UNCTAD 15: Pursuing an Inclusive Global Recovery

Global UN bodies should give voice to the disenfranchised

In Summary

•A key concern, as was highlighted in UNGA 76, however, is the asymmetrical nature of the global recovery

•Global economic recovery as remained skewed in favour of the major countries leaving developing countries reeling with an economic crisis

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Trade and Development Report 2021 paints a positive picture with respect to the recovery of the global economy following the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the back of the success of ambitious vaccination programmes, particularly amongst advanced economies, and increased economic activity as industries rebound to pre-COVID productivity levels, the report estimates that global economic growth will bounce back to 5.3 per cent, the fastest growth recorded in nearly 50 years.

A key concern, as was highlighted in UNGA 76, however, is the asymmetrical nature of the global recovery. While advanced economies celebrate the eminent defeat of the pandemic, and embrace a return to normalcy, countries in the global South are struggling to breach the five per cent vaccination barrier, battling increasing debt pressures, and risk being left behind in the global recovery efforts.

This observation highlights the lip service played by advanced economies with respect to adopting an inclusive approach to tackling the pandemic, illustrated in part by the inequalities noted in vaccine access, distribution and deployment. Unfortunately, recovery has remained skewed in favour of the powers that be, leaving developing countries reeling with an economic crisis comparable to, if not greater than, the Global Financial Crisis witnessed in 2008.

The above position has been earmarked as a critical issue for discussion in the 15th session of UNCTAD (UNCTAD 15). The Conference, hosted virtually by the Government of Barbados from 04 October 2021 – 07 October 2021, hopes to impress upon the world the necessity for inequality in global growth to be addressed, particularly with respect to vaccine nationalism and recovery investments.

From a vaccine standpoint, it is unfortunate that up to 75 per cent of COVID-19 vaccines produced to date have directly benefited advanced economies with middle and low-income countries struggling the access the reminder. Similarly, from an investment perspective, more than 80 per cent of recovery investments have been earmarked to developed economies, while countries in the global South struggle to fulfil ever increasing debt obligations at the expense of costly growth-oriented investments.

According to President Kenyatta, the outgoing chairman of UNCTAD, it is only through concerted multilateral efforts that inclusivity and equality can be entrenched in the global discourse, be it with respect to vaccine access, distribution and deployment, trade and investment or climate change.

It is hoped that lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, together with discussions held in the conference, will serve as a clarion call that will bring global leaders on the table with mutual ambitious: transforming economies through diversification, fostering economic sustainability and resilience, improving access to development finance and strengthening multilateral partnerships.

As discussed in last week’s issue, it is high time that global forums such as UNCTAD and UNGA are utilised to give voice to the disenfranchised. Indeed, the voices of developing nations ought to be given the prominence they deserve, and reasonable solutions to challenges faced developed through mutually beneficial partnerships.

Karen Kandie