LI Yong, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO, has said that the UAE’s hosting of the 18th session of the organisation’s General Conference in Abu Dhabi on November 2nd was welcomed by the Industrial Development Board.
This is in part because the two sides have a long-standing partnership and serve as co-chairs of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit – the world’s first cross-industry platform that gathers leaders from public and private sectors, as well as civil society, to harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s transformation of manufacturing to the regeneration of the global economy.
In an interview with WAM, Yong said that he was looking forward to further strengthening ties between the two sides, especially since UNIDO and the UAE share the commitment to take a transformational approach towards shaping the future of manufacturing.
He explained that the General Conference is UNIDO’s supreme policymaking organ where all Member States meet once every two years. It determines the guiding principles and policies of the organisation and approves the budget and work programme of UNIDO.
“It also a forum to discuss key industrial development issues. The overarching theme of this year’s General Conference is ‘Industry 2030 – Innovate. Connect. Transform our Future’, and there will be a number of events where we will discuss and explore issues related to, amongst others, the challenges and opportunities that technological advances and innovation in the industrial sector present to advancing gender equality; the catalytic role of clean-tech innovation, commercialisation and deployment for climate action and the clean energy transition; and how to promote sustainable industrial parks and low-carbon urban-industrial development for inclusive and sustainable industrialization. There is also a joint UNIDO-UAE interactive exhibition which will showcase eye-catching technology and the positive impact of UNIDO’s approaches and solutions on people’s lives,” he added.
“We anticipate that an Abu Dhabi Declaration, in which the Member States will renew their commitment to the organisation’s mandate of promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development will be issued as one of the concrete outcomes of the General Conference,” he noted.
On UNIDO’s Least Developed Countries, LDCs, Ministerial Conference, and some of the critical issues that will be addressed and how is UNIDO tackling these, LI Yong, said UNIDO has a key position as one of the main contributors to structural transformation and sustainable economic growth in the LDCs.
As one of UNIDO’s flagship events specifically for LDCs, the purpose of this conference is to strategise the way forward for industrialisation in LDCs. This response to the interest of Member States in how industrialisation has been achieved in other countries, the lessons learnt from relevant case studies and partnership approaches such as the UNIDO Partnership for Country Programmes, and how they can be replicated in other LDCs.
The conference programme will focus on thematic sessions that reflect UNIDO’s inclusive and sustainable industrial development, ISID, priorities, such as creating shared prosperity, advancing economic competitiveness, safeguarding the environment and fostering knowledge-sharing.
He said that the private sector is a strategic force in implementing the SDGs, with the ability to have a profound impact on virtually all of them. Working closely with private sector firms in both recipient and donor countries, UNIDO is building strong business partnerships and private sector engagement schemes that advance inclusive and sustainable industrial development, ISID, while simultaneously promoting business social values and addressing the causes of global environmental degradation.
UNIDO’s active participation in multi-stakeholder platforms and networks further helps scale up corporate sustainability, mobilise public and private inputs and achieve transformational impact across industry sectors in line with the SDGs’ priorities, he noted.
“A central plank of our drive to bring governments and the private sector together is UNIDO’s multi-stakeholder approach to ISID, the Programme for Country Partnership, PCP. Here, national governments, UNIDO, the private sector, multilateral development banks and funds, and other engaged stakeholders, all agree on an ISID roadmap for the participating country and pool financial and technological resources towards building a solid implementing apparatus for ISID at the national level,” LI Yong was of the view.
When asked who would pay even while partnerships are necessary to achieve the SDGs, he said, “It is clear that, for all countries, public policies and the mobilisation and effective use of domestic resources, underscored by the principle of national ownership, are central to our common pursuit of achieving the SDGs.”
“UNIDO recognises that domestic resources are first and foremost generated by economic growth. Private business activity, investment and innovation are major drivers of productivity and inclusive economic growth. That is why we work with developing countries on devising the public policies needed to create an enabling environment at all levels and a regulatory framework necessary to encourage entrepreneurship and a vibrant domestic business sector.”
According to LI Yong, for those countries relying significantly on natural resource exports, UNIDO encourages investment in value addition and processing of natural resources and product diversification.
