UNCTAD15 Opening Plenary and Ceremony – Oct 4, 2021. (UNCTAD)

The foundational goal of The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which examines an effective system of international economic cooperation is necessary now more than ever before, if the world is to achieve equality and prosperity for all.

During her remarks at the official opening ceremony of UNCTAD 15, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, this morning, UNCTAD’s Secretary-General, Rebeca Grynspan stressed this point, as she emphasised that the world now stands at a critical point in the history of multilateralism.

Ms. Grynspan quoted from the foundational document created 57 years ago, which indicates that States participating in UNCTAD should be determined to promote social progress; seek a better and more effective system of international economic cooperation, and assist in alleviating poverty.

She highlighted that Barbados had created history, in that, it was the first Caribbean and small island developing state (SIDS) to host UNCTAD, and drew attention to the urgency of tackling climate change, which affects SIDS. 

Ms. Grynspan pointed out that mitigation and adaptation was urgently needed as it “is a matter not of change, but of survival” for SIDS. The issue of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequitable distribution of vaccines was also examined. 

“We are now witnessing a deeply divergent recovery with advanced countries growing and vaccinating at rates, many times greater than those in the developing world. This trajectory, as was said if continuant, will leave many people behind. This will not be prosperity for all.

“There are many reasons behind these divergence, … but no doubt the inequalities we are witnessing in the access to vaccines, and financial resources, are today at the very heart of these divergence. Lives and livelihoods that could be saved are not being saved in wide regions of the world, and that is indeed an outrage,” the Secretary General stressed.

She then turned her focus to the disruption in trading systems, which has resulted in increasing unilateral policies, and caused a spike in transport and maritime prices that affect developing states in their capacity to recover. 

UNCTAD’s Secretary-General, Rebeca Grynspan, speaking at the official opening ceremony of UNCTAD 15, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, this morning. (E. Brooks/BGIS)

In addition, she also mentioned the lack of access to financial resources, which also affected least developed countries’ (LDCs) ability to recover from the various health, socio-economic and climate crises.

Ms. Grynspan proffered: “I fear that without immediate international action, they (LDCs) will have to get back to austerity measures, hurting even more, their prospects to recover.”

Consequently, the UNCTAD Secretary General proposed a number of ways of moving towards rebuilding and achieving the theme of UNCTAD 15 – From inequality and vulnerability to prosperity for all.

These included: having a more inclusive multilateral system; locking down discriminating laws; reversing the massive trade of investment flows to already existing rich companies and markets, and directing them to developing countries. 

She also suggested providing funding for sustainable development; enabling diversified and productive economic structures; and most of all, bringing LCDs to the negotiating table and rooms, thus providing them with a voice to air their concerns.

Ms. Grynspan assured delegates that despite the obstacles and challenges being faced, she remained committed as UNCTAD’s Secretary General, to implementing “concrete steps” and measures, that would lead to “concrete results” in achieving the agenda of UNCTAD 15. 

“Change is possible and there is much that we can do together in this conference,” she maintained. 


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