On the final day of the Civil Society Forum, participants heard from three speakers at the closing ceremony.
Arlette Verploegh-Chabot, Chief Communications and External Relations UNCTAD, remarked that, “UNCTAD considers civil society a strong partner and contributor to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Together with governments, businesses and communities we all are set on the new path forward towards a new inclusive post-COVID world, where transformative development efforts reach everyone, especially those from the most marginalized parts of the world.”
The UNCTAD 15 Civil Society Forum featured three plenary sessions and four side events to provide greater insights into key areas of thematic interests such as reaffirmation of UNCTAD’s mandate in the current social and economic context, as well as its ability to confront challenges facing the global South. Trade and development was also a special focus on framing trade agreements, international cooperation and building local economic resilience through technological justice. A third discussion focus was the need for systemic reforms to ensure adequate fiscal space for countries in the global South to pursue development pathways.
Ms. Verploegh-Chabot said, “A few decades ago, going digital was a privilege that only some people had. In the current scenario, where the rapid pace of digitalisation is transforming the way we live, work and connect with each other, going digital has become a necessity to access better life opportunities in the new era ahead. However digital technologies have not yet set foot in some parts of the world that are in dire need of it. UNCTAD will continue to work closely with civil society partners to support the development of the domestic digital infrastructure development and data capabilities in the developing countries to raise and participate in the digital economy on equal terms. “
Kozel Peters-Frazer of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre also summed up the discussion. She said that, “Over the last three days, speakers talked about inequalities among and within and among countries as it pertains to vaccine access; limitations on autonomy and capacity for action; gender justice as being intrinsic in trade and economic policies; the need for a re-energized UNCTAD working in complimentarity with the development agenda of the LDCs and SIDS; the need for government intervention to address development shortfalls; need for a return to multilateralism; financing for development.”
These issues call for a recognised reaffirmation of the original mandate of UNCTAD, but perhaps a digitalisation of the social movement in a digital age to demand change. She thanked everyone who made the forum a success.
Dr. Shantal Munro-Knight, Lead Organiser of the Civil Society Forum, reminded the participants that the discussion still goes on. She referred to the “intense and very substantive discussions and dialogue which we’ve had over the previous two days already”. She pointed out that there were actual practical recommendations that have emanated from the discussions, and that, “We’re looking forward to seeing in the civil society declaration, but also in the outcome document for this conference.”
Dr. Munro-Knight mentioned the challenges which faced the organisers of the forum, but there were also benefits as well.
She said, “I think that there are a number of lessons for all of us to learn about how to engage a mature, fully engaged and capacitated civil society who wants a direct seat at the table. There’re many lessons that I’m hoping that we take from this process as we go into the next UNCTAD conference, UNCTAD 16.”