UN chief underscores UNCTAD's essential role in shaping a fairer, more sustainable global economy

12 June 2024

Marking the organization’s 60th anniversary, António Guterres praised UN Trade and Development's new, forward-looking agenda and renewed commitment to amplifying advocacy for developing countries.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at UNCTAD's 60th anniversary
Default image copyright and description

© UN Trade and Development | António Guterres speaks on 12 June at UNCTAD's 60th anniversary Global Leaders Forum in Geneva, Switzerland.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened on 12 June the Global Leaders Forum organized to mark the 60th anniversary of UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The opening featured speeches from UN Trade and Development Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan, the presidents and prime ministers of Barbados, Brazil, China, Comoros, Cuba, Madagascar and Timor-Leste, as well as Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin of Switzerland, the host country. See the statements.

Running through 14 June in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the forum has also convened more than two dozen trade and foreign affairs ministers, as well as leading economists, business leaders and civil society representatives to chart a new development course in a changing world.

Beyond legacy: ‘An inspiration for today’s debates and decisions'



In his opening statement, Mr. Guterres underscored UN Trade and Development’s legacy in shaping a fairer global economy.

“UNCTAD’s work has not only created a legacy. It continues to be an inspiration for today’s debates and decisions,” he said. 

“I congratulate UN Trade and Development once again on its important history and its new, forward-looking agenda.”

Over the past six decades, he said, UN Trade and Development has steadfastly defended these countries, calling for a more equitable and inclusive global trading system that drives economic growth, reduces poverty and fosters social progress.

Essential role in the quest for a shared, prosperous future

Turning to current challenges, Mr. Guterres highlighted the impact of escalating global tensions, deepening inequalities, and a worsening climate crisis on developing countries.

He said an “outdated, dysfunctional and unjust” international financial architecture has failed to support developing countries overburdened by record public debt levels. He also emphasized that while trade can be a catalyst for prosperity and economic innovation, it can also lead to inequality and environmental degradation.

Mr. Guterres praised UN Trade and Development's efforts to bridge systemic gaps, saying the organization’s mission remains crucial in the quest for a shared, prosperous future.

"Your role remains essential," he said, "identifying and working to close gaps and discrepancies in the system and proposing pragmatic, evidence-based solutions."

He added: “We must channel the courage and wisdom of those who built UNCTAD, to reimagine a world where trade is a force for shared prosperity, not geopolitical rivalry, where global supply chains are a source of green innovation and climate action, not environmental damage, and where sustainable development is a central goal, not an afterthought.”