Following the events of World War II, the rapid decolonization of colonial empires around the world led to a swell of brand-new countries that were welcomed to the United Nations. Furthermore, the growing rivalry between the two Cold War powers and the high cost of allying with either led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Many of the states that were part of the NAM were newly independent and still developing post-colonial countries. This group of developing countries then moved to establish the Conference on Problems for Developing Countries, held in Cairo in 1962, at which they called for an ‘international conference within the framework of the UN on all vital questions related to international trade, primary commodity trade and economic relations between developing and developed countries.’ The consensus reached at this conference resulted in the first meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland in 1964.
Topic A: Addressing Challenges of Landlocked Developing Countries
In spite of technological improvements in transportation, Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) continue to face unique challenges in external trade and their overall development, even when compared to other developing states. Remoteness from the sea and commodity dependence are all challenges created by their geographical circumstances, forcing them to rely on neighboring countries to provide safe transport and link their economies to global markets. This is detrimental on many fronts. Land-based transportation is significantly more costly in terms of time and money than maritime transport. These states’ reliance on their neighbors also makes the constantly exposed to the risks of changing customs procedures and the deterioration in relations. Because of these risks, adverse impacts on vital economic growth and human development are widespread, especially in regions of Africa and Central Asia. LLDCs commonly straddle the bottom of human development index rankings in each region, suggesting that the usual pathways to sustainable development are not delivered equal benefits in these countries. Over the next decade, UNCTAD must pursue and identify new and innovative growth opportunities and supporting measures to help LLDCs harness the power of the global economy by facilitating their participation in regional and global markets.
Topic B: Promoting Entrepreneurship for Sustainable and Inclusive Development
In spite of strong global economic growth since the 1990s, widespread poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia persist. Against this backdrop, entrepreneurship has emerged as a vital engine for economic productivity and development. By converting innovative ideas into economic opportunities and creating new sources of employment, start-ups and new dynamic enterprises inject vigor and competition into stagnating economies. These new businesses simultaneously generate fiscal revenues and innovation, which in turn bolster the small- and medium-sized business sectors of developing nations. Beyond their economic benefits, new business entities can also inspire and include disadvantaged parties, women, and other groups identified in specific Sustainable Development Goals who may face discrimination in other areas of employment. Entrepreneurship has immense potential as a catalyst for increased economic development, reducing inequality, enhancing social cohesion, and tackling environmental challenges. These effects parallel many objectives within the Sustainable Development Goals, making the two agendas complementary and mutually cooperative. To reap these benefits, UNCTAD must continue to assist countries in addressing present shortcomings in entrepreneurship strategies, identifying specific industries that will incubate start-ups, and creating conditions that will nurture entrepreneurship education and skills—all of which will serve to generate more inclusive global economic growth.