Ministers Suggest Measures to Make Aid Mechanism More Efective

29 January 2010
press release

ECOWAS on Thursday, 28th January 2010 urged its bilateral and institutional development partners to fully discharge pledges made under the trade-for-aid arrangement and ensure the accelerated implementation of the principles of aid effectiveness so that trade can better serve as a tool for the development of the region.

Regional ministers of trade said after a meeting to review the existing trade for aid arrangement that "increased and more effective aid remains critical especially in the current climate where local and foreign investment has been affected by the recent economic and financial crisis." In order to ensure greater impact on the beneficiaries, the ministers suggested that aid support should reflect the specificities of benefitting countries while the mechanism for delivery should be strengthened through the simplification of the processes for effectiveness and accessibility.

The two- day meeting urged the ECOWAS Commission to finalise the ECOWAS Trade Policy and the aid for trade strategy while ensuring consistency with the overall ECOWAS 2020 vision to make the organisation citizen-friendly through greater citizen participation by transforming into a region of people instead of states.

Meeting under the theme of "Fostering Partnerships and Delivering on commitments", the ministers repeated the impact of the global economic and financial crises on the regional economy manifested in impaired growth, reduced competiveness and access to international public and private finance as well as a reduction of foreign direct investment into the region.

They added that the situation has been compounded by the recent foreign protectionist measures and policies that negate the principles of the multilateral rules based system. To enable the region address the impact of these developments on the economy of the region, the ministers proposed that West Africa be allowed to "retain the necessary policy space to develop appropriate e economic recovery and development strategies."

They also stressed the need to integrate trade within the national development strategies in order to support the regional integration agenda. The ministers noted the reported figures from the region's OECD partners showing an increase in the aid for trade flows into West Africa between 2002 and 2007 but expressed concern that the growth in the overall of trade pledged was not only inconsistent with the actual level of implementation but also below the level of commitment of most OECD countries to commit 0.7 per cent of the GNP to this mechanism. The ministers discussed the potential role that the regional private sector, which is being revived by the Commission, could play in stimulating the regional economy and underlined the need to improve the access of Small and Medium Enterprises to effective and efficient trade finance.

In this regard, they "encouraged collaboration and partnership with financial and specialized institutions to find innovative funding mechanisms for trade facilitation and development." The ministers acknowledged the rising profile of trade in the development strategies of the region and its development partners and the progress with the aid for trade initiative manifested in improved aid-for-trade delivery and scaling up resources particularly in support of regional economic integration.

In order to mainstream gender into regional trade, they agreed to take additional measures to raise awareness on gender issues and accelerate the participation of women and involvement of women this area. Furthermore, they acknowledged the positive role that the formulation of the development programme initiated within the context of the Economic Partnership Agreement being negotiated with the European Union has had on mainstreaming trade in the region and stressed the need to move beyond debate on the trade for aid arrangement to the implementation of programmes that are central to economic growth and development.

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