The year 2014 was special as UNCTAD marked the fiftieth anniversary of its establishment. In 1964, when trade and economic relations showed a sharp divide between the North and the South, UNCTAD became the global forum where countries – developed and developing – put on the table economic and social issues of national, regional and global concern. One key goal of this forum was clear for member States from the first Conference: that “economic development and social progress should be the common concern of the whole international community”, with an emphasis on “increasing economic prosperity and well-being” that in turn should “help strengthen peaceful relations and cooperation among nations”.
Prosperity for all is not only the UNCTAD motto. It also implicitly reflects the principle on which UNCTAD was established. Since its foundation now more than 50 years ago, the three main ways in which UNCTAD has helped countries in the pursuit of shared prosperity are by backing policymaking with sound research and analysis, providing a forum for open and constructive dialogue on development issues, and providing technical support to make a difference on the ground.
We celebrate the many accomplishments of those 50 years. Yet UNCTAD recognizes that, in today’s world, concerted efforts at the national, regional and global levels are still required to ensure that trade and economic growth translate effectively into improved livelihoods for the people we serve.
Looking towards September 2015, the world is preparing to adopt a new development framework in the form of the sustainable development goals, the successors to the Millennium Development Goals. The sustainable development goals will call for efforts of an unprecedented scale from all those concerned – Governments, businesses, civil society and people – to end extreme poverty.
As the world calls for a transformative and integrated agenda, where the economic, environmental and social dimensions are more closely knit, we are ready to deliver.
UNCTAD initiated the Geneva Dialogues in 2013 as an open dialogue platform for new ideas to be put on the table, including to feed the overall sustainable development goals process. In 2014, I organized these open consultations to explore the specific linkages between trade and development. Synergies exist and need to be further explored to make trade work for development.
This is my message throughout the Annual Report. In 2014 we took stock of the progress made, but also realized the potential we have to bring the future sustainable development goals to fruition.
For developing countries to fully reap the benefits of sustainable development goals, we need to transform economies by strengthening productive capacities, shifting local production towards higher value activities, diversifying the economic base and changing investment patterns. In doing so, we shall be reminded to create additional value for the most vulnerable countries, such as small island developing States (SIDS), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and the least developed countries (LDCs) so that no special need is forgotten.
We also have to work towards improving national competitiveness, creating the right conditions for a vibrant private sector to grow and flourish. We shall likewise seek to empower people, the key resources that can own, manage and master that growth process and make it lead towards increased welfare for all. And last but not least, we have to leverage global governance, with an open, transparent, inclusive and predictable multilateral trading system.
The world has changed. So has UNCTAD. With its forward-looking expertise, its evidence-based policymaking and its skilled personnel, we are on track to continue putting development first and delivering results beyond 2015.
Secretary-General of UNCTAD