UNIDO Forum on Sustainable Industrial Development

General Conference, Eighth session

UNIDO Forum on Sustainable Development, 29 November - 1 December 1999: Industry for growth into the new millenium

Contributions to poverty eradication and the promotion of equity

Probably the most striking aspect of the present phase of economic change of global dimensions is that dynamics are shifting from the national economy to the world economy. Of course, national boundaries do still matter in the organization of economic activity, but more and more, opportunities and challenges stem from the world economy. Economic activities that up to now were partitioned by national boundaries are reorganized at the international level. As a consequence, and invisible on maps, a new economic geography is taking shape and starts to weigh on the political economy of the world. Decision makers cannot ignore this reality, since any country, except perhaps the United States, is small with regard to the world and, hence, must take into consideration what other countries do before making its own decisions.


For an international organization with the mandate of UNIDO, three features of today's global picture are of particular interest: First and foremost, the role of industry, tacitly recognized or expressly rediscovered, as an important driving force behind economic growth and improvement of material standards of living; second, an uninterrupted tendency, concomitant with rapid international integration, towards spatial agglomeration of industrial activities; and third, related to the observed uneven spreading of such activities, good chances for a coupling of less developed economies with more developed ones. Examples illustrating the last feature abound, including groupings like the United States, Canada and Mexico; Japan and South East Asia; the European Union, North Africa and Eastern European countries; Singapore and Malaysia; Hong Kong and other parts of China; and Finland and the Baltic countries.

Whereas progressive international or even global integration, in brief: "globalization" makes the symbiosis of poor and rich areas ever more feasible, it is not so sure that it makes it automatically more desirable. Albeit coupling of spaces of different levels of economic development looks like a key to success, it is not clear how such success is shared. Globalization is a process that generates winners and losers, both between and within nation states. In an unpublished paper of the Institute of Development Studies of Sussex University, for example, figures are presented that show the failure of the world's economies to converge. In 1820, the gap between per capita incomes of the richest and poorest countries was 3:1; in 1960, it was 30:1; in 1990, it was 60:1; in 1997, 74:1. And at country level, measures of the degree of inequality of income distribution are on the increase almost everywhere. Such developments, by necessity, call forth intense interaction between groups of presumably advantaged and disadvantaged, both at national and international levels.

In view of the above, the eighth session of UNIDO's General Conference will give the international community an opportunity to consider global industrialization. When all parts of the world meet, a natural issue for discussion is what happens to manufacturing industry as the economic spaces of developed and developing countries as well as those in transition are becoming increasingly integrated, tendencies towards spatial agglomeration of activities are continuing and interaction between different groups of actors is intensifying.

This broadly stated theme is what UNIDO proposes to examine and discuss in its Forum on Sustainable Industrial Development which will take place during the General Conference. The Forum will be organized around five panels which will be held from 29 November (afternoon) and 1 December 1999.


Within the Forum each one of the panels has the function of helping to outline the scope of a broader discussion and suggest a number of issues on which it might focus. These issues will be stated and succinctly analyzed by a few experts in each panel. Following this, statements of the participants in the Forum will be invited to form the core of the discussion. It is hoped that in this way analyses and experience of the Organization can most effectively be confronted and completed with the expertise as well as the views of decision-makers at national level.

In this framework, the first and the second panels are intended to present the audience with insights into worldwide industrial development derived from recent results of economic analysis on the one hand, and gathered from case studies as well as anecdotal evidence on the other. By contrast, the third and the fourth panels will substantiate as well as complement the more general analyses and descriptions through distinct references to some of UNIDO's programmes and activities. The final panel will wrap up what has gone before and attempt to draw some more general conclusions. The grouping of issues among the panels is briefly described below.


Monday, 29 November

8.00 - 18.00

Inaugural Session

H.E. Mr.Henri Konan Bédié, President, Republic of Côte d'Ivoire

15.15 - 18.00
Panel 1: The new geography of industry - insights from economic analysis

Tuesday, 30 November

10.00 - 13.00
Panel 2:Globalization of production systems and implications for developing countries and economies in transition - the upgrading of local competitiveness

15.00 - 18.00
Panel 3:Industrialization facing environmental challenges - specific contributions to solving large problems

Wednesday, 1 December

9.00 - 12.00
Panel 4:The UNIDO partnership programme - a new approach to promoting small and medium enterprises

12.00 - 13.00
Panel 5:Integration, agglomeration and interaction in world industry - drawing some lessons

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