2013 was a mixed year for the international economic system. On the one hand, prospects for global recovery and international cooperation faltered as emerging markets – de facto engines of global growth since the financial crisis – experienced a downturn with the withdrawal of monetary stimulus by central banks in several advanced economies. On the other hand, 2013 ended on a high note as multilateralism received a strong boost of confidence with the revival in December of the Doha Development Agenda in Bali, Indonesia.
Given the uncertainties of the global economic environment, these circumstances only reinforce my belief in the important role UNCTAD plays in development and in the added value that we can bring to the social and economic development agenda. Especially in these difficult economic times, it is key that we give policymakers the knowledge and skills they need to make informed policy decisions that will allow countries to improve their economies and work towards the future we all want.
2013 also marked my appointment as Secretary-General, and it is with great pride that I took the helm of UNCTAD. I am a long-standing admirer of the Organization and its mission and am committed to strengthening our role as the focal point in the United Nations system for the integrated treatment of trade and development and interrelated issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment and sustainable development. Since I took office in September 2013, I have made it my mission to realize the full potential of our valuable human resources – highly qualified experts and a truly universal membership. To this end, I am working to ensure that the UNCTAD secretariat is efficient, cost-effective, accountable and focused, and delivers with impact, in particular at the national level. I am also strengthening our partnerships within the United Nations family and working to enhance the position of UNCTAD at the centre of dialogue on the trade and economic dimension of the sustainable development goals.
The year 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of UNCTAD. It is auspicious that the anniversary is taking place at a time when the global community rallies towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and seeks to respond to people’s aspirations around the world by setting the development agenda beyond 2015. Upon reaching such a milestone, it is natural that we should reflect back to our beginnings in 1964, when member States gathered in Geneva at the first quadrennial meeting of UNCTAD (UNCTAD I), aspiring to “a better and more effective system of international economic cooperation, whereby the division of the world into areas of poverty and plenty may be banished and prosperity achieved by all”1.
Today, while the context for development has profoundly changed, yet the dream of “prosperity for all” is still out of reach for many. There has been growing inequality within and across countries, and the global financial crisis, with its long-lasting negative effects on the world economy, has made the situation worse. Looking ahead, we are confronted with enormous challenges in the areas of finance, food security, climate change, environment, inequality and poverty. We need new insights, new action and new partnerships.
More than ever, we need UNCTAD and its global platform for dialogue, a forum where rich and poor countries can come together to engage on how to address the imbalances of the global economy, level the playing field and make sure that developing countries do not forever remain on the margins of the global economy, but also partake in the benefits of global trade.
Hence the raison d’être for the informal Geneva Dialogue on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, which I launched on 29 November 2013, its first meeting. The Geneva Dialogue offers a unique platform where a wide breadth of stakeholders can exchange views and opinions on the sustainable development agenda beyond 2015.
I look forward to forging closer partnerships with our member States, civil society and the private sector as we work towards our shared vision of one UNCTAD working for the prosperity of all member States. I am confident that UNCTAD at fifty is an organization that is going forward with renewed energy, a collective sense of direction and purposeful innovation.
Secretary-General of UNCTAD
1UNCTAD, 1964, Proceedings of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: Final Act and Report (New York, United Nations publication), p. 3.