Expert meeting on revisiting development strategies for small island developing states in the post-pandemic competitive landscape

Expert meeting on revisiting development strategies for small island developing states in the post-pandemic competitive landscape
24 October 2022
15:00 - 18:00 hrs. Room XVII, Palais des Nations
Geneva and Online
, Switzerland

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a global health and economic crisis. Initially understood as an acute shock, from which countries could recover back to a “normal”, pre-pandemic state, the persistence of the virus and its variants, as well as the sanitary measures used to combat them, make increasingly clear that the pandemic will permanently transform the global economy.

The changes to the structure of the global economy, provoked by the pandemic, represent a disproportionate threat to developing countries with poor integration in global value chains (GVCs) and low technology adoption rates, such as small island developing States (SIDS). Protracted disruptions to supply chains pose a major risk to the functioning of their economies, which depend on imports of food, energy and intermediate goods. Even prior to the pandemic, most SIDS struggled to compete in higher-value industries, especially those based on exporting physical goods, due to their limited productive capacity, small size, narrow resource base and geographic isolation. As a result, SIDS are poorly integrated in global value chains and rely on external aid and borrowing to finance public investments and spending.

In this context, and responding to its renewed mandate under the Bridgetown Covenant to assist SIDS “addressing their specific vulnerabilities, build resilience and promote structural economic transformation and productive capacities”, UNCTAD proposes to hold a single-year expert meeting on the theme “Revisiting development strategies for SIDS in the post-pandemic competitive landscape”.



  • Ms. Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General, UNCTAD
  • Mr. Paul Akiwumi, Director, Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, UNCTAD


  • The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Dr Hyginus Leon, President, Caribbean Development Bank
  • H.E. Mr. Chad Blackman, Senior Advisor to the Director-General, ILO, and former Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva and Coordinator of the SIDS Group in Geneva
  • H.E. Mrs. Usha Chandnee Dwarka-Canabady, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mauritius to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva
  • H.E. Mrs. Mereswalesi Falemaka, Permanent Observer, Delegation of the Pacific Islands Forum to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva
  • H.E. Mr. Umej Singh Bhatia, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Singapore to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva

Main issues for discussion

Sessions and expected outcomes will respond to some fundamental questions facing SIDS, including:

  1. How can SIDS structure their recovery to build their resilience to external shocks and foster inclusive development?
  2. In an altered post-pandemic competitive landscape, how, and in what industries, can SIDS compete and build productive capacity, as the basis for their development strategies?
  3. What is needed in terms of external debt relief and a new generation of international support measures, to support COVID-19 recovery and new development strategies in SIDS?

Contributions from experts

To facilitate discussion, experts are encouraged to prepare case studies on the subject under discussion.

These papers will be made available at the meeting in the form and language in which they are received.


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Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 24 October 2022
(TD/B/C.II/EM.6/3) -  28 Nov 2022
(TD/B/C.II/EM.6/1) -  15 Sep 2022
20 Sep 2022
18 Oct 2022
(TD/B/C.II/EM.6/INF.1) -  26 May 2023

Rebeca Grynspan
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Rebeca Grynspan, of Costa Rica, became UNCTAD's eighth Secretary-General on 13 September 2021 and is the first woman to lead the organization.

Prior to her UNCTAD appointment, she was the Ibero-American secretary-general from 2014 to 2021, also the first woman to head the organization. During her mandate, she has coordinated the 22-member Iberoamerican Conference and led four key summits of Heads of State and Government. 

In 2010 she was appointed Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and prior to that was UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.  

Prior to joining the United Nations, Ms. Grynspan served as Vice-President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998. She was also Minister of Housing, Minister Coordinator of Economic and Social Affairs, and Deputy Minister of Finance. In 2021 she was named Special International Advisor to the newly created Economic and Social Council of Argentina and invited to join as member of the G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

In addition to her experience as a lecturer and advisor to several international organizations, she has been actively involved in key United Nations initiatives, such as the Millennium Project's Task Force on Poverty and Economic Development and the High-level Panel on Financing for Development.  

