World Investment Forum 2023: Stakes high as global leaders gather to unlock sustainable development finance

12 October 2023

The UNCTAD forum brings together over 8,000 participants, heads of state, government ministers, sovereign wealth fund managers, private sector executives, stock exchanges, media, academics, investment treaty negotiators and heads of international organizations in more than 130 events to revitalize investments to meet development needs.

© Shutterstock/Marianna Ianovska | View of downtown Abu Dhabi, where the World Investment Forum 2023 will be held.

Stakes are high as heads of state, more than 50 government ministers, over 150 CEOs of leading companies and stock exchanges meet next week at the World Investment Forum 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 16 to 20 October.

The forum is organized by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). This edition takes place at a critical time, as developing countries face inadequate levels of investment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with an annual gap of more than $4 trillion, according to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2023.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said: “The forum is an opportunity to accelerate action and get more investments to flow into critical development sectors such as health care, food security and climate action. Without more investment, the delivery of the SDGs will be in jeopardy.”

The forum is a biennial multi-stakeholder gathering by these leaders to facilitate dialogue and action on the world's current and emerging investment-development challenges and is the leading platform to leverage investment policy for sustainable development.

It is recognized by governments and business leaders as the pre-eminent global gathering for investment partnership and policymaking,

This year’s edition will focus on the key investment challenges caused by today’s multiple global crises and revitalizing investment into food security, the transition to low-carbon energy, health systems, supply chain resilience and productive capacity growth in the poorest countries.


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Leaders’ summits

On 16 October, Secretary-General Grynspan will officially open the forum with Ahmed Al Zaabi, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, in the presence of state and business leaders.

The opening will include a summit connecting investment with sustainable development to mobilize more funding for development sectors.

Speakers will include President Mohammed Shahabuddin of Bangladesh, President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi of Botswana, President José Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste, President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé of Togo and chairman of the cabinet of ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Akylbek Zhaparov.

Spotlight on climate action towards COP28

Another summit will highlight investment solutions that will feed into negotiations at the 28th UN climate change conference (COP28) scheduled which will take place in Dubai  late November and December in Dubai.

Forum participants will agree on actions to boost clean energy investments in developing countries, which face an investment gap of $2.2 trillion annually for the transition to low-carbon energy, according to the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2023.

Secretary-General Grynspan will lead discussions with Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 President-Designate, UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and speakers from the private sector.

‘Game changers’ summit

On 17 October, the forum will feature a “game changers” summit with trailblazers, visionaries and leaders who are disrupting traditional paradigms, driving transformative change across sectors including energy, food, waste and environmental management, emphasizing inclusivity, circularity, digitalization and low-carbon solutions.

The summit will examine how to accelerate the global energy transition, improve health-care quality, access and affordability, enhance food production and distribution through technology and tackle inequality while promoting decent work.