UNCTAD’s 15th Four-Year Conference (UNCTAD15), October 3-7, passed an agreement to promote inclusive and resilient economic recovery in developing countries unprecedented with unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines, debt crisis, climate emergency and others To face challenges.
The conference was opened on October 4th in Barbados by UN Secretary General António Guterres, together with Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and UNCTAD Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan.
Multilateral spirit and leadership
Secretary-General Grynspan commended the organization’s member states for their multilateral spirit and leadership in reaching agreement and offering hope to developing countries struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which overlaps with other structural challenges.
“Today is an unprecedented moment for the United Nations to work to use trade to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The actions agreed at UNCTAD15 will allow all of us to take a new direction towards greater equality, sustainability and economic resilience, ”said Ms. Grynspan.
Secretary-General Guterres pointed out four glaring challenges which, if not addressed, would make any notion of prosperity a distant dream for all. “Debt distress. Systems hunger for investment. Unfair trade. And a climate emergency that makes small island developing states like Barbados dangerously vulnerable, ”he said.
To deal with the debt crisis, he called for an urgent four-point action plan on the debt crisis. “We know that COVID-19 is causing national budgets to become tight, so we need to push for an immediate increase in liquidity for the countries in greatest need,” he said.
Prime Minister Mottley urged the international community to consider the realities of the developing world and small island developing countries, particularly their exposure to the climate crisis – which was not their own fault – to consider the need for greater funding for adaptation to the deteriorating effects of climate change and debt management.
President Kenyatta urged the world community to come together to work towards a functioning multilateral system. “No single government or multilateral agency can tackle global threats alone,” he said. “We have to work together in solidarity if we want to be successful.”
Historic conference at a critical moment of increasing inequalities
It was the first time that the world’s premier United Nations trade and development conference in a small island developing state took place in a virtual format with events in Barbados, Geneva and 16 developing countries led by women – Secretary-General Grynspan as Head of UNCTAD and Prime Minister Mottley as President of the Conference. Around 5,300 participants from more than 140 countries have joined.
During the four-day conference, world leaders, trade ministers, leading economists and heads of UN agencies and leading global financial institutions agreed that the economic impact of the pandemic on developing countries, which were already more vulnerable before the crisis, has declined disproportionately and now you are facing an even more difficult road to recovery.
They included UN Secretary General António Guterres, UNCTAD Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan, Barbados Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economy and Investment Mia Amor Mottley, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Chairwoman of the Alliance of Small Island States and Chairwoman of the Caribbean Community of Gaston Browne, Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Guyana’s President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the President of the Republic of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and the UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, UN The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe the Executive Director of the UN Environment Program Inger Andersen, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the Director General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
UNCTAD15 attendees also heard from the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat Patricia Scotland, the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community Carla Barnett, the President of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly and Foreign Minister of the Maldives Abdulla Shahid, the President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer, Inter-Der President of the American Development Bank, Mauricio Claver-Carone, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, John Denton, and Executive Director of Oxfam International, Gabriela Bucher.
Ms. Grynspan warned that the economic impact of the pandemic on vulnerable countries and communities poses a real “lost decade” threat. To avoid this, a new development model is needed that focuses on socio-economic transformation and sustainability. It also requires a strengthening of the multilateral system and a strong commitment to concluding new agreements on global economic governance, trade, investment, debt, finance and international cooperation to address the effects of climate change.
The Bridgetown Confederation
The 195 member states of UNCTAD have adopted the Bridgetown Covenant, which outlines a roadmap for transforming economies through economic diversification; Tackling unsustainable debt burdens in developing countries; Making business more sustainable and resilient; Improving funding for development; and a new idea of how multilateralism will work in the future.
It highlights the most unprecedented circumstances in which UNCTAD15 took place, paying tribute to both the dire death toll from COVID-19 worldwide, the millions of people pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic, and the underlying inequalities within and between many developing countries.
It underlines the need to reinvigorate and revitalize the UNCTAD intergovernmental mechanism and recognizes the role of the United Nations as an appropriate forum for multilateral dialogue on sustainable development through its universal membership and the obligation to put sustainable development at the center of all processes – at the multilateral, regional and bilateral level.
The Bridgetown Pact underscores the desire of member states to meaningfully reinvigorate the role of UNCTAD as an important intergovernmental forum for consensus building on trade and development.
It also recognizes the key role of UNCTAD on issues related to illicit trade and illicit financial flows, and outlines some avenues to tackle debt vulnerabilities.
The document also outlines the political dimensions of issues such as tax cooperation in the context of combating illicit financial flows and ensuring that international measures on tax transparency, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing are applied in a non-discriminatory, fair and equitable manner, with the Member States will consider a role for UNCTAD in addressing these issues.
Member States have also adopted the UNCTAD15 Political Declaration, known as the Spirit of Speightstown, drawn up under the responsibility of the Government of Barbados. It states that “without increased international cooperation and until the pandemic in every country has subsided, a full global recovery will not be possible”.
The statement said the global crisis is an opportunity for countries to redouble their efforts to move from existing inequality and vulnerability to prosperity for all. It warns that business as usual will not allow the global economy to recover, avert further environmental degradation, or enable all people to live in dignity, let alone keep development on track.