UNCTAD 15 convened on the theme, ‘From Inequality and Vulnerability to Prosperity for All’.
Participants explored ways to reduce inequality and vulnerability by ensuring that trade works for all, and development remains high on the global agenda.
The 15th session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15) presented an opportunity to reframe solutions and build solidarity on trade-related issues and to respond to new global challenges that impact sustainable development such as COVID-19. Delegates called for “greater multilateralism” and regional integration to improve developing countries’ resilience and build back better.
UNCTAD 15 convened virtually between Barbados and Geneva, Switzerland, from 3-7 October 2021, on the theme, ‘From Inequality and Vulnerability to Prosperity for All.’ Heads of State and Government, ministers and representatives of governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions, the private sector, and other stakeholders explored ways to reduce inequality and vulnerability by ensuring that trade works for all, and development remains high on the global agenda. The meeting comprised a three-day World Leaders Summit and five ministerial roundtables.
The World Leaders Summit held three dialogues on today’s critical issues to promote “development in motion” by “connecting the dots” between challenges, aspirations, and actions.
The first dialogue focused on the theme, ‘Global Vulnerabilities: Call from a Vulnerable Place,’ and explored the role of trade in addressing the current health and climate crises.
The second dialogue was dedicated to the issue of inequality, and sought to answer the question, ‘Is the COVID-19 crisis really a game-changer?’ Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described efforts to end “vaccine nationalism” as “a crucial test for global commitments to end inequalities.”
Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister, Barbados, called for a “fundamental rethink” of the international financial architecture, warning that many developing countries will not be able to recover from the pandemic unless some of the debt servicing pressure is lifted. “We’re going to see, literally, a cementing of people back into poverty at the very time that we were expecting to see movement towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.
The third dialogue explored options for building a more prosperous development path by “matching the scale of the moment.” Delegates highlighted the role of multilateralism and international cooperation in supporting more “holistic” development pathways.
Rebeca Grynspan, UNCTAD Secretary-General, said countries’ failure to act collectively had worsened intersecting and interacting inequalities and made development more difficult to achieve. “We need greater multilateralism and an increased capacity to work together,” said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. “If it doesn’t work for all of us, it won’t work for any of us,” he added.
Ministerial roundtables discussed the following topics:
- Scaling up financing for development;
- Reshaping global and regional value chains;
- Regional integration for a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future;
- Harnessing frontier technologies for shared prosperity; and
- Supporting productive transformation for greater resilience in a post-pandemic world.
A subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the quadrennial conference is the highest decision-making body of UNCTAD where member States assess current trade and development issues, formulate global policy responses, and set the organization’s work priorities for the next four years. [UNCTAD 15 Website]