The slowdown in global trade and lack of productive investment are intensifying deep divides, protectionism, and even xenophobia, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday at the opening of the fourteenth United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) in Nairobi, Kenya.
The conference, UNCTAD 14, was opened by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in the presence of Mr. Ban and UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi. The vice-president of Uganda, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, represented Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's president, who was detained at an African Union summit taking place in Kigali, Rwanda.
"There are worrying signs that people around the world are increasingly unhappy with the state of the global economy," said Mr. Ban, who noted high inequality, stagnant incomes, not enough jobs - especially for youth - and too little cause for optimism.
"The global trade slowdown and a lack of productive investment have sharpened the deep divides between those who have benefited from globalization, and those who continue to feel left behind," he said. "And rather than working to change the economic model for the better, many actual and would-be leaders are instead embracing protectionism and even xenophobia."
Linking UNCTAD's mission to bring "prosperity for all" to the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the United Nations' member States in 2015, Mr. Ban told delegates: "You can count on the UNCTAD secretariat and the entire UN system to support your efforts and implement your vision."
President Kenyatta said that making decisions on development aspirations were "meaningless without action."
Speakers at the ceremony reflected that the theme of the conference -- From Decisions to Action -- made it the first international conference since a series of goal-setting exercises in 2015, including the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, the COP21 climate deal agreed in Paris, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda set for financing development.
"Confidence that globalization can deliver is receding. It is critical we now turn from making promises to keeping promises," Dr. Kituyi said.
In the first plenary session immediately after the opening event, Amina Mohamed, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was elected president of the UNCTAD conference.
Ms. Mohamed had earlier announced that the political declaration to be made at the end of the week-long conference will have a suitable Kenyan name.