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Date: 22 Mar, 2021
Source: Barbados Government Information Service

The 15th Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15), to be hosted by Barbados from October 3 to 8, will now be a virtual event.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and acting UNCTAD Secretary-General, Isabelle Durant, made the announcement recently. She said they had recent discussions and the decision was taken.

“The intensifying global spread of COVID-19; the appallingly inequitable distribution of vaccines globally; the uncertainties of international travel and likely participation numbers and the reality of protecting our own population here, all make it impractical for us….

“The Secretary General and I, therefore, consulted…and we agreed that it can no longer be convened physically. But, like with all things in life, let us see what we can do to break new ground in this virtual staging of the first UNCTAD conference,” she stated.

The Prime Minister noted that the virtual space would give unlimited scope to make the October conference an exceptional experience.

She continued: “We cannot wait to start the journey because we recognise that we can get into more homes, offices and boardrooms than we could if people were simply coming here. And we also recognise that we can reach different demographics to begin to popularise the battle that we have been doing over decades….

“We believe Bridgetown and Geneva, virtually, in October, will also work. Our teams are full of ideas and are actually very excited… We can enhance the global reach of the ministerial roundtables, as well as other high-level events, which might not otherwise be as accessible if we were doing it simply here,” she told her audience.

Ms. Mottley underscored the importance of the conference, saying its outcomes were critical. She added that it was necessary for those outcomes to inform countries’ policies and global institutions, to ensure a seamless approach to trade and development.

Acting Secretary-General Durant said it will be the first time UNCTAD will not have a physical conference.

“Moving thousands of people around the globe is unfortunately not an option right now. It would be unsafe for both the participants and also for the host country. It would not be fair, and it would not help the world get back on its feet…

“I see this as an opportunity to build on the momentum created by the crisis to innovate and invent a new experience; to be closer and more inclusive to the people we serve, especially the vulnerable…. We will engage differently with our member states and stakeholders, but together we will build new ways of work and partnership for the prosperity for all,” she surmised.

Ms. Durant said a transformative agenda was on the table, which addressed the biggest gaps and challenges COVID-19 had revealed and exacerbated.

Negotiations on the Outcome Document for UNCTAD 15 are already proceeding virtually. The formal statements in the General Debate can easily be adapted to that format, as was successfully piloted at last year’s UN General Assembly.

The conference was initially scheduled to be held in Barbados, from October 18 to 23, 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic had to be postponed twice.