Small businesses as SDG Drivers

28 September 2023
ITC News

The International Trade Centre reiterated the importance of small business in accelerating the 2030 Agenda during the 78th UN General Assembly in New York. Here are the highlights.

Halfway to 2030, the promises enshrined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are in peril. The SDG Summit, that took place during the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in September in New York, provided a crucial opportunity to bring the Global Goals back on track, based on the 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report prepared by an independent group of scientists and the 2023 Special Edition of the SDG Progress Report by the Secretary-General.

A summary of the Summit’s proceedings highlights the many steps taken to accelerate SDG progress, including promoting key transitions in areas such as energy. Several leaders called for climate finance, debt relief and long-term mission-oriented lending. Numerous calls had also been made for reform of the existing international financial architecture. Unlocking private capital was a key avenue, including through de-risking private investment.

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The International Trade Centre was present in New York to bring forward the perspective of small business to where actions and decisions are made.

Here are a few highlights of ITC’s engagement:

SDG Action Weekend 

Ahead of the SDG Summit, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres convened the SDG Action Weekend to help ramp up momentum. 

About 6,000 participants from across UN Member States, civil society, youth, local and regional governments and the private sector convened for seven stakeholder-led mobilization segments, 12 sessions centred around the UN-led High Impact Initiatives, three special sessions and over 40 high-level side-events organized by coalitions of governments, UN entities, international organizations and global stakeholder networks.

ITC’s Executive Director, Pamela Coke-Hamilton had several speaking and co-hosting engagements during that weekend:

At the Local and Regional Governments Forum at a session titled Action and Leadership from the Ground Up: Towards the Rescue Plan for People and the Planet, which highlighted the commitments of the local and regional government constituency towards the 2030 Agenda, she called on government leaders to adopt gender-responsive public procurement policies.

On private sector investment, ITC co-hosted a session with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Bridging the Financing Gap: Unleashing the Power of SMEs, setting forth nine recommendations for inclusive action.

ITC also brought the voice of youth entrepreneurs to the event, inviting its recently awarded Youth Ecopreneur Winners Oyungerel Munkhbat of Mongolia, co-founder of Airee, and Mashrur H. Shurid of Bangladesh, founder of iPage, to share their insights. ITC was also proud to see Munkhbat in the video played for world leaders at the SDG Summit!


24 September 2023

At a co-organized session with UN-OHRLLS on Regaining lost ground in the LLDCs: The role of trade and digitalization, the ITC Executive Director moderated the discussion around the role of financial and technology solutions to overcome the finance constraints that small businesses face, with a view to fostering innovation, productivity, industrial development, structural transformation, and international trade in landlocked least developed countries (LLDCs).

The event focused on market-based approaches, as well as opportunities and challenges arising from the rapid expansion of fintechs and the role of government, multilateral development banks and international financial institutions on improving LLDCs’ lending infrastructure in the face of growing trade complexities. 

Further on digitalization, Coke-Hamilton had the chance to speak on SDG Digital Day (watch from 02:02:20) with ITU and UNDP,  by providing opening remarks on “Prosperity”. A day prior, with ITC co-chairing the Working Group alongside GSMA, the Broadband Commission launched its report, Making Digital Connectivity Work for MSMEs during its Annual Meeting in New York.

Good Trade Summit 2023

For the first time, ITC brought its former Trade for Sustainable Development Forum (now called Good Trade Summit) to New York, partnering with the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU).

The event focused on amplifying the voice of small businesses as active contributors to the SDGs in setting the policy agenda and called for Uniting Sustainable Actions.  For a summary on the Good Trade Summit’s outcomes, please click here.

Global Africa Business Initiative

During the Global Africa Business Initiative, co-organized with other UN and private-sector partners, ITC’s Coke-Hamilton invited business leaders to partner with ITC’s SheTrades initiative and its One Trade Africa Programme to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

With its theme “Unstoppable Africa”, the Global Africa Business Initiative puts the private sector at the centre of the discussions and the solutions.

The Summit of the Future

To prepare for a UN 2.0, ITC also used the opportunity while at the General Assembly, to hold important bilateral meetings, including with US Ambassador for UN Reform Chris Lu and Germany’s Ambassador Thomas Zahneisen to discuss preparations for the Summit of the Future in 2024 and necessary changes for better UN system impact. Collaboration and partnerships will be critical to accelerating the SDGs.