A capacity building workshop for experts from the ECOWAS Commission, its Member States and other stakeholders is underway in Abuja on the Establishment of a Trade and Environment Knowledge Management Platform.
The three-day meeting, which opened on Monday 25th November 2013, seeks to enhance knowledge and strengthen the capacities of the trade and environment experts to generate and share information that will boost negotiations as well as formulate coherent Trade and Environment policies.
In his opening address, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs, Industry, Mines and Free Movement, Mr. Ahmed Hamid said the crucial role of trade flows and investments in growth and development justified the need for “the pursuit for expansion of opportunities for trade” in the region.
He commended African countries’ efforts to expand their share of global trade and address obstacles to intra-African trade in response to the global trade increase from USD 13 trillion in 2000 to an estimated USD 30 trillion in 2010.
In the address read by the ECOWAS acting Director for Trade, Dr. Gbenga Obedeyi the Commissioner highlighted the potential for increased volumes of tradable goods and services through sustainable exploitation and development of natural resources as well as ecological goods and services.
“The benefits of trade,” he affirmed, “can only be maximized by effectively addressing and harnessing the linkages between trade and environment.”
Similarly, Ms. Isatou Gaye, the Chief, Green Economy and Natural Resources Section, Special Initiatives Division, UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), also pointed out the “crucial role of trade flows and investments in growth and development” and urged participants to come up with ideas to boost UN support for the establishment of the trade and environment platform.
She stressed the need for effective and mutually supportive trade and environment policies to reduce and sustain the exploitation of the environment and natural resources.
Ms Gaye also affirmed ECA’s willingness to work with partners in developing and promoting an integrated approach in the formulation and implementation of trade, environment and development policies.
Mr. Joachim Monkelbaan, representing the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), also spoke of the Centre’s desire to build longer-term working relations in the ECOWAS region for effective cooperation.
He recalled a recommendation from a previous workshop on the improvement of knowledge management in the region and the need to use trade as a tool for development and poverty eradication.
A World Trade Organization (WTO) representative, Mr. Devin McDaniels, expressed the organization’s determination to support the development of a Knowledge Platform on Trade and Environment Linkages for the ECOWAS Commission and its Member States.
He noted that the promotion of mutual supportiveness between trade and environmental policies is an objective of the Doha Development Round negotiations, adding that that WTO rules provide sufficient policy space for members to implement environmental protection measures.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) representative to the meeting, Mr. John Maughan, traced the progress of dialogue on trade and environment, noting that the Green Economy Initiative dialogue evolved from the risks to the opportunities of the Green Economy.
The workshop is jointly organized by ECA and the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with UNEP, ICTSD, and UNCTAD.