows through “secret and poorly negotiated contracts”.
African government officials involved in the development of policies and the negotiation of treaties and contracts need to (1) have a comprehensive understanding of the substantive and procedural obligations contained in these legally binding instruments; (2) master the skills, techniques, processes and dynamics required to put the instruments together; and (3) appreciate the fast-moving policy and regulatory landscape in these areas and adjust their strategies and priorities accordingly.
As part of its mandate on capacity development, UNECA is launching a series of Annual Workshops that respond to these calls by focusing on “how” member States and the continent can best protect their interests from being undermined through International Agreements and Contracts.
The proposed annual economic negotiation workshops are intended to provide regular opportunities for lead national negotiators from all African countries to convene and exchange experiences, explore options and strategies for possible coordination of positions, and to listen to and engage with leading thinkers and practitioners in the field in general and the following four areas of focus in particular: trade, investment, taxation and financial instruments, and natural resources contracts.
The workshops thus aim to contribute towards filling the skills gaps in these areas and strengthen the capacity of African governments and institutions to negotiate international contracts and agreements that better serve national and continental interests.
The first Annual Workshop on International Economic Agreements, with the theme “Building Negotiating Capacity for Improved Terms of Engagement with the Rest of the World” will be held in Dakar, Senegal, from 1 to 4 December 2015. The expected outcomes from the workshop are:
- Enhanced awareness of current thinking and developments in the field of international economic negotiations;
- Improved negotiation skills,
- Improved understanding of national, regional and international legal frameworks,
- Enhanced preparedness to safeguard national and African interests in international negotiations, and
- Strengthened network of national negotiators.
This is a workshop that is targeted towards Africa and attendance is by invitation only. Those governments who have recieved their invitations and have specific questions, please contact:
Mr Melaku Geboye DestaPrincipal Regional AdviserHead, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development ClusterCapacity Development Division (CDD)UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)Addis Ababa, EthiopiaEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please copy: Ms Meseret Arega at: MArega2@uneca.org