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Presence in global bodies

Publication Date : 23-10-2012


Korea had a string of successes last week on the international stage. It was selected Saturday to be home to the Green Climate Fund, a UN fund launched in 2011 to help fight global warming by funnelling money from developed to developing countries.

A day earlier, Korea won the right to host the next biennial meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at the end of its 11th session in Hyderabad, India. On Thursday, the country was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, making a comeback after 15 years to the key organ of the global body.

These successful bids were trumpeted by officials here as leading to a bigger role for Korea in handling global security, climate and environmental issues. The hosting of the 190-member GCF secretariat is expected to not only enhance the country’s green growth image but bring it US$343.9 million in economic benefits every year by housing hundreds of UN workers and holding about 120 international meetings annually. The 2014 meeting of the 193-member CBD, which is to be attended by more than 10,000 representatives from governments, international and nongovernmental organisations, is forecast to produce economic effects worth about $406 million.

Its heightened profile on the global stage, particularly the UNSC membership, is also likely to increase calls for Seoul to contribute more to the international community in terms of finance and manpower. Korea, whose official development assistance is far below the average of the 34-member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, should certainly try to expand its financial contributions commensurate with its economic power.

But the country would also be helped by more Koreans working at international agencies.

According to figures from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the proportion of Korean staff at global bodies remains far below the country’s investment stakes. Korean capital accounts for 1.23 per cent of the World Bank and 1.41 per cent of the International Monetary Fund but only 0.73 per cent and 0.95 per cent of their employees are its nationals. In the Asian Development Bank, it takes up 5.05 per cent of the lender’s capital with the proportion of Korean staff at 1.86 per cent.

Data from the Korea Investment-Trade Promotion Agency also shows Korean companies won $28.8 million, or 0.2 per cent of the total, in procurement projects placed by UN agencies last year. Only 25 of about 9,000 firms taking part in UN procurement markets are Korean enterprises.

Efforts should be strengthened to let more Koreans work at various international agencies. It is needed not just to gain practical interests proportionate to its financial contributions but to truly enhance the country’s role on the global stage. The government should provide more information and pertinent guidance for the growing number of Koreans who wish to use their abilities and gain experience at international institutions.


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