Press Release

UNCTAD 15 Conference Goes Virtual

19 March 2021

Bridgetown, Barbados – The UNCTAD 15 Conference which will be hosted by Barbados from 3 to 8 October 2021 will now be a virtual event. Prime Minister of Barbados, The Hon. Mia Mottley, and UNCTAD’s Acting Secretary-General, Ms. Isabelle Durant, made the announcement today.

The Conference is the highest decision-making body of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It was initially scheduled to be held in Barbados from 18 to 23 October 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, had to be postponed twice. Organisers had been exploring safe bubbles and biospheres, and how to reconfigure spaces and locations.

Prime Minister of Barbados Ms. Mia Amor Mottley

However, Prime Minister Mottley explained that, “The intensifying global spread of COVID-19; the appallingly inequitable distribution of vaccines; the uncertainties of international travel and of likely participation numbers – all make it impractical for us to continue to plan and simply hope for the best.” After consultation with the UNCTAD Secretary-General, and weighing all the risks, they have accepted the reality that UNCTAD 15 can no longer be convened, physically, in Barbados during 2021.

The Prime Minister was quick to give the assurance that negotiations on the Outcome Document for UNCTAD 15 are already proceeding virtually and 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. She added that, “As for the rest of the programme for UNCTAD 15, the virtual space now gives us almost unlimited scope to make our Conference an exceptional experience. An experience that transcends the boundaries of a single week in October, but can build up to and outlast that week in whatever ways our imagination wishes to take it.”

UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Ms. Isabelle Durant

For her part, Ms. Durant said that she and Prime Minister Mottley were concerned about the fragility of our times, and of the immense suffering caused by the health crisis and its tremendous consequences, particularly in the developing world and for the most vulnerable groups.  She said that, “Together, we have a responsibility to respond to that extreme fragility and to ensure that UNCTAD 15 seizes the momentum, focuses on the essentials, and is a key moment for discussions and decisions that will guide our member States on the road to recovery.  We will be the first to present to the world an international Conference, in the wake of the pandemic, dedicated to the most promising junction for human well-being: trade and development, and by extension: economy and development.”

The National Organising Committee will be working in close partnership with their counterparts in the Secretariat in Geneva to develop comprehensive new plans for the virtual staging of UNCTAD 15. END