What is UNNExT?
The United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT) is a community of knowledge and practice for experts from developing countries and transition economies from Asia and the Pacific involved in the implementation of electronic trade systems and trade facilitation.
Established by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in 2009, it aims to support national, sub-regional and transcontinental Single Window and paperless trade initiatives. Its emphasis is on training, knowledge sharing, and application of international standards that are developed by the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), the World Customs Organization, and other relevant organizations.
The UNNExT Secretariat is provided by ESCAP in cooperation with UNECE, supported by an Advisory Committee. UNNExT members and participants include experts from national governments, private sector and academia from the region. It cooperates closely with other relevant regional and global organizations, such as the World Customs Organization and the Asian Development Bank. (See UNNExT Organizational Structure for details.)
Activities of the network may be classified under five categories:
- Tools and guides development activities: the network develops guides and training materials to bridge the gap between the standards developers and the “implementers” and emerging experts in developing countries. For example, UNNExT recently issued a Business Process Analysis Guide for Simplification of Trade Procedures.
- Capacity building (training) activities: the network delivers trainings and capacity building programmes at the national and regional levels, using the knowledge and tools developed by the network and its partners.1 An important feature of the network training programmes is that it relies heavily on peer-to-peer support, where experts and practitioners from countries with advanced paperless trade systems transferring their know-how and experience to those in less advanced countries.
- Knowledge sharing activities: the network provides new and specialized knowledge sharing mediums, such as the UNNExT policy brief series “Towards a Single Window Trading Environment” used to disseminate good practices and case studies on paperless trade environment development.2 It also organizes subregional and regional thematic events to discuss emerging paperless trade facilitation issues and create synergies between existing initiatives in the region and beyond, including through it support to the Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum.
- Regional Advisory Services: the network facilitates delivery of advisory services on trade facilitation and paperless trade, in particular for least developed countries. Once the nature and scope of the services request are identified, the ESCAP/ECE Secretariat can identify the most appropriate available expert for its delivery.
- Research and Analysis: the network collaborates with the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT) to deliver analytical studies related to trade facilitation and paperless trade. The collaboration between the two networks creates synergies between academic and policy research economists and trade facilitation practitioners and technical experts, to deliver more relevant studies, increase dissemination of ARTNeT research findings, and promote utilization and implementation of UNNExT tools and guides.3
The work programme of UNNExT initially focused on 4 priority areas essential to moving forward on trade facilitation and paperless trade: (1) Trade Process Analysis; (2) Document Simplification and Data Harmonization; (3) Legal Framework Development; and (4) Single Window Planning and Implementation. Building on work done in these core areas between 2010 and 2012, UNNExT has taken a more sectoral approach and is now focusing on (5) Agricultural Trade Facilitation, (6) SME Trade Facilitation, and (7) Transit Trade Facilitation. Importantly, UNNExT is also supporting the implementation of ESCAP Resolution 68/3, which sets the stage for the development of regional arrangement(s) for cross-border paperless trade facilitation.
As shown above, activities in each of these areas are supported by an Advisory Group (AG) of core UNNExT experts. The AG assists in the development and review of the specialized guides and training materials in their focus area; in delivering training and workshops; and advisory services. Additional advisory groups are expected to be established as new priority issues are identified, in line with capacity building needs of the region.
- Enhancing Trade Competitiveness in Least-Developed Countries, Countries in Transition and Transit Countries through the Implementation of Single Window Facilities (UNDA6th Tranche project)
- Capacity Building in Support of Trade Integration with Emphasis on Integrated Trade Information Flow Management and Trade Facilitation in Central Asia (UNDA 5th Tranche project)
1 Workshops on Single Window implementation and/or business process analysis are organized upon request. Workshops have been conducted, or are under preparation, in Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Mongolia.
2 A website and online platform is also under development at http://www.unescap.org/unnext/
3 For example, the latest ARTNeT regional study on trade facilitation use the approach outlined in the UNNExT Business Process Analysis guide as its core methodology.