In 2014 and 2015, she was recognized as one of the 50 leading intellectuals of Latin America.  And she was recognized as one of the 100 most powerful women in Central America by Forbes magazine.

Ms Grynspan holds a degree in Economics by the University of Costa Rica and a MSc in Economics by the University of Sussex. She has been awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa by the University of Salamanca, the University of Extremadura and the European University of Madrid in recognition of her outstanding professional achievements. 

Paul Akiwumi
Director of the Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes
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Paul Akiwumi is the director of UNCTAD’s division for Africa, least developed countries and special programmes at UNCTAD.

He has a wealth of knowledge and extensive experience in the areas of political, diplomatic and development policy at the national, regional and global levels with governments, the private sector and civil society.

Previously, Mr. Akiwumi served as director of the economic, social and development affairs unit in the executive office of the secretary-general of the UN in New York. Prior to this role, he was the chief of staff in the office of the deputy secretary-general of the UN.

Before joining the UN, he was a senior advisor to the chief executive officer of the Global Environment Facility in Washington D.C. Earlier in his career, he served with the UN Environment Programme as chief of staff. He also worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Economic Commission for Africa.

He holds a master's degree from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

Patricia Scotland
The Commonwealth
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The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC is the 6th Commonwealth Secretary-General. She was born in Dominica and was their candidate for the post at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta in 2015. She is the 2nd Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the 1st woman to hold the post.

Patricia Scotland was born in the Commonwealth of Dominica. She completed her LLB (Hons) London University at the age of twenty and was called to the Bar at Middle Temple at the age of twenty-one.

Her career has been marked by achieving a number of extraordinary firsts, not least of which was to be the first woman in the more than 700-year history of the office to serve as Her Majesty’s Attorney-General for England and Wales and for Northern Ireland.

While holding these and other senior ministerial offices she was given responsibility, inter alia, for gender equality, domestic violence, forced marriage, and international child abduction, and from these positions promoted diversity and equality of opportunity, particularly for women and girls.

As the only woman to have been appointed Secretary-General of Commonwealth she is placing special emphasis on mobilising the 54 nations of the Commonwealth to tackle climate change – including its disproportionate impact on women – and, through women’s enterprise, to build the resilience of smaller or more vulnerable countries. Eliminating domestic violence and violence against women and girls is another area of focus.  

Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon
Caribbean Development Bank
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Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon is the sixth President of Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the regional development finance institution based in Barbados. He was elected at a Special Meeting of the CDB Board of Governors held on January 19, 2021 for a five-year term, and assumed office on May 4, 2021.

Dr. Leon has over 30 years of experience in economic development and has directed macroeconomic and financial policy support to government authorities in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and the Caribbean. He worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for more than 24 years, serving as Mission Chief for Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, The Bahamas, and the Gulf States of Oman, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, as well as IMF’s Senior Resident Representative in Jamaica and Nigeria.

Prior to his engagement with the IMF, Dr. Leon was an Associate Professor at State University of New York at Old Westbury in the United States. He has also served as Director of Research at the Central Bank of Barbados and Country Economist at CDB.

Dr. Leon holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Economics from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom (UK) and a Bachelor of Science Degree (B.Sc.) in Economics from the University of London also in the U.K.

Chad Blackman
Senior Advisor to the Director-General
International Labour Organization
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His Excellency Chad Blackman, is the Senior Advisor to the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). He served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, Vienna, and Rome, and Barbados’ Ambassador to Austria, Hungary, Switzerland and to the Republic of Serbia.

Ambassador Blackman has worked in the international development sector for over fifteen years and has engaged as an international trade law specialist and development consultant at the Commonwealth Secretariat respectively. Prior to his tenure in Geneva, he was Legal Consultant and Partner in a Caribbean Law Firm, where he led on issues international trade, shipping and data protection laws.

