Starting as an economist in the UNCTAD Commodities Division, specializing in iron ore and steel-related minerals, she was responsible for one of the few intergovernmental expert groups that lasted for more than 10 years and was one of the first UNCTAD bodies to bring the private sector to advance producer-consumer dialogue on commodities. Then, she became chef de cabinet of former UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero before heading the Creative Economy Programme in the Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities.
In 2005, at the UNCTAD XI ministerial conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the High Level Panel on Creative Industries and Development gave mandates for UNCTAD to carry out several studies to identify challenges and opportunities facing the growth and development of creative industries in developing industries, and to draw upon the rich cultural traditions and pools of creative talent in developing countries which can lay a basic foundation for creative enterprises. Creative industries such as entertainment, fashion, crafts, publishing, advertising, and design, are growing at a faster rate than the global economy in general, is one of the most dynamic sectors in the world economy, and world trade of creative goods and services totalled US$ 559.5 billion in 2010 accounting for hundreds of millions of jobs around the world. As one commentator has noted: "Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource".
The Creative Economy Report 2008 prepared under overall guidance of Ms. Edna dos Santos-Duisenberg, the main co-author of the report, was jointly published by UNCTAD and UNDP, and was the first study to present the UN perspective on the emerging topic.
The UNCTAD definition of “creative economy” was presented as follows:
- The creative economy is an evolving concept based on creative assets potentially generating economic growth and development;
- It can foster income generation, job creation and export earnings while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development;
- It embraces economic, cultural and social aspects interacting with technology, intellectual property and tourism objectives;
- It is a set of knowledge-based economic activities with a development dimension and cross-cutting linkages at macro and micro levels to the overall economy;
- It is a feasible development option calling for innovative multidisciplinary policy responses and interministerial action;
- At the heart of the creative economy are the creative industries which can be defined as the cycles of creation, production and distribution of goods and services that use creativity and intellectual capital as primary inputs. They comprise a set of knowledge-based activities that produce tangible goods and intangible intellectual or artistic services with creative content, economic value and market objectives.
At UNCTAD XIII in Doha, Qatar in April this year, the outcome document -- the Doha Mandate -- requested UNCTAD to:
"Provide analytical work and technical assistance to developing countries, particularly LDCs and countries with economies in transition, in the areas of trade and economic diversification and structural transformation to enhance growth and development including sectors related to creative economy, entrepreneurship and others that generate more value addition".
During her tenure, in addition to producing two main Reports on the Creative Economy, Ms. Edna dos Santos-Duisenberg helped to move ahead the research and policy agendas around the creative economy.
She set up the UNCTAD Creative Economy Database with world trade statistics and promoted networking and synergy with the creative community by circulating 18 periodic e-newsletters to over 2,500 readers worldwide. She organised and participated in countless workshops, conferences and events throughout the world in both developing and developed countries alike.
The latest included her participation in several events at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June, including the Summit on Creative Economy and Tourism, and the launching of the Puppet Planet Show. Visiting over 85 countries during her international career at UNCTAD, as head of UNCTAD's Creative Economy Programme she helped to shine a spotlight on this new and dynamic sector, providing new ideas, inspiring hope -- all at no additional budgetary cost to UNCTAD.
All her missions from Beijing to Bangkok, Cape Town to Vancouver, Osaka to Lusaka, Rio de Janeiro to Maputo, were borne by the host country or organising institutions. She was active up to the very last days on the job.
She delivered. The UNCTAD Secretariat says thank you.
The selection process to identify Edna's successor is now being undertaken by UNCTAD.