UNCTAD15: an urgent call to action to avoid a global failure
World leaders say inaction on the climate crisis, COVID-19 and the plight of the world’s most vulnerable is at our peril. The action must integrate the best aspects of the trade.
The UNCTAD15 The World Leaders’ Summit kicked off on October 4 with the powerful message that if the world does not combine recognition of our common vulnerability with common action, we will not overcome the crises that confront each other.
Heads of state and international organizations have sounded a new alarm bell on the climate emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic and an underperforming multilateral system. But their advice also came with a call to end talks in favor of more actions that exploit the positive side of global trade.
“We have to make sure that the power of trade benefits all countries,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, opening the first of three dialogues with world leaders scheduled to take place this week.
“From the onset of the crisis, we witnessed the challenges of our interconnection and our dependence on global supply chains. But we have also seen the essential role that trade can play in ensuring access to essential goods. “
Small islands, big challenges
While small island and coastal nations have big stakes in the future of commerce as they grapple with increasing pressures.
At the summit, the President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, highlighted the challenges of vulnerable nations on the front lines of climate, pandemic and debt crises.
Mr. Quesada pointed out that what is happening is a “syndemic” where two or more phenomena occur and interact in synergy. “And not in a good way,” he said.
“We have the pandemic interacting with the climate crisis. The pandemic also interacts with high debt levels, especially in developing countries. But we do not all have the same economic margins to react to this pandemic, ”he said.
He added that this situation is taking place in a context where 80% of global emissions are emitted by 20% of the world’s countries with the highest GDPs.
Likewise, Mr Browne added that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) contributed the least to climate change, yet were the most affected and had to tackle it alone.
“The reality of a decade lost to us is no longer a guess,” he said. “Evidence suggests that without urgent interventions our islands will be left behind. “
He added that “big emitters must do better” and developed countries must meet an annual commitment of $ 100 billion for the climate.
Trade is part of the solution
In her speech, the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that while trade is more often seen as part of the climate and other global challenges, it must be repositioned as part of the solution.
“Trade is essential to solve the current problems of the global commons that we face, including the climate crisis,” she said.
She noted that trade can support the development of renewable energy and a low-carbon development path and enable the transfer of innovative goods and services and should be harnessed to do so.
“Trade opens up economic opportunities for developing countries and plays a crucial role in helping countries adapt to changing supply patterns brought about by climate change,” said Ms. Okonjo-Iweala.
Deployment of the microcosm vaccine of commercial potential, pitfalls
Today, more than 6 billion doses of vaccines have been administered worldwide and nearly a third of the world’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“These figures mask a horrific injustice,” said the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “More than 75% of the vaccines went to high and upper middle income countries. Low-income countries have received less than half of 1% of the world’s vaccines.
He said it was a “global collaboration failure.”
He stressed that trade has a key role to play in ensuring an uninterrupted supply chain to move vaccines from manufacture to delivery is essential.
“But because manufacturers prioritized or were legally obliged to enter into bilateral agreements with high-income countries, low-income countries were deprived of the tools necessary to protect their populations,” he said. . “It is not only ethically abhorrent, it is also epidemiologically and economically self-destructive.”
On the positive side, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the key role of trade in the global response to the pandemic. She said that in some cases the international trading system protected the most vulnerable.
“Without trade, but more critical – without multilateral trade rules – there would be nothing to cut the worst policy on the nationalist impulses of countries,” she said. “The rules-based system has allowed poor countries, and even some rich countries, to gain access.
To restart the global economy, leaders said it was important to ensure fairness in vaccine deployment, removal of trade barriers, preparedness for future shocks and making peace with nature.
“To end the pandemic, we must remove unnecessary constraints on trade and travel, especially export bans, so that we can make vaccines and other vital tools available to those who have them most. need, ”Mr. Ghebreyesus said.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, added that it is crucial that we recognize that “the economy is absolutely dependent on nature”.
“We need to end fossil fuel subsidies – that $ 400 million going in the wrong direction – make peace with nature, step up economic and regulatory incentives so that we can invest in nature-based solutions,” Ms Andersen said.
UNCTAD15, the 15th quadrennial conference of the United Nations trade body, is a mandate-defining moment, during which member states and other stakeholders will agree on the action plan of the United Nations. organization over the next four years. It takes place virtually October 4-7, hosted by Barbados.