Keynote Speech by ITC Executive Director at the EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award Ceremony

27 June 2018
ITC News
Speech delivered by ITC Executive Director Arancha González at the EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award Ceremony
Brussels, Belgium
27 June 2018

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Herb Caen once wrote ‘A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.’

Today we honor EU cities of different histories, populations, topographies and populations but which have one thing in common: a commitment to Fair, Ethical and inclusive trade.

A world economic forum think piece last year posited the bold statement that ‘Cities, not nation states, will determine our future survival.’ In today’s world where multilateralism is at risk, where ‘trade wars’ is a more searched for term on google than ‘star wars’ and where there is a backlash against multipolarity and multiculturalism in some quarters, we need strong, ethical cities more than ever.

We need cities to be part of the solution to achieving our shared global compass of the United Nations Global Goals. This 2030 agenda is not just a nation state agenda or a UN agenda. It is your agenda as well. Inclusive and sustainable trade- what I often call ‘good trade’ - is a mechanism to achieve the SDGs. And this is why the EU Cities supporting fair and ethical trade matters.

Half of humanity lives in a city. Cities drive over two thirds of global GDP and are melting pots of innovation, community, diversity and ideas. By incentivising values-based trade at the municipality-level, we can affectively engage with the companies and consumers that drive this change. This award that we are presenting today recognizes and supports the solidarity, multi-level action, and global values needed to change our production and consumption habits for a more sustainable future.

Let me speak a bit more about why these tenets are so important:

1. Solidarity

Cities have an important leadership role to play in promoting solidarity. Not just at the government level but also in promoting responsible conduct in businesses and civil society. Small tweaks to procurement practices in businesses can make a major difference in the livelihoods of workers along international value chains. Sourcing practices can also do much to promote environmental sustainability. Furthermore, we need solidarity to empower women as equal players in the economy as well as to connect smaller businesses to supply chains that can offer higher value, greater returns and longer term contracts. Right now in Liverpool, ITC is having its flagship Shetrades Global event which is focused on working with governments and businesses to commit to bring 3 million women to market by 2021 and to better include women owned businesses in procurement. Cities have a crucial role to play here and can also become advocates of women’s economic empowerment.

2. Multi-level action

As we work to reorient our economies, societies and production networks to place them on a more sustainable footing, focus must be on the global, regional, national and municipal level. The presence of mayors, mayoresses, and representatives of different cities in the room today sends a clear message that sustainability matters at all levels. Many answers for sustainability and responsibility are found at local and citizen level. You can drive innovative and ideation and scale up what works for you at the municipal level. Cities have to be leaders in driving a sustainability agenda. And not just in Europe. Twinning and partnering with cities in developing countries is an important way to share technology and ideas and export sustainable production and trading practices.

3. Global Values

The values that will allow us to meet the 2030 Agenda are global. We all care - or rather we should all care - about the elderly, children, the environment, and the well-being of our future generations. Values drive positive change and impact. Values drive business, management strategies and consumer decisions. Values drive innovation and out of the box thinking. We need to leverage our values in order for them to be part of the sustainability and inclusiveness agenda.

4. Change in our production methods and consumption habits

Ultimately, our production and consumption decisions are what brings about positive change. This is why Sustainable Development Goals 12 focuses on sustainable production and consumption. Production is business but consumption is citizenship; and both are interlinked.
For both producers and consumers, we need to build and promote sustainable value chains. Cities have an essential role to play here through taxes and regulatory frameworks, through its own purchasing or by fostering innovation.

Cities influence the private sector as well, which is a key driver in this area. Voluntary or private standards and codes of conduct help encourage production in line with certain quality, social, environmental, safety, and financial criteria. Investing in resource efficiency makes good environmental sense but is also good business based on consumer demand. The purchasing power of a more “conscious” consumer is a key driver for sustainable and inclusive production.

This award is a great opportunity to continue driving up the demand for sustainably traded goods by demonstrating and leveraging the leadership of EU cities.

This honor is unique as it is not merely an award. It also involves the creation of a unique network of sustainable cities as well as a Development Cooperation Project to be carried out by the cities in collaboration with ITC. These longer-term components aim to disseminate and scale best practices and create impact. This is part of the reason why ITC is so supportive of this project and proud to partner with the European Commission in its implementation.

As the joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, ITC’s core focus is to drive inclusive and sustainable trade by supporting MSMEs in developing countries. To do this, we work with governments, to improve the policy environment for firms seeking to trade. We work with trade and investment promotion agencies, to help them better meet the needs of MSMEs. And we work with businesses themselves, to help them move to more sustainable modes of production and connect to potential buyers. We believe in the value of partnerships and learning across the entire UN family.

The network that will be created from this Award, and which will involve all the shortlisted cities, will take the best practices that you have all implemented and ensure they are shared and mainstreamed across the EU to devise strategies to improve solidarity, global values, importance of sustainable consumption and production. These learnings and ideas will inform the next edition of the Award, taking place in 2020.

ITC in partnership with DG Trade and the winning city, will implement a joint project in a developing country focused on building international sustainable trade connections based on the winners inspiring ideas. This is particularly important given the growth of urban cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Through the Award, the Network, and the follow-up project, we can all learn from your experiences and innovations and leverage them around the EU and across the world.
Thank you for your commitment to a more fair and ethical trade and looking forward to working with all of you.