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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a singular honour for me to bid you all welcome to this Special TDB marking the 50th anniversary of UNCTAD. My especial thanks to Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations; Your Excellency, Mr. Triyono Wibowo, President of the Trade and Development Board; Your Excellency, Ms. Simonetta Sommaruga, Vice-President and Federal Councillor of the Swiss Federation; Your Excellency, Mr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage of the State of Qatar and President of UNCTAD XIII; Your Excellency, Ms. Eda Rivas Franchini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru, the host of UNCTAD XIV, who has sent us a message; and our three special guests, who have served UNCTAD so valiantly, Mr. Eugene Koffi Adoboli of Togo, Mr. Julio Lacarte Muro of Uruguay and Mr. Jack Stone of the United States.
Beyond my capacity as UNCTAD Secretary-General, this occasion carries personal significance for me. As a Kenyan born at the sunset of the Mau Mau liberation struggle and the dawn of African independence, I have lived through the challenges that led to the creation and remain at the heart of UNCTAD work. Newly independent Kenya was among the poor nations which saw in the Geneva conference fifty years ago an opportunity to create an organization that embodied their aspirations and raised hopes that the great divide between the nations of the world could be narrowed, and the benefits of prosperity spread across regions. Over the ensuing years, the faltering progress of my country and continent, the bumpy road ridden by this organization, and my own sojourn to self-realization remain intertwined and are embodied in who I am.
Back in 1964, trade and economic relations reflected a sharp distinction between North and South. Trade perpetuated a skewed and biased international division of labour. Developing countries relied mainly on exports of primary products to, and imported high-value-added manufactured goods from, the former colonial powers. This relationship raised doubts as to whether political independence alone could provide the economic emancipation the nations of the South aspired to.
In creating UNCTAD, all countries - both rich and poor - recognized that it was necessary to redress this imbalance. To quote from what you - our member States - agreed at UNCTAD I: "Economic development and social progress should be the common concern of the whole international community, and should … help strengthen peaceful relations and cooperation among nations."
Since then, working with our member States, we at UNCTAD have strived to build a world economy that serves the interests of all. We have carried out analytical research and provided innovative thinking and policy proposals. We have served as a forum to foster consensus on achieving inclusive development. Through our technical cooperation, we have supported the efforts of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to benefit from globalization. In the process, UNCTAD has helped to inform and shape the global development agenda, as well as build national capacities where needed.
Fifty years on, we have moved from a world dominated by North-South and East-West divisions to one of more complex relationships and new interconnectedness. Yet some of the same development concerns that animated discussions in 1964 remain. The need for inclusive growth is just as, if not more, compelling today.
The same is true for the continued need to fight poverty. Despite progress in reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty, in 2010 2.4 billion people still had to survive on less than $2 a day, only slightly fewer than was the case in 1981. As Nelson Mandela said: "Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings."
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At UNCTAD One, the Kenyan representative spoke of the disconnect between per-capita income figures and the reality of everyday life for millions of people who did not know where their next meal would come from, or where they would sleep the next night.
The challenge to not only to foster trade and economic growth, but also ensure that they translate into improved livelihoods, is of particular relevance today at the end of a decade of jobless growth. It is central to creating development that is sustainable - economically, socially and environmentally.
The international community must keep this in mind as we step up the drive to complete the MDGs and agree on a transformative post-2015 development agenda. The agenda we define should aim to create conditions that will allow more countries to achieve the kind of "virtuous circles" of productive investment, rising incomes, poverty reduction and expanding markets that bring about lasting economic and social transformation.
In this regard, I am encouraged by the ongoing discussions in New York on sustainable development goals, which are showing a clear realization that we must focus more on the economic factors that will allow us to achieve more ambitious goals as a successor to the MDGs. I am also pleased to say that UNCTAD is playing a lead role in modeling appropriate means of implementation for the SDGs.
UNCTAD at 50 has grown the capacity to take a lead role in the structural transformation needed in developing countries. I can say with confidence that despite new complexities reflected in new dynamics of trade, notwithstanding the reversals originating from uncertainties in the environment, financial crises and security breaches, UNCTAD remains fit for purpose. We stand ready and eager to carry forth the vision and hopes that inspired our founding fathers. We stand ready to help realize the dreams of children born in the poor homes of rich and poor nations alike.
As the world has changed over the past 50 years, so has UNCTAD. Our scope has broadened to reflect the different needs and circumstances of our membership. We are committed to maintaining this spirit of adaptability and responsiveness.
We at UNCTAD can also strengthen the synergies and cross-fertilization between the three pillars of our work. Experience shows that we have been most effective when our research and policy analysis, our consensus-building efforts and our technical cooperation activities all push in the same direction. Bold ideas require political support and technical expertise to help them adapt to local conditions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In early 2016, less than two years from now, UNCTAD XIV will take place in Lima, Peru. Before then, in addition to the deliberations to establish SDGs, there will be a number of important meetings held under the UN's auspices. These are set to include conferences of Small-Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries, as well as on climate change and financing for development. We will have a unique opportunity to work as One UN and make the linkages that will allow us to help shape a brighter future.
To succeed we will have to strengthen our multilateral cooperation and partnerships, as Secretary-General Ban has stressed. We will have to look toward the challenges ahead without forgetting what we have done and learned during the past 50 years. There is much more than symbolism in the documents you see presented today in front of me. They represent the outcomes of the UNCTAD conferences to date - the collective work of our member States. We can be proud of what we have achieved together. Let us also look forward to how we can join forces in the future in favour of prosperity for all.