UN Trade and Development chief marks 60th anniversary with vision for a new development era

12 June 2024

At Global Leaders Forum, Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan highlights the organization’s new, forward-looking agenda and renewed commitment to developing countries in an increasingly multipolar global economy.

UNCTAD chief Rebeca Grynspan speaks at the organization's 60th anniversary
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© UN Trade and Development | Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan speaks on 12 June at the opening ceremony of the organization's 60th anniversary Global Leaders Forum in Geneva, Switzerland.

In her opening statement at the Global Leaders Forum to marking the 60th anniversary of UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan highlighted the organization’s new, forward-looking agenda.

She underscored its renewed commitment to advocating for developing countries in an increasingly interconnected, complex and multipolar global economy. Read her full statement.

The opening ceremony, held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, featured speeches from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, 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 June 14, the forum has also brought together over two dozen trade and foreign affairs ministers, as well as renowned economists, business leaders and civil society representatives to chart a new development course in a rapidly changing world.



New chapter, where past inequalities won’t dictate the future

Ms. Grynspan said that when UNCTAD was created 60 years ago, a powerful idea emerged: that from the ashes of war and the complex history of trade, a new chapter could be written where past inequities wouldn’t dictate the future.

She acknowledged significant progress over the decades, highlighting the pivotal role of the developing world in driving global trade and lifting over a billion people out of poverty.

But she also highlighted the uneven benefits: “The winds of trade have filled the sails of some, propelling them to new heights of wealth and influence. But for others, those same winds have been a tempest, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to the boom and bust of capital, environmental degradation and commodity dependence.”

New face for multilateralism and globalization

Ms. Grynspan urged forum attendees to draw inspiration from the organization’s founding spirit, renewing their commitment to multilateralism with greater representation in governance, fairer trade rules and less financial inequity.

“The world is in need of a new 1964 moment,” she said.

The UN Trade and Development chief warned that the rules-based economic order is being contested in an emerging multipolar world, and that multipolarity without multilateralism will lead to fragmentation, trade wars, and dwindling global cooperation, where developing countries’ voices “risk being lost in the cacophony of competing interests.”

She advocated for a path that combines multipolarity with multilateralism to decentralize the global economy and political power while fostering greater inclusion. This approach would allow for a new face of globalization to emerge – the face of new players, new ideas, new generations and new hopes shaping the world.

“The promise of 1964 is alive in this room,” Ms. Grynspan said. “Let us be inspired by that spirit and that promise. Let’s go forward together.”