GSO at the WTO Public Forum — Trade Works through Innovative Partnerships for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda

The 2015 Annual WTO Public Forum was held from 30 September to 2 October 2015 with the overall theme of “Trade Works”.  Plenary sessions brought forward debates on inequality in the trading system and changing expectations for business interests in trade.  Over 80 sessions on a variety of topics mostly skirted around the impasse on Doha Development Agenda and opened up discussions on emerging or re-emerging topics – behind-the-border regulations, global supply chains, competition, investment, “servicification”, trade in the digital economy and the like.  The Global Social Observatory (GSO) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) jointly organized one of these sessions on “Trade works through innovative partnerships for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda”, linking trade as an engine for development in support of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals.  Here is a summary of the session.

The outcomes of the Post-2015 Development Agenda Summit on 25 to 27 September 2015 and Third Financing for Development Conference on 13 to 16 July 2015 imply renewed political attention to specific issues of trade policy reform, and raise important questions around the broader role of trade in supporting inclusive and sustainable economic growth.  Innovative, multi-stakeholder partnerships will be needed to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, especially to harness the potential for trade as an engine for inclusive economic growth.

The session brought together an excellent panel of experts from diverse backgrounds and with diverse perspectives to reflect on how partnerships can support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by harnessing the power of trade, global value chains and a rules-based multilateral trading environment.  The aim of the session was to achieve a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges of different kinds of partnerships to make trade work for inclusive and sustainable development.   Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz from ICTSD, Deb Bhattacharya from the National Policy Centre in Bangladesh, Roberto Vega from Syngenta and Thomas Bombelles from the World Intellectual Property Organization shared their views from the perspectives of a global think tank, a developing country think tank, a private sector company, and an international organization.  Katherine Hagen from the GSO moderated the panel.  What follows is a brief summary of the discussion.  A full report will be available on the GSO website here, and a webcast of the session is available on the ICTSD website here.

The 2030 Agenda was unanimously adopted at the high-level Post-2015 Development Agenda Summit on 25 September 2015, following a far-reaching two and a half year consultation process that came out of the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Summit in June 2012.   The mandate from that Summit was to prepare a development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals that had served so effectively to focus our development priorities for a fifteen-year timeframe ending in 2015.  Broad multi-stakeholder participation was encouraged from the very beginning of this new mandate, and the result was an even more comprehensive and ambitious development agenda, with 17 goals (SDGs) and 169 targets.  We can expect the multi-stakeholder experience to be translated into a burst of innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships to implement these goals and targets.  The role of trade to advance the SDGs has also been more fully integrated into this new agenda and is highlighted in several places – with food security and health being especially worthy of mention for this panel.   Here are some of the main points raised by the panelists:

  • Trade is an engine for development that depends on governments to adopt the right policies
  • The 2030 Agenda is encouraging a reformulation of agendas – agriculture and trade for food security and opening up opportunities for small scale producers in developing countries
  • Capacity building will be key, as well as the financing for access to trade
  • Bridging the perspectives of Geneva and New York was key to broadening trade as a key contributor to a rights-based global process
  • Integration, transformation and inclusiveness were priorities to ensure the realization of the principle “No One Left Behind”
  • Global partnerships across sectors with trade as a means to realize objectives will include a multiplicity of combinations (moving from North-South partnerships to South-South, triangular, NGOs, CBOs, private sector, parliaments and local governments, too
  • Some partnerships will be within the UN and others will be outside of it
  • More public-private partnerships will be in the finance sector
  • Accountability and compliance are yet to be more fully developed – the indicators from the UN Statistical Commission will be key
  • Increasing smallholder productivity is affected by climatic conditions, market demands and competitiveness
  • The private sector can’t do it alone – needs a governance framework to help with capacity, technology and market access – and risk mitigation
  • Partnerships should be encouraged because they work to pull together wealth, capacity, knowledge and expertise, especially in areas like neglected tropical diseases
  • The private sector is not necessarily obliged to initiate a partnership, but we need the private sector to be a partner
  • It is noteworthy that more and more business entities are embracing development goals and linking them to their core business
  • Partnerships do require careful planning, but all are not necessarily permanent or long-term, and more attention should be directed to the different kinds of requirements and expectations of partnerships.

Listen to an audio tape of the event here.