UNCTAD World Investment Forum 2020 to Take Place in Abu Dhabi

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Abu Dhabi to host United Nations forum on investment and technology for sustainable development

This December 6-10, Abu Dhabi will welcome government leaders, global CEOs and other investment stakeholders for the 7th biennial UNCTAD World Investment Forum (WIF) and the Asian E-Commerce Week 2020.

The forum’s mission is to promote investment for sustainable development and align international investment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is the largest global platform for high-level dialogue and action on investment and development.

Today, H.E. Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Saleh, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for Foreign Trade Affairs, on behalf of H.E. Eng. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy and H.E. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, signed an agreement to host the forum. At the signing, the Secretary-General emphasized the need for leadership and coherence on investment and sustainability, shown by Abu Dhabi.

H.E. Abdullah Al Saleh said: “The 7th biennial World Investment Forum (WIF) is a unique platform to facilitate policy making and joint action that is necessary to stimulate investments in development areas. Apart from enabling productive discussions on challenges and opportunities in the global investment landscape, the Forum will serve as an ideal opportunity to network with global leaders in business and politics. Therefore, the hosting of UNCTAD’s 7th World Investment Forum and the Asian E-Commerce Week 2020 in Abu Dhabi is of great significance to us. It will enable us to increase our contributions to the regional and international efforts to further enhance the business landscape, while also underscoring the UAE’s position as a pivotal trade and investment hub in the region. This is particularly relevant given the UAE’s inward and outward FDI movements continue to gain momentum. The country’s total FDI inflows were recorded at USD 10.4 billion, while the cumulative FDI inflows stood at USD 140.3 billion in 2018, with an 8 per cent growth rate compared to 2017. Meanwhile, USD 15 billion was the total value of our FDI outflow, with a total cumulative FDI outflow of USD 139.5 billion, with a growth rate of 12.1 per cent compared to that of 2017. Furthermore, the UAE’s issuance of the new Foreign Direct Investment Law, which allows up to 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies in selected 122 economic sectors, and the fast-approaching Expo 2020 in Dubai are creating a slew of investment opportunities.” Today, it ranks first in the Arab world and 27 globally in terms of attracting foreign direct investment and is among the top 10 globally important sources of outbound investments, according to the UNCTAD classification.

Al Saleh further emphasized that the selection of the capital, Abu Dhabi, to host the Asian E-Commerce Week 2020 reflects the growing prominence of the UAE in the areas of digital economy and the provision of technology-related, legal and institutional frameworks and services. This ensures regulation of the e-commerce sector and enhances its growth, as reflected by many relevant global indicators. For instance, the UAE ranked third globally in the digital penetration ratio in 2019, according to a classification by the British ING Media, and was ranked 16th globally on the Industry Digitization Index for 2019 by Bloomberg NEF.

H.E added that according to the UNCTAD E-Commerce Index Report 2019, the country climbed five spots in B2C e-commerce to rank 28 globally and occupied the first place among the group of West Asian and North African countries for developing and transitioning economies on the same index during 2018 and 2019. The World Trade Report 2019 issued by the World Trade Organization ranked the UAE first in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in terms of the export of telecommunications and information technology services during 2018.

H.E. Rashed Abdul Karim Al Balooshi, Undersecretary, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), explained that the emirate’s move to host the World Investment Forum (WIF) and the Asian E-Commerce Week 2020 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will play a key role in the efforts to contribute to the UAE economy in general and Abu Dhabi’s economy in particular. The move is also expected to help further enhance the emirate’s economic and investment relations with the world’s leading countries in line with the participation of around 190 countries and a diverse range of international companies.

During the MoU signing between the Ministry of Economy (MOE) and UNCTAD, H.E. Al Balooshi revealed that ADDED and the Ministry will work closely together for the successful hosting of the event via the integration of all concerned federal and local government entities, in addition to public sector companies operating within the UAE. The new partnership fully complements the directives of the Abu Dhabi Government to reinforce regional and global partnerships to help achieve a sustainable and diversified economy that is capable of maintaining growth and development while also adopting a policy of openness and forging fruitful global partnerships.

Investors, firms and governments are, in increasing numbers, putting sustainability at the core of their activities. Initiatives like the World Investment Forum can change investor behavior and further leverage investment for sustainable development. This change requires rapid and constructive dialogue between all stakeholders, the sharing of best practices, and the agreement of concrete investments and financing solutions. The forum therefore:

  • Produces strategies to address global investment and development challenges
  • Facilitates networking between global leaders in business and politics
  • Stimulates public and private action on investment for sustainable development
  • Offers a unique opportunity to influence investment policymaking and shape the global investment environment.

The forum will provide the opportunity to interact with high-level participants from the global investment community, including Heads of State and Government, ministers, executives of global companies and stock exchanges, sovereign wealth fund managers, investment treaty negotiators, heads of investment promotion agencies, international investment location experts, heads of international organizations, parliamentarians, civil society representatives, eminent scholars, and the international media.

This year’s forum will focus on three key issues facing the global investment-development community through a series of high-level events:

  • How can investment stakeholders more rapidly integrate sustainability criteria into investment decisions and business operations and create both long term value and sustainable development impact?
  • How can governments and business respond to the far-reaching development consequences of technological change and its impact on investment, harnessing its potential, while mitigating the risks of premature de-industrialization and social change?
  • What are the implications of increasing fragmentation in international economic policymaking, especially in trade and investment, that has led to a rise in protectionism, as well as an emphasis on regionalism?

UNCTAD’s Director of the Investment and Enterprise Division, Mr. James Zhan, emphasized that these issues pose both challenges as well as opportunities for the global investment community:

“I see how investors, firms and governments are, in increasing numbers, putting sustainability and long-term value at the core of their activities. I therefore thank our host country partners, the Ministry of Economy and the Government of Abu Dhabi, for taking the lead this December. In doing so, we will help advance an action-oriented, solutions-driven policy agenda, that will bring the SDGs to fruition.”

With the stakes for our planet and economy ever higher, and with UNCTAD’s latest forecast for global investment looking weak, initiatives like the World Investment Forum can change investor behavior and further leverage investment for sustainable development.

Given its specific mandate, UNCTAD is also uniquely placed to address the cross-cutting development implications of e-commerce and the digital economy. UNCTAD thanked the UAE for hosting the latest edition of the World Investment Forum.

“In our undertaking to put the globe on a sustainable growth track, investment and technology are indispensable. Abu Dhabi is taking the lead in translating global discussions on sustainable development, such as the United Nations General Assembly dialogue on financing for development, and UNCTAD’s own quadrennial Ministerial, into concrete action,” said Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi.

The eCommerce Weeks have become over the year the leading forum for Ministers, government officials, CEOs, international organizations, development banks, academics and civil society to discuss the development opportunities and challenges associated with the digital economy.

The Asia eCommerce Week in Abu Dhabi, the second regional event ever, will offer a week-long targeted programme for policymakers and other stakeholders, to identify innovative ways for shaping the digital economy and better harness the increased digitalization of economies, with a specific focus on the Asia and Pacific context. A close link will be sought with the underlying theme of the World Expo 2020 “Connecting Minds. Creating the Future”.

During the week-long meeting, participants will be offered space to:

  • Share: bring all the voices to the table for an inclusive, multi-stakeholder dialogue at the national and sub-regional level.
  • Learn: hear from regional and international partners which good practices have been successfully implemented to harness the digital transformations.
  • Connect & Network: meet local and international partners in one place and take projects forward.
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