GENEVA, 9 October 2020 – Representatives of like-minded UN Member States have met virtually to launch the Group of “Friends of Industry and Innovation”. In line with the UN Decade of Action, the informal group was formed to provide a platform to further Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 and industrialization in decision-making processes in a city that is at the centre of intergovernmental debate on global economic development and which is a hub of expertise on trade, investment and technology.
Martha Lungu Mwitumwa, Chair of the Group, and Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Zambia to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva, invited her colleagues to this inaugural meeting to discuss the importance of this initiative. The meeting was complemented with a presentation by Wim Naudé, Professor at Maastricht School of Management, as well as Fellow at the African Studies Centre at the University of Leiden.
Professor Naudé discussed the impact of COVID-19 on trade and innovation, and presented some thought-provoking perspectives on the likely consequences of the pandemic on industrialization. He concluded by explaining how the pandemic will require a complete re-think of industrial policy. One issue he highlighted was that while trade (in goods) is proving to be a real engine of recovery, many countries cannot benefit because of the mercantilist tendencies of some powerful states. Another serious concern for Naudé is the global dominance of a small number of tech giants which, he said, stifles competition and negatively impacts on digital innovation.
UNIDO Director General LI Yong and UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant voiced their support for the Group, while highlighting the urgent need for action. As UNIDO’s Li said, “The work of the ‘Friends of Industry and Innovation’ will be extremely important. We need this group to build the relationships necessary to direct trade, investment and technology towards the structural transformation that is needed to achieve inclusive and sustainable industrial development.”
The Group agreed to meet on a regular basis inviting an expert speaker to stimulate an open, non-politicized discussion on pertinent topics in the context of industrialization and SDG9. Members confirmed their commitment to advocate the need for greater support for SDG9 as well as foster partnerships to help achieve this goal, in the context of the Decade of Action.
For further information, contact:
Frank Van Rompaey,
UNIDO Representative to the UN and International Organisations, UNIDO Liaison Office, Geneva