UNCTAD eWeek 2023 opening session

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

UNCTAD eWeek 2023 opening session

04 December 2023

[Video recording]

Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed,

President of the Trade and the Development Board, Febrian Ruddyard of Indonesia


eTrade for all partners,

Participants to the UNCTAD eWeek 2023,


Dear friends,

It brings me great pleasure to welcome you all to the UNCTAD eWeek 2023.

Thank you all for coming.

This is the first eWeek we are able to celebrate in person since the COVID pandemic.

I speak to you virtually only out of necessity – today is Trade Day at COP28, and I am compelled to be in Dubai for this. But I am speeding my way back to Geneva and look forward to joining you tomorrow and the rest of the week for what will be a fascinating event.

Since we last convened in person, the world has utterly changed.

The digital economy has experienced a multi-trillion-dollar expansion. Access to digital technologies has skyrocketed. And the advent of artificial intelligence has shocked the world.

At the same time, climate disasters are hitting harder every year, and war and cascading economic shocks have side-tracked development across the world.

Only 15 percent of all sustainable development goals are on track to be met by 2030.

SDGs are too big to fail. And yet, we are failing them.

This contradiction, between rapid digital growth and arrested sustainable development, can be seen as a correlation.

Artificial intelligence, the crown jewel of the digital world, is built on data; data itself, on digital use; use, on access; access, on infrastructure and capacities.

This means that countries at the frontlines of development are being left behind and need to run faster and faster to catch up. Under business as usual, time is not on their side.

But where some see contradiction, we see opportunity.

The theme for this year’s edition of the eWeek is “Shaping the Future of the Digital Economy”.

This theme is not just a statement. It's a call to action.

We are at a crossroads, where we can use the digital revolution to leapfrog development challenges.

Our goal is to ensure that the digital economy becomes a bridge, not a barrier.

This week, in over 150 sessions, we will explore how digital tools can be used to advance the SDGs.

From paperless solutions that can reduce our carbon footprint, to digital education platforms that open new worlds of learning, the possibilities are endless.

We will discuss how digital finance can unlock economic opportunities, especially for women and marginalized groups; and how digital trade can transform local SMEs into global players.

We also acknowledge the challenges and responsibilities that come with this rapid digital expansion. Issues such as data privacy, ethical AI, and cyber security are not just technical issues, but societal ones. Innovation is key, but so is regulation.

We will also discuss how to create a regulatory environment that encourages innovation while protecting the rights and safety of individuals.


Dear friends,

I would like to close with a word of thanks.

I want to thank the members of the “eTrade for all” family which have partnered with us in organizing many of this week’s sessions.

I want to thank the Government of Switzerland for supporting this event and for allowing us to make use of this great conference centre.

I also want to thank Jovan Kubalija and the Diplo Foundation for helping us “walk the talk” in the field of artificial intelligence. 

Jovan and his team will be applying their bottom-up AI technology to generate timely summaries of the sessions of the week. I am very keen to test them.

Furthermore, this eWeek would not have been possible without the financial support from several donors of our e-commerce and digital economy programme, as well as from the Afrexim Bank, the UN Capital Development Fund, and the Omidyar Network.

I would also like to thank the UNCTAD team for putting together this multistakeholder event and for their tireless efforts to ensure its success. Their dedication and hard work have been instrumental in organizing an event of this scale and significance.

I am extremely proud to have you by my side.

Last but not least, I would like to thank you. All of you who have come.

I look forward to your opinions, your feedback, and your ideas for a better tomorrow.

None of us is as smart as all of us together.

Together, let us rewire the clock. Let us press play on development. Let us reshape the future of the digital economy.

Thank you.