The Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), an inter-governmental financial institution established by the UN, held a special meeting of its governing council in Amsterdam on June 29, 2004.

The chairman of the governing council, Norman Pino De Lian (Venezuela), in his opening statement underscored that commodities continued to play a critical role in the economies of developing countries and particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs) for export income, government revenues, foreign exchange and employment.

He pointed out that the Common Fund for Commodities is playing an important role in addressing the issues confronting the commodity producers, processors, traders and exporters. Common Fund financed projects continued to be demand-driven and emanated from the grass root level and thus were targeted for the benefit of producers, particularly the small holders. The Common Fund channelled its efforts to reduce poverty and enable commodity producers to fully participate in today’s globalised markets. The Common Fund should also continue to play its advocacy role by bringing to the forefront issues confronting commodities producers.

The managing director of the CFC, Rolf Boehnke, gave an overview on the work of the Common Fund. He stated, among others, that the cumulative project portfolio had now reached 180 projects, including 63 ‘fast tracks’. These projects covered 37 different commodities. The financial volume of projects now stood at about US$380mn, with the Fund financing about half. In comparison, at the end of 1995, a total of 37 projects had been approved and the cumulative financial volume stood at US$82mn. This meant an increase of 143 projects and of almost US$300mn over the period.

Advocacy was one of the new elements of the Five-Year Action Plan 2003 to 2007. In this regard, on June 15, 2004 the Common Fund held a major side event, jointly with Unctad, on the subject of ‘Commodities, Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development’ during Unctad XI in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Twelve high ranking panel members gave their vision of how to address commodity issues followed by discussion with the audience. The meeting was very well attended.

He mentioned that since 1996, seven new members had joined CFC. Discussions had been held during the first half of this year with government and non-government institutions of both France and South Africa, inviting these countries to consider membership in the Common Fund.

The managing director referred to the roots of CFC and its objective which remained, in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, to alleviate poverty through assisting commodity dependent countries and people in their socio-economic development with the best and most effective means.

Boehnke has now completed his second term, which is the limit under the statutes. Elections were therefore held for the position. Four candidates nominated by member countries, namely by Algeria, Russian Federation, Sweden and Tanzania, entered the election. Each of the candidates had an opportunity at the meeting to outline to the governing council his/her professional experience and vision of CFC.

After three rounds of election, neither of the remaining two candidates (from Sweden and Tanzania) obtained the required two thirds majority of the votes. Following consultations among the groups, Sweden withdrew its candidate so that the candidate from Tanzania, Ali Said Mchumo, could be elected by acclamation.

Mchumo is currently deputy secretary general (finance and administration) of the East African Community. He served as ambassador of Tanzania to the UN in Geneva and Vienna and was the Tanzanian ambassador in several other countries. He was minister for trade of Tanzania in the early 1980s. He chaired the governing council of the Common Fund in 2001 and 2002. He will take up office on September 1, 2004 for a four-year term.

The member countries of CFC congratulated Mchumo on his election. They also expressed their deep appreciation to Boehnke for his excellent work and dedication at the helm of the organisation over the past eight years, highlighting his substantive contribution to the fund which he reconsolidated, making it a well-functioning and recognised institution.