He served as President of the G77 & China Group in Geneva, and is the former Chair for the Trade and Environment Committee and former Chair of the Trade and Development Committee, both in the WTO. He chaired the SIDS Group in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), was the Americas Co-ordinator for the Government Group in the ILO, and is a UN International Gender Champion Global Board Member. Ambassador Blackman, is a British trained international trade law specialist, and has read for both the LLB Law and LLM International Trade Law from the University of Essex in the UK, and is an Associate member of the London based, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and speaks English, French and Spanish.

Usha Chandnee Dwarka-Canabady
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Mauritius to the United Nations in Geneva
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Usha Chandnee Dwarka-Canabady is Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mauritius to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva.

Prior to this appointment, Ambassador Dwarka-Canabady was, since November 2015, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Mauritius, after having been acting Secretary for Foreign Affairs between April 2013 and October 2015. She was also Head of the Multilateral Economic Directorate (January 2007 to March 2013) and Head of the Multilateral Political Department (May 2006-2007) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Regional Integration in Port-Louis, Mauritius.

Mrs Dwarka-Canabady has a BA in Psychology, Sociology and English from the University of Leicester, an MA in International Politics from the University Libre of Brussels, and a Diplomatic Studies Program Certificate from the Graduate Institute International Studies in Geneva.

Merewalesi Falemaka
Permanent Observer
Permanent Delegation of the Pacific Islands Forum to the United Nations in Geneva
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Merewalesi Falemaka has been Permanent Representative of the Pacific Islands Forum to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since 2013 and accredited as Permanent Observer of the Pacific Islands Forum to the United Nations Office and other international organisations in Geneva since 2018.

Prior to her appointment, she served as Director of Trade and Investment at the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat in Port Vila, Vanuatu from 2009 to 2013. She was a Trade Consultant for Pacific States on the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations with the European Union at the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat in Fiji from 2007 to 2009, and Commonwealth Trade Consultant for Pacific States on the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Fiji from 2006 to 2007.

Ms. Falemaka served as Trade Policy Adviser on World Trade Organization issues at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Fiji from 2000 to 2006. She worked at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade of Fiji in various capacities from 1986 to 1999, including as Chief Economist.

Ms. Falemaka holds a Master of Economic Studies from the University of Queensland, Australia (1996) and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Geography from the University of the South Pacific in Fiji (1982).

Umej Singh Bhatia
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Permanent Delegation of Singapore to the United Nations in Geneva
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Ambassador Umej Bhatia is Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva and the United Nations Office in Vienna, resident in Geneva. Ambassador Bhatia is concurrently Resident Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and Permanent Representative to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organization.

Ambassador Bhatia graduated with Double First Class Honours from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom in 1995 under a Singapore Broadcasting Corporation scholarship. He obtained a Master of Arts from Harvard University, United States of America in 2005 under a Ministry of Foreign Affairs scholarship.

In 1995, Ambassador Bhatia worked for the then Television Corporation of Singapore where he produced and presented the current affairs programme “Talking Point”.

Ambassador Bhatia joined the Foreign Service in 1996 and has served in various capacities on issues covering Southeast Asia, Middle East and the United Nations in the Ministry’s headquarters. He served overseas as First Secretary in Singapore’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, from 1999 to 2003, and as an Alternate Representative for Singapore on the United Nations Security Council from 2001 to 2002. In 2006, he was appointed as the first Chargé d’Affaires in the Singapore Embassy in Doha, Qatar where he served until 2011. He was Singapore’s Consul-General in Dubai from September 2011 to December 2012. Ambassador Bhatia was Singapore’s first resident Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from January 2013 to December 2016. He served as Director-General Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia from January 2017 to May 2019.

Ambassador Bhatia was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) by the Singapore Government in 2008. From 2009 to 2012, Ambassador Bhatia served on the board of Singapore’s Infocomms Development Authority (International). In 2016, Ambassador Bhatia was conferred the Order of Independence (First Class) by the President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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