Topic outline

  • Short Course

    Short Courses for Geneva-based Diplomats - 2021 series


    The UNCTAD secretariat is pleased to announce another series of short courses in 2021 on key international economic issues for delegates from permanent missions to the United Nations Office at Geneva and the World Trade Organization.

    The aim of the courses is to give delegates from permanent missions an opportunity to become better acquainted with topical issues and developments in the international economic agenda as they are reflected in the work of UNCTAD. More detailed information on the content of individual courses may be found below.

    In the second semester, four courses were provided at Palais des Nations - on 14 September, 14 October, 8 November, and 16 November 2021 respectively. 

    The second semester in 2021 is scheduled as:

    • Tuesday 14 September 2021, 10 a.m. (Room XVII) - Export regulations: Challenges and opportunities: How non-tariff measures impact our daily lives
    • Thursday 14 October 2021, 10 a.m. (Room XXIV) - Cross-border data flows and development: For whom the data flow
    • Monday 8 November 2021, 10 a.m. (Room XXIV) - Frontier Technologies: Addressing widening inequalities and Implementing STI policies for leaving no one behind
    • Tuesday 16 November 2021, 10 a.m. (Room XIX) - LDCs’ structural transformation in times of COVID: from boom-and-bust cycles to creative destruction
    • Tuesday 16 November 2021, 10 a.m. (Hybrid) - LDCs’ structural transformation in times of COVID: from boom-and-bust cycles to creative destruction

      The course will focus on the structural transformation of least developed countries and how the COVID-19 global pandemic impacted the processes involved and have further reduced both the fiscal and policy space, in addition to partly reversing the progress previously made towards the SDGs. At the same time, there are still opportunities that would emanate from international cooperation and consensus, including debt relief, among other aspects, for LDCs to emerge from these economic crises and eventually graduate.

      In this context the short course will be structured around three mains blocks: 1) provide an up-to-date assessment of LDC trends in terms of economic growth and structural transformation, contextualizing it in light of the emerging digitalization and servicification; 2) Outline the impact of COVID-19 on LDC productive capacities and potential output on the medium term; and 3) highlight concrete examples of companies adapting to the downturn in innovative ways (accelerated technological adoption, business diversification, etc.), discussing the main drivers of this process and their relationship with the incipient signs of structural transformation, that were taking place in several Asian and African LDCs prior to the crisis.


    • Monday 08 November 2021, 10 a.m. (Hybrid) - Frontier Technologies: Addressing widening inequalities and Implementing STI policies for leaving no one behind

      Recent developments in frontier technologies, including in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and gene editing, have shown tremendous potential for making development sustainable, but they also have raised fears of increasing disparities between the technology-haves and have-nots. Crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic lays bare these and other gaps. Rapid advances can have serious downsides if they outpace the ability of societies to adapt. There are fears, for example, that jobs are disappearing as more economic activity is automated. The implications could be serious for developing countries – if poor communities and countries are either overwhelmed or simply left behind. For example, the great divides between countries that we see today started with the onset of the first industrial revolution. Since then, every spurt of progress was associated with sharper inequality between countries. What is the impact of frontier technologies on inequalities? How can governments minimize risks and maximize opportunities? And how can international cooperation help?  The answer to these questions is critical for the achievement of the SDGs.

      The course aims to examine how frontier technologies could widen existing inequalities and create new ones, focusing on low and middle-income developing countries and least developed countries, as well as on the most vulnerable segments of societies. At the end of the course, delegates will have a higher awareness of 1) the relationship between technological change and inequalities, 2) the status of key frontier technologies such as AI, robots, gene-editing and blockchain, 3) the readiness of countries to use, adopt and adapt frontier technologies, 3) major concerns and key challenges for developing countries, 4) examples of strategies and policies for harnessing frontier technologies leaving no one behind, and 5) the role of international cooperation.


    • Thursday 14 October 2021, 10 a.m. (Hybrid) - Cross-border data flows and development: For whom the data flow

      The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the process of digital transformation and added urgency for governments to respond effectively. One of the key challenges in this context is related to the governance and harnessing of the surge in digital data. It has been estimated that global Internet traffic in 2022 will exceed all the Internet traffic up to 2016. How these data are handled will greatly affect our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This short course will be based on the Digital Economy Report 2021: Cross-border data flows and Development – For whom the data flow. It will discuss recent trends in data flows and their implications for development and policy making.

      The objective of the course is to raise the awareness among delegates of the economic and strategic value of data; the special nature and multi-dimensionality of data; and current approaches to governing data and data flows around the world. The course will also seek to stimulate discussions on what policy actions are needed to achieve a balanced approach to global data governance that could help ensure that data can flow across borders as freely as necessary and possible, while at the same time achieving an equitable distribution of benefits, within and across countries, and addressing risks related to human rights and national security.


    • Tuesday 14 September 2021, 10 a.m. (Room XVII) - Export regulations: Challenges and opportunities: How non-tariff measures impact our daily lives

      Non-tariff measures (NTMs) affect daily lives; for example, limits on the use of pesticides help to ensure safe food; restrictions on toxins in toys help to protect children; and emissions standards for vehicles help to have a beneficial impact on climate change. Most NTMs are linked to policy objectives related to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, such as those involving the protection of health and the environment. However, they also often lead to costs that can create barriers to trade and economic development. In most sectors, the restrictiveness of NTMs far exceeds current tariffs. Particularly in agricultural sectors, developing country exporters face NTMs equivalent to tariffs of greater than 20 per cent. Potential carbon border adjustment mechanisms, currently being discussed, could be as high as 50 per cent.

