Arab unrest high on World Investment Forum agenda

AFP, Thursday 19 Apr 2012

A host of world leaders, global CEOs and experts are to attend the third World Investment Forum on Friday to debate the economic causes of Arab unrest and increasing risks to regional investment.

The four-day forum in Doha is being held in conjunction with the 13th ministerial meeting of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, which senior representatives from 194 countries are to attend, organisers said.

At a special panel discussion, leaders will debate the extent to which economic factors such as job shortages and income inequality have contributed to popular uprisings in the Arab world.

They will also discuss recent social unrest in developed countries and consider what can be done to refashion economic policies so that their benefits are spread more equally.

The gathering, held for the first time in the Arab world, comes after the unprecedented protest movements last year toppled four veteran leaders across the region.

The heads of state and government will focus specifically on creating new opportunities for economic growth with social equity in the wake of the global economic crisis.

Among those expected to attend are Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ghana President John Evans Atta Mills, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, and the Bangladeshi premier, Sheikh Hasina Wajed.

The first World Investment Forum was held in Ghana in 2008, at the outbreak of the global financial crisis, as a platform for dialogue and action on key emerging investment-related challenges.

Both the forum and the UN meeting will focus on ways to promote the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI), still recovering from the financial crisis, to spread the benefits of the world economy to the poor.

In a statement by UNCTAD Thursday, ministers of the world's 48 least developed countries, meeting ahead of the conference, "adopted a declaration calling for a strengthening of the organisation and for bolstering its research, technical-cooperation, and consensus-building work."

Ministers of the 48 countries urged for assistance that includes "transfer of technology and know-how as well as building technological capacities and innovation in our countries," it said.

According to UNCTAD's latest report last week, global FDI outflows rose by 16 percent in 2011 to an estimated $1.66 trillion to surpass the pre-crisis level, but still remain 25 percent below its peak reached in 2007.

However, that growth has failed to translate into expanding productive capacity as it was largely used for cross-border acquisitions and to increase cash reserves kept in foreign affiliates.

Outward FDI from developed countries last year rose by 25 percent, exceeding $1.23 trillion, while FDI outflows from developing countries fell by seven percent, according to the report.

Prospects for FDI outflows in 2012 are still improving, but they remain guarded due to the fragility of the global economic recovery, said the report.

A special session will be held by senior executives of the world's leading sovereign wealth funds and CEOs of multinational companies to explore ways on how to lure trillions of dollars of investment.

The session will specifically explore government policies and strategies needed to capture that potential, organisers said.

UNCTAD's meeting will also discuss a variety of issues including trade and poverty reduction, debt crisis prevention and management, the international trading system and inclusive development and development banks.

UNCTAD ministers will hold several roundtable debates on enhancing development, investments, global partnerships and addressing development challenges in the wake of widening income equality among nations.

They will discuss ways in which the risks of a new recession can be prevented in the short term, as well as measures to address the roots of the global financial crisis, organisers said.

UNCTAD was created in 1964 as the focal point of the United Nations system responsible for trade and interrelated development issues. It makes policy recommendations on trade, finance, investment, and technology.

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