Inequality and other factors that threaten the survival of developing states are to be tackled head-on by a United Nations conference to be hosted here next year, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has pledged.
In a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, she signed the agreement for the staging of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development from April 25-30. She was joined by UNCTAD Secretary General Dr Mukhisa Kituyi who co-signed in Nairobi, Kenya.
The conference was first scheduled to be held in Bridgetown in October but the coronavirus pandemic forced its postponement.
Mottley, who said preparations were well underway amid prevailing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, expressed optimism that adequate preparations would be in place for the meeting that is being held in the Caribbean for the first time.
She said: “It is a challenge the Government of Barbados and the UNCTAD Secretariat are prepared to accept. We remain positive that by next year the determined efforts of world scientists and the prudent precautionary measures we are putting in place will help to make the convening of UNCTAD 15 a reality.”
She disclosed that pre-conference events including six forums on youth, civil society, gender and development, global commodities, the creative industries and trade digitisation have been planned for April 23-24.
Prime Minister Mottley said: “The Government of Barbados is committed to delivering a Conference that allows for the universal participation of UNCTAD’s 195 member states while fully protecting the health and safety of both the visiting delegates and the local population of Barbados.
“We aim to provide a platform for consequential deliberation and action by ministers and for serious engagement with civil society, youth and the private sector.
“Above all, we are determined to make UNCTAD 15 an inclusive and unforgettable event that offers significant opportunities for the creativity and entrepreneurship of the people of Barbados.”
Mottley said that the global pandemic has reminded the entire world “how vulnerable and exposed we are to shocks that threaten our very existence, let alone our development”.
She added: “Equally, the challenges to multilateralism continue to be exacerbated at a time when international cooperation is needed more than ever if our nations are to attain their strategic objectives and sustainable development goals.
“I firmly believe that our UNCTAD 15 theme provides us with a real opportunity finally to address the systemic causes of the vast and growing inequalities and inherent vulnerabilities that exist within and between our States.
“New thinking and bold action are urgently required if we hope to succeed in our efforts to end poverty and provide equal opportunities for all.
In Kenya, UNCTAD Secretary General Dr Mukhisa Kituyi stressed that the international community must address the massive unmet trade, finance, investment and technology needs of developing countries struggling to meet the COVID challenge.
Dr Kituyi said: “We have estimated that developing countries need US$2.5 trillion ($5 trillion) in immediate resources to begin meeting the challenge of the pandemic.
“And that is beyond the outstanding SDG investment gap: even before COVID, for example, LDCs (Less developed countries) alone needed annual investments of US$120 billion ($240 billion) to achieve the SDG targets.”
He continued: “COVID-19 has been a litmus test for a globalized and interdependent world economy, and the verdict it has delivered is clear.
“The pandemic and its fallout have exposed existential challenges to the very tenets of globalization and will have a lasting impact on future efforts by developing countries to gainfully benefit from the global economy.”
He added that COVID-19 has starkly revealed that there is a need to transform global approaches to trade and development, “if we are to chart a sustainable course to a better recovery”.
Dr Kituyi said in his address: “Rather than “building back better” as some have called for, we need to re-build entirely from the ground up, because for too many, going back to business as usual is anathema to sustaining prosperity.
“UNCTAD 15 will shape the ambitions for a better recovery.”
The UNCTAD secretary general also paid tribute to late former prime minister Owen Arthur, who spearheaded the organising of the conference. He died last month from heart complications.
He said: “While Arthur, will be remembered for his great development advocacy, his significant economic reforms nationally as well as his efforts to seek unity through CARICOM, at UNCTAD, we will remember him for his tireless support and contribution as the chair of the Global Trade and Development Commission in preparation for UNCTAD XV, which always put the needs of the developing countries and the SIDS at the top of the agenda.”
Prime Minister Mottley also pledged that a special tribute is to be made to Arthur. [email protected]