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UNCTAD 15 ends with ‘Spirit of Speightstown’ declaration

October 8, 2021

The 15th Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15) has ended in Barbados, with the adoption of the Political Declaration of “Spirit of Speightstown”.

The Spirit of Speightstown seeks to capture the main challenges impacting our family of nations and their development aspirations, but particularly those amongst us that are most vulnerable. Building on the theme “From Inequality And Vulnerability: To Prosperity For All”, the Spirit of Speightstown declares, our vision for achieving the transformations necessary to build resilience, and to achieve our coveted sustainable development agenda,” said Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Sandra Husbands, who spoke on behalf of the Presidency of the Conference in Geneva.

“Indeed, the Political Declaration acknowledges that the combined effects of the pandemic, and the climate crisis presents a crisis of the global common good. In that regard, the “Spirit of Speightstown” calls for a revitalised covenant for development. It calls for understanding, compromise and cooperation at all levels,” Husbands said.

She said the “Spirit of Speightstown” acknowledges the role that UNCTAD must play in realising prosperity for all. This, Minister Husband stated, must be anchored in the transformation set out in the Bridgetown Covenant.

“In our view, UNCTAD has a major role to play in fostering the required inter-governmental action necessary to generate the momentum towards a more resilient, sustainable, and prosperous world.”

Husbands said the Political Declaration also challenges persons to work across faith, cultures and nationalities to arrive at a shared vision for an interconnected world, which would ensure that everyone is able to achieve a better future, but in order for this to occur, global leaders must address the growing inequality and vulnerability that exist.

To do so, she called for a revitalised multilateral spirit, a conscious approach to financing sustainable development, addressing the digital divide and issues of tax matters to help reduce inequality and vulnerability.

“Cooperation and not unilateralism is needed now more than ever to address the challenges that confront us. We need to ensure that our multilateral institutions are fit for purpose, and that we have policies and instruments that give due attention to those that are most vulnerable – our women, children, the disabled, indigenous people, migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, the homeless, and other marginalised groups,” she stressed.

Prime Minister Amor Mia Mottley speaking at the UNCTAD news conference.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has identified a number of initiatives to be worked on, including three upcoming fora on trade logistics, investment and the creative industries.

She told reporters at the end of the UNCTAD that the first meeting would be on trade logistics and it would deal with transport costs and the difficulties now being experienced globally.

“There’s a shortage of containers.… People have to pay a premium just to be able to book a shipping date and to reserve a container even before you pay for the shipping costs. We need to deconstruct and reconstruct all these things and see whether there’s a more efficient and effective way of doing it….

“On [the issue of] creative industries, we know that the Caribbean, more than anything else, is loaded with creativity, and if we are going to, as a small region in the world, get a return from it, we have to be able to tell our stories in the multiple formats that can earn for us,” she said.

Mottley  said over the  years, UNCTAD had done significant research, and the entity was required to again do some work, for the developing world.

We need them to look at how we can deconstruct and reconstruct safe assets to ensure that the disparity and borrowing costs between the developing world and the developed world can be removed.

“So to break that down, why do Ghana and Greece have the same credit rating, but Ghana borrows at a much higher rate of interest than Greece? Largely because of Greece being in the European Union, with the safe assets that are considered part and parcel of the reserve, such that persons can reduce the risk and then they put a higher risk on the rest of us who don’t have those safe assets….

“We also want to see work promoting a global clearinghouse for vaccines, but also for other global public goods that may come…. We believe that UNCTAD can help us with the advocacy to ensure that there’s far greater equity accessing global public goods,” she said.

Mottley reiterated there was a need to move to nutrition security, and again lamented about the digital divide that has resulted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She noted that some children did not have access to electricity, tablets or digital content and remained on the “side-lines of life” for the last 20 months.

This is an unacceptable situation, and…we all agree that we have to work hard to…remove it.  I’ve already called on members of the global community to approach the five major tech firms; they have a market capitalisation of $9.3 trillion.  It is immoral for children to be without access to affordable rugged tablets to learn, while we continue to enrich a small handful of companies.

“I hope that we can build a global coalition to work with us to be able to identify the manufacturing of a tablet that should cost no more than US40 or 50 dollars, and that needs to last for about three to four years, without the software obsolescence that is built into these…tablets in order to make us buy one every year,” she said.

Mottley, who has taken over the presidency of the UNCTAD,  said she was hopeful half of the outlined initiatives could be achieved in the next three years, adding that if that occurred, it meant “we would have done exceptionally well”.

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