“We also recognise the important contribution that direct investment, including foreign direct investment, can make in achieving the SDGs, particularly when projects are aligned with national and regional sustainable development strategies. So we are working with governments to devise policies that can strengthen positive spill-overs from foreign direct investment, such as know-how and technology, as well as encouraging the integration of local enterprises, in particular, small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries, into regional and global value chains,” he said.
About UNIDO´s main global contribution to achieving the SDGs, LI Yong, sad, “The SDGs constitute the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and guide all global, regional and national development endeavours up until the year 2030. UNIDO is fully committed to contributing to the achievement of the SDGs while delivering on its mandate to support the Member States in achieving inclusive and sustainable industrial development.”
UNIDO strives to link its ISID priorities with all the 17 SDGs, to ensure that the organisation’s programmes, projects and initiatives have positive synergetic effects. UNIDO’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda will be most visibly recognised in the progress countries will make on SDG9 – “build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation”. However, according to UNIDO’s analysis, the multiplier effect of industrialisation on all other areas of development further reinforces UNIDO’s contribution to the achievement of the SDGs in their entirety.
UNIDO helps the Member States to build productive capacities inclusively, and to provide more opportunities for all women and men, as well as across social groups. “We also work to promote rapid economic and industrial growth, to build trade capacities in industries, and to ensure that all countries can benefit from international trade and technological progress, also through the application of modern industrial policies and in compliance with global standards,” LI Yong stated.
“A very important contribution to achieving the SDGs is our work to advance environmentally sustainable growth, build institutional capacities for greening industries through cleaner production technologies and resource efficiency methodologies, and creating green industries, spurred by technology facilitation, innovation and partnership building.”
When asked about the best practices implemented by the UAE and the wider Middle East helping to achieve SDGs, LI Yong answered, “Since the adoption of SDGs in 2015, the UAE and other countries in the region have made great efforts to institutionalise the SDGs. A best practice at the highest policy level is the integration of SDG-related activities into the respective national development plans and vision documents.”
“For example, sustainable development ideas are reflected in the UAE’s Vision 2021 and development plans at both the federal and local levels of government. The UAE’s National Agenda emphasises sustainable development centred on four pillars, six national priorities and 52 key performance indicators.
“Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the related implementation programmes, such as the National Transformation Programme 2020, provide the foundations underpinning the integration of the SDGs into the national planning process. Kuwait is another example of a country that has included many major aspects of 2030 Agenda in its major policy framework.
“As a reflection of their commitment towards achieving the SDGs, most countries in the region are participating in the voluntary national reviews, VNRs, to share experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
“In general, most GCC countries have established national visions aspiring to achieve economic sustainability through diversification. There are recurrent priorities represented in these national plans that aim to achieve diversification, such as local entrepreneurship or the so-called knowledge economy. It is also relatively common, particularly in recently established visions, for them to address environmental sustainability issues such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technologies.”
On the Fourth Industrial Revolution technology innovations to help achieve the SDGs, LI Yong, stated, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution offers huge potential to advance economic growth and human well-being, to safeguard the environment and to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“For example, the Internet of Things can be deployed for achieving precision agriculture. This can help us address SDG2 concerning ‘zero hunger'”.
“Drone technology has already been utilised to accelerate the delivery of medical equipment and transplant organs in Africa, as per SDG3 on ‘good health and well-being’. SDG11, on ‘sustainable cities and communities’, can be helped through the use of Artificial Intelligence and sensors to create smart cities.”
On UNIDO’s youth-focused initiatives, LI Yong, said, “Any country’s need for a sizeable pool of educated, entrepreneurial and industrial human resources has long been recognised as a necessary precondition for long-term development and economic success. It is also a crucial basis for creating the necessary opportunities for young people to enter the formal economy and find employment or pursue an entrepreneurship path.
“Preparing a generation of skilled entrepreneurs for economic transformation is an essential component of ISID. New businesses create new jobs, increase the economy’s efficiency and productivity, and act as a major engine for promoting innovation and changing economic structures.
“Some countries look at entrepreneurship as a way to expand job opportunities for young people and promoting inclusion. Others focus on the dynamism that entrepreneurship injects to help firms become and remain competitive and, in doing so, ensuring long-term and dynamic growth.
“In this context, academic and technical skills remain key for structural change and technological upgrading. With its mandate to promote ISID, UNIDO supports the development of entrepreneurial culture and skills, and helps to enhance young people’s technical and learning capabilities,” he added.
