Press Release

‘Never Forget That Every Trade Deal, Every Policy, Every Initiative Represents Real People with Real Hopes, Dreams’

28 June 2024

Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s message on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary celebrations of the International Trade Centre (ITC), in Geneva on 27 June:

I’m delighted to join everyone today to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the International Trade Centre and applaud the unprecedented leadership of [Executive Director] Pamela Coke-Hamilton, and the day-in, day-out commitment of the ITC staff here and around the world.  Let’s give them a round of applause, I think this is an incredible achievement.

We always know the big agencies of the UN, but the glue that keeps us together really is about the small agencies and what they bring in terms of the quality of the delivery of UN promises.

Sixty years on an amazing journey impacting millions of lives, especially women, ITC has been at the forefront of uplifting economies of the world and enabling entrepreneurs to become the critical backbone of every society.

But, for ITC, there is no slowing down.  And from its start as a source of trade intelligence and technical assistance for developing countries… to its evolution into an all-around trade-led development agency, ITC has been supporting developing countries to make the most of the global trading system -- as difficult as it may be.

This week, we have seen how the World Trade Organization (WTO) has led the Aid-for-Trade Global Review and the critical work ITC plays in connecting global to local.

But, we’ve also seen how United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) -- its birthday not so long ago -- has led with evidence-based policymaking and beyond.  I still would, you know, [have] Geneva take credit for it, some amazing policy work came out of UNCTAD when we faced the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and leadership was needed beyond Europe to all parts of the world.

And so, my visit here to visit ITC headquarters earlier this year, when I met with Pamela and some of her teams was really a demonstration of how they were leaving no one behind -- including the smallest and the most vulnerable among us.

Your work matters now more than it ever has because the world can’t afford to leave anyone behind, and the transformations that are ahead if we are to be fit for purpose; if we are to ensure that every person in every part of the world has a right to a life with dignity.

We stand at a pivotal moment for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  Last year, we heard in the stocktake that we haven’t done so well, and so to catch up in six years with that globally agreed blueprint for people and planet, we all have to get the shoulder behind the wheel.

It is a tipping point for our climate crisis.  A make-or-break scenario for poverty, for hunger. And we’ve heard how the G20 Brazilian leadership has taken that up and its [Global] Alliance against Hunger and Poverty.

But, also, gender equality, environmental degradation, debt sustainability and many other challenges are leaving the fate of future generations in the balance.

Yes, making these statements can often fall on deaf ears.  Crisis fatigue can set in, and immediate problems can take precedence over long-term existential threats.  But, we can’t let that happen.  And we can’t give up.

Nearly 80 years ago, the UN itself was born in the ashes of conflict -- after two world wars destroyed lives, shattered trust and left the global economy in tatters.  It was an audacious gamble, and more:  an act of hope in the face of the unknown.  At that time, few would have guessed the good that the new international order, underpinned by multilateralism, would do.

That’s what we must hold on for:  for in all these crises and uncertainty that we face, we have achieved incredible feats, improved millions of people’s lives and brought hope out of despair.

Since opening its doors in 1964, the International Trade Centre continues to work tirelessly to make lives better through trade.  You have improved lives, you have connected communities and countries and given voice to those who represent the backbone of the global economy:  small businesses.

Last year alone, ITC worked in 144 countries where we saw significant transformational change.  And I can tell you that because now we have an independent and impartial resident coordinator system in 131 countries.  And we bring back the voices of many countries who were not able to tell us their stories; who were not able to speak to us about the work of the United Nations at the country level.

And the voices of what ITC was able to bring -- thank you for that, Pamela, because we heard it loud and clear in New York.  We have heard it in Geneva, but I’ll tell you hearing it in Paris and Vienna, in Nairobi.

In Côte D’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, ITC’s SheTrades project allowed a major cashew exporter to add more than 1,500 farmers to their supply chain.  Women who are also working in this area now received better extension services that suits their needs.

And I heard at the World Economic Forum in China just this week how those extension services can be scaled at such a rate and speed with new technologies and artificial intelligence (AI).

In Ukraine, digital freelancers who received training from ITC are now able to earn a good livelihood for themselves and their families despite the ongoing conflict.

Thanks to the ITC Central Asia Gateway, the business community in Tajikistan already estimates that their business costs have gone down by more than $1 million and similar benefits are expected throughout other countries in the region.

In Mongolia, youth eco-entrepreneurs were celebrated last year in the world export development forum for their business solutions to major challenges.  These are just a few examples of how ITC is making a difference.

As we celebrate this sixtieth anniversary, let us never forget that every trade deal, every policy and every initiative represents real people, with real hopes and dreams.  And as we heard in the beginning, this is the human story.

Keep on building bridges, fostering international cooperation, partnerships and learning.  Above all, I hope that we never lose faith in your ability to drive positive change.  This is the very DNA of ITC -- and it makes every one of you a part of the UN system’s great success stories.

I am convinced that the best is yet to come.  With more trials, with more challenges in our world today, it is if we dig deep we find that that well is full and can be shared.

As we look ahead to the Summit of the Future in September and to the fourth International Conference on Financing for Development next June, we certainly have a lot to lift and a lot to look forward to.

We count on you to bring bold ideas and ambitious contributions forward to help accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals and to deliver for all.

Particularly today, we should give thought to our women and youth, and to the generations that are yet unborn.  And we must ensure that leaving no one behind today means securing a future of inclusion for everyone tomorrow.  Thank you, and my warmest congratulations to the ITC family. Happy birthday.

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