The 15th Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15) will now be held in Barbados from October 3 to 8, 2021, with pre-events starting from Friday, October 1.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley made the announcement today at Ilaro Court, during a virtual Joint Global Update with UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, where they addressed member states, UNCTAD Secretariat officials and the media.
UNCTAD 15 had been slated for Barbados in October 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it had been rescheduled until April 25 to 30, 2021.
Ms. Mottley said that because of the unfortunate reality with the COVID-19 pandemic and the second wave being experienced in some countries, she and the Secretary-General agreed it was necessary to seek a further postponement of UNCTAD 15.
She continued: “The second wave of COVID-19 infections has grown more intense and more deadly in hotspots across the globe. It became increasingly apparent that however safe we believed Barbados to be, and however much effort we put into keeping it so, … this could not of itself motivate participants to travel to our country in the numbers to transact the important business of UNCTAD 15 in a meaningful way; that is, through fully participatory, in-person sessions, face-to-face.
“Nor could we, simply by wishful thinking, counteract the apparent deficit in the substantive preparatory process at the Geneva end, where progress has been severely impacted by the continual lockdowns and by the difficulties of pursuing intense negotiations in six languages across a virtual platform.”
For UNCTAD 15 to be successful, Ms. Mottley stressed that it must have strong levels of in-person attendance in Barbados, and strong policy proposals that would form the basis for deliberation and action by ministers. She added that at this juncture they had concluded that neither could be guaranteed in time for next April.
She said Barbados had recently been advised of a crucial fact that was beyond its control. “If UNCTAD 15 is convened in April 2021, in the manner and scope originally planned, it will be categorised as high risk by the Occupational Safety and Health Office of the United Nations.
“We have been assured that this classification is in no way determined by the COVID-19 profile of Barbados, but rather, by the possible dangers posed to the local population, the incoming participants and the UNCTAD staff from the influx of several thousand participants from multiple locations across the globe. This means, in effect, that we could only proceed under UN guidelines, which would reduce permitted physical attendance at the conference to such low numbers and such low levels as to seriously compromise its viability and its ultimate success,” she explained.
The Prime Minister said Barbados remains fully committed to fulfilling its responsibilities to host UNCTAD 15. She noted that planning the event in the throes of a global health and economic emergency has been a logistical nightmare for the teams, but stressed they will persist and prevail.
She reiterated that this crisis provides an unprecedented opportunity, through bold and decisive leadership, to make UNCTAD 15 a transformational conference, with transformational outcomes.
“Now is the time for radical transformation of the decades-old assumptions that have hitherto underpinned the international economic order – an order that, as I have said before, persists more to perpetuate inequalities than to serve the critical needs of too many of us across the global community,” Ms. Mottley suggested.
During his remarks, Dr. Kituyi said UNCTAD 15 must be an in-person conference to guarantee the presence of high-level leaders with the political will to make substantive decisions that will shape international discourse on how to recover better from the pandemic.
The Conference is the highest decision-making body of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and is held every four years.