Embrace Multilateralism, Resist Temptation of Pursuing Isolationist Policies, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses in Message to Global Supply Chain Forum

Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s message on the occasion of the Global Supply Chain Forum, in Bridgetown today:

It is a pleasure to join you, and I thank the Government and people of Barbados for their warm welcome and generous hospitality.

Today, global trade is fraught with challenges and uncertainties — threatening decades of progress and our attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Last year, trade volume fell more than 1 per cent.  Compare that to an average growth rate of 2.5 per cent since 2010.  Meanwhile, we witnessed a staggering surge in trade restrictions, with approximately 3,000 measures imposed.  That is almost three times the level of 2019.

Geopolitical tensions are fragmenting global trade.  Since the war in Ukraine began, trade between rival blocs has lagged — growing up to 6 per cent slower than trade within blocs themselves. If these trends continue unabated, decades of economic convergence and shared prosperity could rapidly unravel with dire consequences for people, especially in the most vulnerable countries.

In this context, global supply chains emerge as a new source of vulnerability.  The COVID-19 pandemic was the first wake-up call — exposing the fragility of our intricate networks, and the cascading effects of disruptions.  More recently, we have witnessed conflict and climate change devastate critical trade routes.

Turmoil in Ukraine and Yemen has disrupted vital shipping lanes. The climate crisis has brought unprecedented drought to the Panama Canal and has forced authorities to restrict maritime traffic, impacting trade.  The ripple effects of these disruptions have been staggering — significant delays, increased costs and economic uncertainty, especially for women and youth who are the backbone of small and medium enterprises.

In the face of these challenges, a strong and coordinated multilateral response is paramount.

First, we must resist the temptation of pursuing isolationist policies, as we witnessed during the pandemic.  Instead, we must embrace multilateralism — recognizing that our fates are intertwined and that no nation can thrive in isolation, even more so as we face the advent of new technologies.

This Global Supply Chain Forum is a testament to our collective determination to address these challenges head-on.  It is a platform for dialogue, collaboration and collective action; bringing together stakeholders from every corner of the globe to confront challenges and explore solutions.

Second, one of the key themes of this Forum is the regional response to supply chain disruptions.  The impact of these disruptions can vary significantly across regions.

We must tailor our strategies to mitigate the effects of these disruptions and foster resilience.  Policy measures to prioritize diversification, improve logistics and strengthen collaboration can help address challenges and ensure sustainable growth for every region.

Third, we must address the unique challenges faced by small island developing States.

Their geographical isolation, dispersed populations and reliance on external markets render them particularly vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.  For example, 17 small island developing States are among the 30 economies least connected to liner shipping.  Although rising container shipping costs increase consumer prices worldwide, the impact on small island developing States is five times greater than the global average.

This Forum presents an opportunity to address these challenges and develop pragmatic approaches to sustainable development and resilient transport for small island developing States.

Solidarity and cooperation have defined the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) six-decade journey. Let us embrace that spirit today.

This Forum marks a pivotal moment, as we chart a new path forward — one that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient in the face of change.  The discussions and outcomes of this meeting will accelerate our progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and shape UNCTAD’s agenda.

Let’s make the most of this chance.  Let’s use this Forum to help forge a brighter future.  A future where no nation is left behind.  A future where global trade remains a powerful force for economic growth, prosperity and sustainable development.

For information media. Not an official record.