October 2020 will be significant for Barbados’ role in hosting a major international conference, the setting of trade policy and growth strategy as well as tourism arrivals. What is the common denominator for the three aforementioned points? Next year, Barbados will be the co-host of the 15th Quadrennial of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which will host the World Investment Forum and the first eCommerce Week for Asia in Abu Dhabi. Barbados is the first small country to do so.
UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Board unanimously endorsed the offers to host by both Barbados and the UAE on June 25, 2019. The next step is for the UN General Assembly to approve the decision.
To quote directly from UNCTAD, “The Quadrennial Conference is the highest decision-making body of UNCTAD at which member states make assessments of current trade and development issues, discuss policy options and formulate global policy responses.” Additionally, according to Mr. Chad Blackman, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO and UN Offices in Geneva, Switzerland, “Barbados will be the global Chair from 2020-2024 to set the agenda for issues on trade and development.”
The ten-day conference in Barbados will not only host around 3500 persons, which as alluded to above is a huge boost for our tourism sector but a number of parallel events will also make up the proceedings. These “side events” will be the Global Commodities Forum, Global Cultural Industries Forum, the UNCTAD Ministerial on Trade and Development, World Civil Societies Forum and the World Youth Forum.
In February this year, Secretary General of UNCTAD, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, visited Barbados and was the featured speaker at a lecture co-hosted by the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. Dr. Kituyi spoke on “The Role of UNCTAD in Trade and Development in the Caribbean.”
Following the Secretary General’s presentation which covered, among other things, obstacles faced by small island developing states and the state of the multilateral system, attendees engaged him on a number of topics. The common threads of discussion ranged from how small states could use UNCTAD to highlight challenges such as climate change, trade and health and how to make our individual small voices resonate as a collective at the negotiating table, particularly with the seemingly imminent collapse of the multilateral system as we know it.
We have a little over a year to formulate our strategy not only as Barbados but as CARICOM States in our approach to the opportunities that this conference is hoped to afford. October is the beginning of four years in which we can make the difference of which we have been speaking for so long.
Let us use this positioning as a way to educate and involve our private sector at a level which will allow them to not only understand why creating trade policy for us is so important but to show them the possible benefits for their bottom lines as well. Let us use this opportunity as governments to engage in meaningful macroeconomic policy formation which drives growth not only in traditional but in newly emerging sectors. Let us take advantage of this upcoming occasion and being global Chair to create the economic prosperity we aspire to achieve.