He said that UNIDO seeks to help countries in their efforts to create jobs, prevent migration and integrate marginalised youth into the economy. Such initiatives range from reinforcing local support structures and enhancing platforms for information-sharing to assisting young entrepreneurs to create and develop their businesses through value chains.
On UNIDO supporting the industrial sectors of countries to transition to a circular economy, LI Yong pointed out, “Many of UNIDO projects already address various building blocks of the circular economy. Some support resource-efficient and cleaner manufacturing of products. Others help develop safe, easy-to-recycle products with longer lifetimes, and still, others deal with the recovery or safe disposal of resources at the end of a product’s life.
“Moreover, UNIDO promotes industrial energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy for productive uses, by optimising energy systems, developing international energy management standards, and bringing sustainable energy solutions to industries. Since economies are still far from phasing out the need for raw materials extraction altogether, some of UNIDO’s projects work to make parts of the mining process, for example, the processing of ores and other extracted materials, safer and more environmentally responsible.”
Since the UAE and other countries in the region are still heavily dependent on the extraction and sale of fossil fuels, LI Yong was asked how UNIDO was working with the Member States in this region to transition to a low-carbon economy.
He said that UNIDO has a long history of cooperation with countries in the Arab region, and particularly the GCC and its member countries. UNIDO continues to cooperate with all the GCC countries and is currently implementing 14 projects in the GCC countries.
“The countries in the region recognise the importance of economic diversification, and industrial development as a way forward to achieve economic diversification. Currently, UNIDO is working with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to develop country programmes focusing on economic diversification.
“UNIDO is already working with countries in the Arab region to implement technical cooperation projects and programmes in numerous spheres, including sustainable energy development, promoting industrial energy efficiency, and climate change mitigation and adaptation through cleaner production,” he added.
Asked what the main challenges facing the greater economic inclusion of women were, LI Yong responded by saying that Gender equality and the economic empowerment of women remain key challenges in the 2030 Agenda. Women play a vital role in supporting their households and communities in achieving food and nutrition security, generating income and improving overall well-being. They contribute to agriculture and productive businesses, and fuel local and global economies. As such, they are fundamental drivers of sustainable development.
“When women do not participate equally in productive and entrepreneurial activities, economies lose the benefits that would otherwise be provided by new products and services, additional revenues and new jobs. Economies also lose out due to the long-term negative effects on workforce skills and education that occur when half of the potential pool of labour is not tapped,” he stated.
As a major driver of poverty reduction and social integration, UNIDO’s vision of ISID encourages the full integration of women and promotion of gender equality in all industrialisation policies, programmes, and processes, he added.
“In all of its projects, the organisation is committed to providing a more comprehensive and effective response to the need to enhance the economic empowerment and leadership of women. UNIDO consistently strives to promote the levelling of the playing field, and the organisation’s technical cooperation initiatives focus on supporting women in acquiring skills and gaining access to resources that allow them to compete effectively in the economic life of their communities. It seeks to support countries in building capacities at the policy, institutional and enterprise levels,” LI Yong remarked On UNIDO’s contribution to the economic empowerment of women in the Middle East, LI Yong, said, that UNIDO has an important project entitled, Promoting women’s empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in the MENA region, which aims to improve the economic participation of women and to thereby create the conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth in the MENA region by making use of the strong potential of female entrepreneurs in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.
The project has a holistic approach embracing three levels of intervention: i) On a macro level, it supports, facilitates and nurtures the policy dialogue between the key stakeholders, intending to produce a set of recommendations and action points endorsed by all parties to promote women’s entrepreneurship in the region.
ii) At the macro level, it strengthens the capacities of national professional women’s associations so that they can provide female entrepreneurs with higher-quality and demand-driven services to support the creation and growth of their enterprises, and effectively promote an environment that is more conducive to the development of women’s entrepreneurship.
iii) On a micro level, it promotes promising women-led investments in the target countries through training, coaching, identification and facilitation of business partnerships opportunities and access to finance.
In Bahrain, UNIDO’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office, ITPO, has been at the forefront of helping businesswomen in the Arab world to overcome cultural and investment barriers for more than 20 years. Through its Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion, EDIP, programme, the ITPO in Bahrain empowers women to seize economic opportunities. It provides training and coaching to encourage self-employment and enterprise creation, he said in conclusion.