I am pleased to say that ITC has virtually completed the refocusing exercise it began in 1994. I shall outline where this reform is taking ITC. I shall address three themes: people, substantive matters, and organizational issues, in the context of ITC's progress over the past year.
As many of you already know, a long-serving and resourceful ITC staff member, Mr Smadja, a Tunisian national, was appointed Deputy Executive Director in February this year. He has served in all of ITC's substantive divisions as well as in the Division of Administration, of which he was Director until his recent appointment.
Thirteen new professionals joined ITC recently at headquarters and in the field, and one has returned to us after four years of secondment with FAO. These men and women from all parts of the world and with diverse backgrounds bring added experience, competence and enthusiasm to ITC. We have also embarked on a comprehensive analysis of the training needs of our staff, to be followed by staff development programmes to ensure that ITC has the skills required to meet the challenges ahead.
ITC has just buried the old system of evaluating staff and has introduced the Performance Appraisal System, based on individual goals linked to the Annual Operations Plan and the ITC Medium-Term Plan. The potential benefits of the System to ITC and its staff are obvious: clearer output-oriented work definition, more efficient monitoring of progress, improved communication between supervisors and staff, increased motivation and better team spirit at all levels.
Finally, I regret to bring to the attention of all those who have known him the recent death of Mr Herbert Jacobson, ITC's first Director, at the age of 83 in Costa Rica.
LDCs. ITC has played a prominent role in facilitating the joint efforts of key international institutions in addressing those needs ever since last year's High-level Meeting on Integrated Initiatives for LDCs' Trade Development.
Recently, ITC was asked to help carry forward the follow-up to that meeting by taking responsibility for a small administrative unit established to facilitate day-to-day coordination among the institutions making up the Inter-Agency Working Group: IMF, ITC, UNCTAD, UNDP, the World Bank and WTO. The unit will disseminate information on the implementation of the Integrated Framework adopted at the meeting. It will establish and maintain a database on trade-related technical assistance to LDCs. It will promote the Integrated Framework among the members of the Working Group; bilateral, regional and other multilateral development partners of LDCs; and among the LDCs themselves. Finally, it will assist in translating integrated responses and round-table conclusions into multi-year country-specific trade-related assistance programmes.
ITC is firmly committed to using the Integrated Framework to enhance the benefits that LDCs can derive from more efficient technical cooperation. The involvement of LDCs themselves will be the key to ensuring a demand-driven approach, country-owned programmes and successful fund-raising.
Common Trust Fund. For the LDCs involved, the Joint ITC/UNCTAD/WTO Integrated Technical Assistance Programme for African Countries is a first major step towards implementing the Integrated Framework's principles. ITC has been instrumental in developing this initiative. A Common Trust Fund was created on 1 March 1998. An inter-institutional agreement, the first of its kind, defines the modalities of collaboration for the three organizations. ITC was asked to assume the functions of Fund Administrator. Pledges to the Fund to date, from nine countries, have reached US$ 5.3 million. This special programme has reawakened interest in ITC activities from former traditional donors and attracted two new ones. ITC expects that both the joint ITC/UNCTAD/WTO programme and the implementation of the Integrated Framework will provide a major breakthrough in the development of country-based activities. …