Alicia Nicholls

Barbados has been successful in its bid to host the 15th Quadrennial Conference of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in October, 2020. In a strong nod to south-south cooperation, Barbados will co-chair the events with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which will host the World Investment Forum and the first eCommerce Week for Asia in Abu Dhabi.

On June 25th, the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board unanimously endorsed both countries’ bids, and the decision has been submitted to the UN General Assembly for their approval in September.

For most Barbadians, trade and development issues seem remote. However, the success of our island’s bid is a significant achievement for several reasons. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, UNCTAD is the United Nations’ main subsidiary organ dealing with trade and development matters. Barbados will be the first Caribbean country and first Small Island Developing State (SIDS) to host the quadrennial conference, which is UNCTAD’s highest decision making body which sets that organisation’s mandate and priorities every four years. The first quadrennial was held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1964 and the 14th Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2016.

Barbados has always sought to be a leading global voice championing the issues affecting small States not only with regard to trade, but also climate change. For example, in 1994, Barbados hosted the UN Global Conference on Sustainable Development for Small Island Developing States, out of which had come the Barbados Programme of Action. Hosting the UNCTAD Quadrennial gives Barbados the opportunity to have a strong imprint in setting UNCTAD’s trade and development mandate and work priorities for the next four years.

The UNCTAD Quadrennial and its side events are expected to attract a reported 3,500 visitors and delegates, including Heads of Government and State and other government representatives from UNCTAD’s 194 Member States, representatives of the private sector, civil society, academia and other international bodies and organisations. This is a potential boost to the island’s tourist arrivals and foreign reserves and another golden opportunity to showcase Barbados’ quintessential hospitality and culture on a global stage. The thematic side events include, for example, the World Youth Forum, the Global Commodities Forum and the World Civil Society Forum.

Co-hosting such a momentous event with UAE is also an opportune catalyst for Barbados to deepen economic ties with that country.

The Barbados delegation, which was involved in negotiations with UNCTAD for several months and which made their final pitch on June 24th, must be commended for their hard work and initiative.

The UNCTAD press release on the success of Barbados’ bid may be read here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may be affiliated from time to time.

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