Webinar: Towards a sustainable ocean economy: What role for cities?

Webinar: Towards a sustainable ocean economy: What role for cities?
20 June 2024
15:00 - 16:30 hrs.

Approximately 27% of the global population – equivalent to around 2.15 billion people – resides in coastal cities and the near coastal zone. UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated the value of the global ocean economy at $2.6 trillion in 2021. Oceans and coastal cities serve as dynamic interfaces where human behavior and urban development, including agricultural and manufacturing systems, intersect with marine ecosystems and climate dynamics.

Webinar Objective

This Geneva Urban Debate (GUD) aims to raise awareness about the relevant activities by UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and strengthen two-way information exchange between the organization and Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) on the way for the United Nations Summit of the Future in September 2024 as well as for the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2025. Speakers will explore the multifaceted roles that cities can assume to foster synergistic relationships between human settlements and their coastal environments. Experts will explore in what areas LRGs can contribute to the work of UN Trade and Development to maximize their local impact. Our aim is to explore how UN Trade and Development can help coastal cities help our global community to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The vast expanse of oceans and seas around the globe play multifaceted roles: they provide sustenance, harbor minerals, oxygenate the atmosphere, absorb greenhouse gases, influence weather patterns, and serve as vital trade routes, facilitating 80% of international commerce. They sustain livelihoods, employment, nutrition, and drive economic growth in cities and islands.

Most ocean and coastal cities share a symbiotic relationship with the sea. They rely on it for connectivity, trade, sustenance, leisure, tourism, and climate regulation. However, this relationship is not unidirectional. Cities are also a huge source of solid, wastewater, and chemical pollution. Particularly in cities where environmental services such as sewage, pollution control, solid and wastewater management are insufficient to meet the existing and expected demand.

Given their exclusive and shared responsibilities in urban planning, public services, economic development, transport, health, infrastructure, and environmental controls, Local and Regional Governments play a pivotal role. They are called upon to champion sustainable development, aligning their actions with relevant Sustainable Development Goals.

UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is exploring how the vulnerabilities of coastal cities and regions, such as climate change, sea-level rise, and natural disasters can affect their trade and development prospects. In cooperation with other UN agencies, academia, and civil society actors it promotes sustainable urban development strategies tailored to the unique needs of coastal cities. This includes integrating sustainable ocean or blue economy considerations, promoting green and resilient infrastructure, and fostering inclusive growth to mitigate the adverse effects of urbanization on coastal ecosystems.

UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) provides, at their requests, policy recommendations to governments – and sometimes to local and regional authorities – to address the challenges faced by coastal cities effectively. These recommendations encompass trade regulatory frameworks, land and ocean space planning, economic diversification, disaster preparedness, and capacity building initiatives aimed at fostering sustainable development along coastal areas.

The Geneva Urban Debate connects Local and Regional Governments and international organizations to advance inclusive multilateralism and make intergovernmental decision-making more effective by integrating voices of local authorities. We believe that UN Trade and Development’s work might benefit by bringing the experiences and needs of local and regional communities into the debate.

Tentative Programme

Moderator: Mr. Andras Szorenyi, Senior Policy Advisor, Global Cities Hub

Setting the scene: Mr. Graham Alabaster, Head of UN-Habitat Geneva Office


  • H.E. Mr. José R Sánchez-Fung, Ambassador, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the World Trade Organization and UNCTAD, Geneva
  • Mr. David Vivas Eugui, Chief of Section, Ocean and Circular Economy, UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 
  • Mr. Awni Behnam, Honorary President, International Ocean Institute (IOI), Malta
  • Ms. Valéria Braga, Municipal Secretary for Science, Technology and Innovation, Niteroi



José Sanchez-Fung
Ambassador and permanent representative
World Trade Organization (WTO), and to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland

José R. Sanchez-Fung is the Dominican Republic’s ambassador and permanent representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland. He is currently serving as the chairperson of the WTO’s Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration, chairperson of the Working Party on the Accession of Equatorial Guinea to the WTO, coordinator of the 39-country SIDS Group at UNCTAD, and vice-president of UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Board.

Preceding the appointment in Geneva, Dr Sánchez-Fung was ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, and head of the diplomatic mission, of the Dominican Republic to Switzerland, based in Bern. He was also ambassador and permanent representative of the Dominican Republic to the Universal Postal Union.

Before joining his country’s foreign service, Dr Sánchez-Fung taught economics for over two decades at the University of Nottingham (Ningbo, China), Kingston University London (with tenure), and the University of Kent (Canterbury, UK). He currently holds an adjunct professorship at Western Michigan University’s department of economics (Michigan, USA).

Ambassador Sánchez-Fung holds an undergraduate degree in economics from PUCMM in Santo Domingo, and MA and PhD degrees in economics from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom.

David Vivas Eugui
Chief (a.i) of the Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development Branch
UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

David Vivas Eugui is Chief (a.i) of the Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development Branch at UNCTAD.

Previously, he was a Senior Economic Affairs Officer in UNCTAD’s Trade Negotiations and Commercial Diplomacy Branch, Deputy Programmes Director at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), Senior Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL),  Attaché for Legal Affairs at the Mission of Venezuela to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Staff Attorney at the Venezuelan Institute of Foreign Trade. David is an international expert with more than 20 years of experience on legal and economic issues.

He has worked as an advisor and consultant for various institutions, international and national organizations and has lectured on intellectual property, trade, oceans economy and environmental law at the University of Strasbourg (CEIPI), Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina), Universidad Javeriana (Colombia), Maastricht University (the Netherlands), WIPO Distant Learning Academy, and University of Business and International Studies (Switzerland).

He holds a JD from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, an LLM from Georgetown University and a Master in Transnational Business from the Universidad Externado de Colombia.

Awni Behnam
Honorary President
International Ocean Institute (IOI)

A former United Nations diplomat with 27 years of experience in the diplomatic service. He served on request as Secretary of the Ministerial meetings of the G77 prior to UNCTAD in Tehran, Havana, Morocco, South Africa and as Secretary of the G77 regional meetings in Bangladesh, Jordan, Lebanon.

He assisted and advised the Government of Qatar in organizing the South Summit in Doha, 2004, and other countless events including the GATES conference in Shanghai and GPA in Beijing.

He has BA in business administration from Mustensiriya University (1968) and a Msc and PhD at the University of Wales (1972-76).

UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Global Cities Hub

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