MANILA – The Philippine government has called for a “new democratic multilateralism” and an inclusive world economy that empowers not only a few but also the marginalized and vulnerable.
In a pre-recorded message to the 15th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad 15) on October 5, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. highlighted the need for a “decisive transformation of multilateralism” to address the gaps in multilateral developmental processes and the “long-ignored vulnerabilities” of developing countries, especially with the ongoing global health crisis.
“Just as we did in 1964 and 1979, we need to find fresh approaches in 2021 to prepare ourselves for the rest of the decade,” Locsin said. “This pandemic has caused the most significant disruption in economic, social, and political – not to mention life itself since the Second World War. It demands no less than a major shift in another or at least reinvigorated paradigm.”
He sought a new multilateralism that facilitates “inclusive transformations and resilient structures” in the areas of the digital economy, the creative economy, universal health coverage, migration and remittances, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
This must also integrate the interests of developing countries, including middle-income countries “where 75 percent of the world’s population and 62 percent of the world’s poor live,” Locsin said.
“What we have in mind is a world economy that fosters the well-being, inclusion, and empowerment of the marginalized and vulnerable,” he added.
The Unctad Secretariat published a report last month projecting that developing countries would be USD12 trillion poorer by 2050 due to the pandemic unless the world shifts “decisively away from four decades driven by a misplaced faith in unregulated markets.”
The report called for “breathing new life into multilateral cooperation” through “policy transformations,” including enhancing the policy space of developing countries.
Unctad 15, which runs from October 3 to 7, is expected to adopt the Bridgetown Covenant, a policy document that will guide the work of Unctad in the next five years.
The Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva said this document is in the final stages of negotiation among the Group of Seventy-Seven (G77) and China, the European Union, the Eurasian Economic Union, and the JUSCANZ Group composed of Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the Republic of Korea.
The G77, a grouping of 134 developing countries, designated the Philippines’ Unctad delegate in Geneva as the focal negotiator on the document’s section on “Transforming Multilateralism”.
“Our call for transformation proceeds from a recognition of persistent inequity in global governance. We need a new outlook that does not shy from a factual diagnosis of the state of affairs; but that does not require throwing away foundational values that underpin every good we seek to attain, like individual freedom, dignity, and safety,” Locsin said. “In this bold reinvention of multilateralism, Unctad must reclaim its centrality.”
Established in 1964, the Unctad is considered the most inclusive multilateral forum for trade and development.
Its three pillars of policy analysis, technical cooperation, and consensus-building are intended to promote the interests of developing countries and to bridge the gap between poor and rich states.
Many of the principles of global trade and development, including the special and differentiated treatment for developing countries in the World Trade Organization and generalized scheme of preferences, originated in Unctad discussions.The Philippines hosted the 5th Unctad in Manila in 1979.