Panel discussion on leaving nobody behind: Enhancing disability inclusion across the international trading system

22 November 2023
10:00 - 11:30 hrs. Room XVII, Palais des Nations and online
, Switzerland

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will organize, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, a panel discussion entitled Leaving nobody behind: enhancing disability inclusion across the international trading system. The event will take place on the margins of the 74th executive session of the Trade and Development Board.

One of the pillars of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the pledge to “leave no one behind” in the process of economic and social development. However, trade expansion on its own is unlikely to benefit the most disadvantaged groups in a country and might instead lead to inequitable outcomes. Global estimates suggest that 1 in 10 children and 1 in 6 adults have some type of disability and persons with disabilities are often unable to participate in economic life on an equal basis.

In this context, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland commissioned a research paper: Inclusive trade and persons with disabilities. This report contributes to the promotion of a disability inclusive trade policy agenda by building an analytical framework that illustrates the multiple ways in which greater trade integration can affect persons with disabilities, and by developing a definition of disability inclusive trade that can be operationalized. The report summarizes key priorities and offers suggestions on how trade programmes could best promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in the context of trade expansion.

In order to launch this research, UNCTAD will host a panel discussion, with participation of a wide range of stakeholders including government representatives, intergovernmental organizations, organizations of persons with disabilities. The event will give the opportunity for the Geneva trade community to react to the key priorities raised in the report and discuss how trade programmes could best promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in the context of the international trading system.

The hybrid event will ensure that discussions are accessible to a wide range of geographical participants and also include accessibility features for persons with disabilities, including closed captions and sign language interpretation.

Rebeca Grynspan
UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

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. 

Ville Tavio
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development
Government of Finland

Ville Tavio is currently Minister for Foreign Trade and Development in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland.

Ville Tavio was born on 25 June 1984 in Lappeenranta. For most of his childhood and youth he lived in Naantali and Turku in Southwest Finland.

Having graduated with a Master of Laws degree from the University of Turku in 2012, Tavio established a law firm specialising in litigation. In this regard, he followed in his family’s footsteps, being a third-generation lawyer. During his university studies, Tavio pursued economics as a minor subject in Thailand in 2010.

Tavio has a diverse work history, including experience as an entrepreneur, a prison guard, a stevedore, a painter and a café worker. He had his first job at the age of 14.

Tavio first entered Parliament in 2015. In Parliament, he has chaired the Finns Party Parliamentary Group and served as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Grand Committee and the Legal Affairs Committee. Tavio has also been a member of the supervisory boards of VR Group Ltd and Veikkaus Ltd.

Tavio has over ten years’ experience in municipal politics. In the 2010s, he chaired the Finns Party Council Group at Turku City Council. Tavio was subsequently elected a member of the Group Division of Turku City Executive.

Tavio lives with his partner and has three children. In his free time, Tavio enjoys sports and walking with the family’s dogs.

Heidi Schroderus-Fox
Permanent Mission of Finland in Geneva

Ambassador Schroderus-Fox is the Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, World Trade Organization, and Conference on Disarmament. She comes to this position from the United Nation Headquarters in New York, having served as the Director of the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) from 2012 to 2023. In this capacity, she recently served as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations 5th Conference on the Least Developed Countries, in Doha,

Ms. Schroderus-Fox joined the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1988, and has previously served at Finnish missions in Paris, Washington DC, Tel Aviv, Pretoria and New York. She served as Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations in New York during 2006-2010. During her work for Finland, she has made significant contributions in the areas of intergovernmental policy dialogue, partnership building and negotiations. Earlier in her career she focused particularly on Security Policy, Arms Control and the Middle East, chairing many international negotiations relating to these issues.

In 2010–2011, she served as the Head of Policy Issues for the Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly.

She holds a degree of Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration. She is also an alumni of the executive program of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Ms. Schroderus-Fox is married to Mr. Alan Fox and they have two children.

Miho Shirotori
Director a.i.
Division on International Trade and Commodities, UNCTAD

Miho Shirotori is the Acting Director of the Division on International Trade and Commodities (DITC) of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Miho also leads a team of experts that assess how trade agreements, trade in services, and the creative economy contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic diversification.

Her expertise includes “equitable” trade in agriculture for least developed countries, low-income countries, and net food-importing developing countries.

Miho represents UNCTAD in global conferences and various inter-agency activities, including the UN inter-agency task force that monitors the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Plan for the Financing for Development.

Anderson Gitonga
Inclusive Development Director
CBM Global Disability Inclusion

Mr. Anderson Gitonga is a results focused and dynamic community development practitioner, who has successfully led multi-disciplinary teams in implementing community focused programs for the last twenty-five years, focusing on the persons with various disabilities.

Currently, he is the Inclusive Development Director at CBM Global Disability Inclusion, an International NGO that works on disability inclusion through development and humanitarian programming. Previously, he has held leadership positions as the Executive Officer at the United Disabled Persons of Kenya, (National Umbrella organisation for organisations of persons with disabilities), has held programmatic and leadership functions at Act Change Transform, Association for the Physically Disabled Persons of Kenya (APDK) among others

Marzia Fontana
Research Associate
Institute of Development Studies

Marzia Fontana is currently a Research Associate at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.

Marzia is a feminist economist with over 25 years of research and teaching experience in the areas of intersecting inequalities, labour markets and international trade. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on these topics. Marzia has collaborated with a wide range of international organizations and bilateral agencies on trade-related projects, with a special focus on inclusive trade and gender equality.

She has a PhD in Economics and an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Sussex.

Judith Fessehaie
Head, SheTrades Initiative
International Trade Centre

Ms. Fessehaie is Head, SheTrades Initiative at the International Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of UNCTAD and the WTO. In this capacity, she oversees a portfolio of projects and programmes spanning capacity-building and access to markets for women producers and entrepreneurs; partnerships with business support organisations and corporates; and gender mainstreaming into trade policy-making.

Prior to joining ITC, Judith managed the trade and development programme at a leading Geneva-based think tank; and worked as a trade, industrial and regional value chain advisor at the Johannesburg-based Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development (CCRED); TradeMark Southern Africa, Zambia's Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. She also taught an MPhil in Industrial Policy run by UN IDEP – University of Johannesburg.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland
Sponsor / funding:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland

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Graham Mott, Ph.D.,

Economic Affairs Officer

Office of the Director

Division on International Trade and Commodities