      This course will advise delegates on the following: the various types of NTMs and their economic impacts; the interfaces between NTMs and the Sustainable Development Goals, to assist policymakers in designing coherent trade policies; the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on trade-related policymaking and its consequences; the gender dimension of NTMs; insights gained by UNCTAD from the global transparency initiative and related research; and tools to support good policymaking, including the UNCTAD NTM cost-effectiveness toolkit, the UNCTAD regional NTM integration review; and the online mechanism for reporting, monitoring and eliminating non-tariff barriers under the African Continental Free Trade Area.

    • Friday 7 May 2021, 10 a.m. (Online) - Services value-added in exports: policies for development


      Services provide intermediate inputs to all economic sectors, namely, the primary sector, the industrial sector and even the tertiary sector. For example, automated crop monitoring services are increasingly relevant in agriculture, software services are key in the automotive industry and telecommunications services are necessary for mobile and digital financial services. The increased use, production, and export of services in all sectors is the “servicification” of the economy and trade. As such, the performance of the whole economy and trade is related to the effectiveness of services inputs. In developing countries, services account for two thirds of total productivity growth. UNCTAD conducted a case study on services value added in Brazil where, in 2015, services accounted for 17 per cent of direct exports and 48 per cent of the value-added of total exports. The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic requires, with greater urgency, the use of servicification to promote export diversification, upgrading and a robust economic recovery. Servicification and its effects have not been sufficiently discussed in policy debates, including those on trade policy. This is because some servicification-related concepts disrupt some traditional analytical approaches and due to the lack of sufficient data and information on the relevance of servicification.

      The course addresses this gap by covering the relevance of servicification, related concepts and how servicification can be addressed in policymaking, including in trade policy and regulatory frameworks. Using concrete examples, it will discuss the strategic importance of services value-added for the economy and international trade. The course will shed light on the significance of servicification, in addition to providing knowledge on the services-related policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks necessary to use services value added in exports to pursue development goals.

    • Friday 16 April 2021, 10 a.m. (Online) - The UNCTAD Productive Capacities Index (PCI): A New Tool for Policy Formulation in Developing Countries


      In response to a request by member States at the fourteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIV), UNCTAD has developed the Productive Capacities Index (PCI). The multidimensional, composite index covers 193 countries, and is composed of 46 indicators across eight categories: human capital, natural capital, transport, energy, information and communications technology, structural change, institutions, and the private sector. The PCI will be a valuable tool to guide the formulation and implementation of development policies. It also assists in the assessment of progress made in implementation of domestic policies and global actions and frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specific programmes of action. The PCI builds on UNCTAD’s long-standing work on productive capacities as the productive resources, entrepreneurial capabilities, and production linkages, which together determine a country’s capacity to produce goods and services.

      Delegates will have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the importance of the PCI as a tool to guide policy formulation and implementation in developing countries; evaluation of aggregate PCI in developing countries; levels and conditions of category- specific scores and values with policy implications; and the way forward and the relevance of the PCI in their daily activities.

    • Thursday 4 March 2021, 10 a.m. (Online) - Harnessing Blockchain for Sustainable Development: Prospects and Challenges

      In an increasingly digitalized economy and society, the security and accountability of data transactions are critical elements for creating trust and enabling breakthrough innovations in the digital world. In this regard, blockchain technology could be a game-changer, serving as the base technology for cryptocurrency, enabling open (peer-to-peer), secure and fast transactions. However, issues associated with scalability, privacy concerns, uncertain regulatory standards and difficulties posed by the technology in integration with existing applications are some of the potential market constraints. There is also the risk that the potential of blockchain for solving developmental problems has been somewhat inflated by its early adopters and the tech media and may not be as applicable for developing and least developed countries. The challenges that governments face in this regard will be addressed, in addition to the policy options that could influence the rate and direction of innovation and building the blockchain to contribute to national development priorities and accelerate the progress towards the SDGs.

      This short course will also present the basics of the blockchain technology, describe its ecosystem of innovation, and discuss how blockchain could impact the SDGs. It will zoom on scenarios that impact sustainable development, providing delegates with a deepened understanding of the basics of blockchain technology, its potential impact on the SDGs, and the policy options to influence the rate and direction of innovation towards national development priorities and the SDGs. The course will also raise awareness on the prospects and challenges in harnessing blockchain technologies for sustainable development.

    • Tuesday 2 February 2021, 10 a.m. (Online) - UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport 2020: Global trends and lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic

      The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has underscored the global interdependency of nations and set-in motion new trends that will reshape the maritime transport landscape. The sector is at a pivotal moment facing not only immediate concerns resulting from the pandemic but also longer-term considerations, ranging from shifts in supply-chain design and globalization patterns to changes in consumption and spending habits, a growing focus on risk assessment and resilience-building, as well as a heightened global sustainability and low-carbon agenda. The pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of maritime transport as an essential sector for the continued delivery of critical supplies and global trade in time of crisis, during the recovery stage and when resuming normality.

      The course will present key findings from the UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport 2020, launched in November 2020, as well as some recent updates on key developments in international maritime transport. It will follow the structure of the report and include the presentation and discussion of the following topics: International maritime trade and port traffic; Maritime transport services and infrastructure supply; Performance indicators; the Covid-19 pandemic: lessons learned from first-hand experiences and Legal issues and regulatory developments.