Nairobi, Kenya

17 July 2016

Secretary-General’s remarks at the opening of UNCTAD 14 [as prepared for delivery]

It is a privilege to join you here in Nairobi for the opening of the 14th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The high level of representation here is testament to the importance of this Conference.

Every four years since 1964, UNCTAD sessions have provided an opportunity for United Nations Member States to work together to redress economic inequalities in trade, finance, technology and investment.

This is the second time that an UNCTAD conference has come to Kenya.

Nairobi played host to UNCTAD IV in this same conference centre, just over four decades ago.

Much has changed in 40 years, but many of the challenges raised at UNCTAD IV remain on the international agenda.

The vulnerability of developing countries to volatile commodity markets was a main focus at UNCTAD IV.

Today, with a global trade slowdown and declines in commodity prices, this issue is again a hot button development issue.

But beyond trade, a bigger and more complex set of questions challenges the international community.

Vulnerability today derives not only from volatile markets, or from social instability, but also from a fragile global environment weakened by climate change.

UNCTAD XIV is the first major United Nations development conference since last year’s landmark adoptions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The 2030 Agenda will guide global collective action for sustainable development over the next 15 years.

The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals offer a blueprint for how the global economy, society and the environment should look in 2030, along with specific actions that will be required at global, regional and national levels.

And the Addis Agenda provides a comprehensive framework for financing sustainable development.

Countries this year have just begun the challenging task of implementation.

It is therefore fitting that the theme of UNCTAD XIV is “from decision to action”.

But the successful actions we will need over the next 15 years – especially in the areas of trade, investment, technology and finance – require that we tap the full potential of all actors, promote innovation and correct unsustainable trends.

There are worrying signs that people around the world are increasingly unhappy with the state of the global economy.

High inequality, stagnant incomes, not enough jobs – especially for youth -- and too little cause for optimism stoke legitimate fears for the future for many in all regions.

The global trade slowdown and a lack of productive investment have sharpened the deep divides between those who have benefited from globalization, and those who continue to feel left behind.

And rather than working to change the economic model for the better, many actual and would-be leaders are instead embracing protectionism and even xenophobia.

The vision set out in the SDGs – for people, planet, prosperity and peace – will not succeed if shocks and stresses in our global economic and financial system are not properly addressed.

Trade must provide prosperity in ways that work for people and planet and respond to the challenges of climate change.

The regulatory frameworks governing trade, investment in agricultural production, and technology related to agricultural productivity, play a critical role.

Incentive structures in financial markets, both at the level of institutions and the individual decision-maker, need to be aligned with social objectives in order to avoid large income disparities.

We must also put a proper value on assets, such as ecosystem services, and correctly price systemic and interconnected risk, such as that posed by climate change.

There are more than enough savings in the global economy to drive the transformation that the SDGs call for, but our investments need to become better aligned with sustainable development.

My message to you today is that the SDGs represent the change we need to restore people's trust in the global economy.

The SDGs represent an enormous opportunity to make our economy work for dignity for all, prosperity for all and a better planet for all.

UNCTAD – with its integrated approach to trade and development – has a vital role to play in implementing the interdependent, holistic sustainable development agenda.

Member States have recognized UNCTAD’s importance.

That is why, in the Addis Agenda, they committed to strengthen the role of UNCTAD in the UN system for the integrated treatment of trade, finance, technology, investment and sustainable development.

This 14th UNCTAD Conference must now establish how UNCTAD will contribute to meeting the challenges of achieving the SDGs.

The SDGs spell out an ambitious vision of how people and planet can benefit from a vibrant global economy.

Today, I call on Member States to agree here in Nairobi on deeper cooperation on trade and development that will bring us closer to this vision.

Trade, finance, technology and investment can be positive forces to end poverty.

Used wisely, they can ensure that we leave no one behind.

Your collective efforts can renew our spirit of international engagement.

And this engagement must go far beyond governments.

It must involve everyone – Heads of State and Government; parliamentarians; leaders from business and civil society; young entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

You can count on the UNCTAD secretariat and the entire UN system to support your efforts and implement your vision.

We must work together – across sectors and industries – in broader and deeper partnerships.

The World Investment Forum, which will open tomorrow as part of this conference, has been a trailblazer, mobilizing the global business community to play a key role by investing in ways that will support the achievement of the SDGs.

Trillions of dollars are needed.

Governments and the private sector must align their practices.

Financing must flow to the sectors and countries that need it most, so that the infrastructure needed to develop sustainably and limit global climate change is available to all.

The private sector has an unprecedented opportunity to help create clean-energy, climate-resilient, sustainable economies.

And these innovative engines of economic growth can re-awaken the prospects of opportunity and prosperity for all.

This is my last UNCTAD as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

In my 10 years as Secretary-General, I have seen UNCTAD shift and adapt to the new complex challenges our world faces.

It is my hope that UNCTAD XIV will provide the impetus we need to accelerate our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

I thank you for your leadership and wish you a productive conference.

Thank you.