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    ITC is Poised for New Progress


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2006 

    After 12 years at the helm of ITC, J. Denis Bélisle leaves a thriving trade development organization with confidence in its future.

    Over the past 12 years, the ambiance at ITC's annual meetings has changed radically, in keeping with a new maturity and sense of self-confidence in the organization. This progress is the result of the hard work, imagination, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of ITC staff and management - a team never afraid of challenges. The latest challenge for management is to hand over the reins to a new team, capable of taking ITC to new heights. This is being done systematically and successfully.

    The outgoing management team is proud to have contributed to increasing the delivery of services by over 80% in the last five years and to have created programmes, tools and publications that are in high demand throughout the developing world.

    We are very pleased to have provided developing countries with a platform where government trade negotiators and the business sector can have a constructive dialogue on the Doha round and pleased to have supported South-South trade and helped trade support institutions provide better services to small firms. These are powerful ways of using trade to alleviate poverty.

    A massive external evaluation completed last year commented favourably on ITC - as did reports by the United Nations Board of Auditors and the Office of Internal Oversight Services.

    There is still room for improvement. ITC is an organization constantly in the making. We have already begun to implement the evaluators' recommendations aimed at us. ITC management supports strongly the recommendations concerning ITC stakeholders, related to harmonizing donor support, creating a small and effective expert group as a core element of ITC's governance structure, adapting United Nations oversight mechanisms to ITC realities and making greater use of multi-year advance funding contributed on a more timely basis.

    Senior management succession

    A team of new managers has already started to arrive at ITC, combining impressive work experience, considerable field knowledge, a clear vision for the future and powerful drive.

    My successor, Patricia Francis, has been President of JAMPRO (the Jamaica Promotions Corporation) for the last ten years, making it one of the most successful trade promotion organizations in the developing world. In addition, she has been Chairperson of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies and active in the private sector.

    Stephen Browne, a British economist, joined us as Deputy Executive Director in March. He acquired technical cooperation and national capacity-building experience during 21 years at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), many spent in the developing world. He has been responsible for UNDP's trade portfolio and for collaboration with ITC and UNCTAD. He is a keen observer of development issues and is the author of four books on the subject.

    The first new Director is Siphana Sok, who came to us from Cambodia. He played a key role in his country's accession to WTO and in masterminding the Integrated Framework programme for Cambodia and other countries in Asia and Africa. His dynamism and extensive experience will bring additional value to ITC clients.

    Eva Murray from Canada joins us as Director of the Programme Support Division this summer. Sincere thanks are due to the outgoing members of ITC's Senior Management Committee: Ramamurti Badrinath, Director of the Trade Support Services Division; Gian Piero Roz, Director of the Programme Support Division; and Peter Walters, Director of the Product and Market Development Division. All three have greatly contributed to shaping today's ITC.

      Incoming and outgoing members of ITC's senior management together during ITC's annual meeting.
    © Photo Bianco

    Challenges and opportunities ahead

    • United Nations reform. Various reform scenarios are under discussion. ITC's focus remains on helping developing and transition economies bring about sustainable development through trade. We hope ITC will continue to be given the opportunity to contribute to the best of its ability under a reformed United Nations, whatever form it takes.
    • Trade-related technical assistance (TRTA). Our role in providing practical advice to small firms and helping business to interact with trade negotiators was acknowledged in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration. We spelt out our views and commitment to WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy in February.
    ITC firmly believes that TRTA such as the enhanced Integrated Framework is essential. We also believe that real progress is necessary for the developing world to retain its confidence in the multilateral trading system.

    • A new business model for ITC. Having increased delivery of technical assistance by more than 80% over the last five years with only a small increase in regular budget resources, ITC has reached a point where it needs to articulate a new business model to grow further. To reach a significantly higher level of delivery, ITC also needs additional permanent resources.

    Proactivity with donors

    ITC has established excellent relations with a growing number of donors, including some from the developing world. We look forward to a new type of relationship, in line with the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

    ITC is already talking with donors to seek a more structured approach to resource mobilization associated with a more results-oriented approach to programming and reporting.

    A promising future

    Looking over the 12 years I have spent at ITC, I can say with confidence that the future holds great promise for ITC and its stakeholders. There will be more challenges and opportunities for ITC.

    Some will relate directly to its core business; others will be more distant. It will be important for ITC not to lose sight of what it does best, that is, putting trade to work for development in practical ways. Staying away from the political debate and resisting the temptation to do what some other organizations can do better will not always be easy but should prevail. Some of our more recent initiatives are showing great potential. They have to remain at the heart of our action.

    Let me conclude by thanking staff and stakeholders for their solid and continued support throughout my 12 years at ITC. In the Buddhist system, 12 years is a complete cycle. I have completed mine and I am proud to hand over to my friend and successor, Patricia Francis, a solid organization at a time when the world's attention is turning to the greater development opportunities provided by trade.  

    This article is based on Mr Bélisle's statement at the 39th session of ITC's annual meeting, the Joint Advisory Group (April 2006). Mr Bélisle retired in June 2006.