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April 30 Symposium: Some Notes on the Proceedings

By Bruce Hubbard and David Schneider

The Mandela Institute, U.S. Advisory Board


About 30 representatives of business, NGOs, the diplomatic community and the United Nations took part in the Symposium on Investment Stability and Capacity Building, the Institute's first major foray in the United States into the debate over trade and capacity building.

The event, organized with the support of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), was co-chaired by USCIB President Thomas Niles and John Chalsty of CS First Boston, Chair of the Mandela Institute's U.S. Advisory Board. For some participants, attendance was based on a newfound appreciation for the enormous importance of capacity building. Others came to learn more about the Institute and what it offers to developing countries to obtain the requisite skills to ensure meaningful engagement in international trade negotiations.

From outreach efforts prior to the event, it was clear that a number of major international actors expect the Mandela Institute to create international momentum on capacity building. Others see the Institute as a vehicle for regional leadership and for the creation of new partnerships between public institutions and private enterprise. It was agreed that effective capacity building efforts must seek to engage all countries and all major language groups. In addition, Wits alumni present emphasized the humanitarian and egalitarian nature of the University, which works to instill an ethos of responsibility and helps to ensure that graduates put their knowledge to use in their own countries.

Regulatory reform was also mentioned as an important priority. Overall, the symposium was an enthusiastic and optimistic gathering, with the exception of sobering reminders of the enormous costs both human and physical of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Mandela Institute representatives were encouraged to undertake outreach and fundraising efforts in Europe, especially in Brussels, Geneva and major national capitals, focusing on both private support (individuals and foundations) and governments.

The Institute's U.S. Advisory Board will focus on fund raising for scholarships, endowment of a chair and visiting professors in intellectual property, and the promotion of the Mandela Institute as a center for trade, technology, public policy and research, as well as a possible repository for WTO documentation.

Going forward, all participants will be kept informed as WTO activities increase and the new round of global trade talks progress with the prospect of significant gains for developing countries if they can marshal the resources necessary to negotiate effectively.