CUTS Daily Bulletin #2 | October 17, 2023
The World Investment Forum, 2023 is being organised at Abu Dhabi on 16-20 October, 2023. To visit the website and access more details about the conference, interested individuals are encouraged to visit the WIF website.
For earlier bulletins, please click here
Programme at a Glance
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SSE Global Dialogue
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 09:30-12:30)

Top chief executives of stock exchanges that are part of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative from around the globe gather at the World Investment Forum to discuss the contributions made by their exchanges in pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With sustainability at the forefront of the dialogue, exchange chief executives of SSE member exchanges share the voluntary and mandatory means they employ for listed companies in their respective countries to adhere to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing guidelines and extension, to adhere to the shared agenda of a sustainable future.
Session Highlights
SSE member stock exchanges are cognisant of the crucial role of implementing ESG guidelines in achieving the UN SDGs by 2030 and are all taking concrete steps to encourage and require listed companies to disclose their ESG reports. All stock exchanges present on the panel have, in one way or the other, encouraged their listed companies to file ESG sustainability reports. Some stock exchanges provide training for corporate leaders of their listed companies on ESG standards as well as to spread awareness of the implications of adopting ESG standards and adhering to ESG disclosure reports.
Many stock exchanges have moved towards implementing stricter regulatory measures for their listed companies by making ESG sustainability reports compulsory. Some of these stock exchanges that have made ESG sustainability reports mandatory worked with policymakers in implementing such regulatory measures. Several in the panel call for all stock exchanges to make ESG sustainability reports mandatory as awareness spreading has been the strategy of many exchanges for the past few years and the urgency of the need to fulfil the SDGs has only become more crucial.
The panel also discussed the ongoing challenge of encouraging listed companies to issue ESG sustainability reports and on a similar note, how there is a need for a streamlined set of ESG guidelines and a centralised repository for ESG-related data. At the same time, a key challenge that many among the panel members raised is the cost for listed companies to transition to more sustainable practices in compliance with ESG standards. Several recommendations were raised to tackle this, such as: 

  • Incentivising companies to issue ESG sustainability reports given that many companies are driven by self-interest
  • Conducting training and utilising other educational tools to inform listed companies of the implications and effects of implementing ESG standards
Several members of the panel also expressed their commitment to learning from how other SSE member stock exchanges implement ESG guidelines. As a whole, the SSE Global Dialogue presented the current state of sustainability development among the stock exchanges present in the panel through the strategies they used in adherence to the ESG guidelines. Furthermore, the panel did not neglect to open the discussion to possible improvements that can be made to ensure that all SSE member stock exchanges can significantly contribute to the achievement of the UN SDGs.
On the Panel were:
  • James X. Zhan, Director, Division on Investment and Enterprise, UNCTAD and Lead, UNCTAD World Investment Forum
  • Muhamad Umar Swift, Chief Executive Officer, Bursa Malaysia
  • Alexander L.C. Stevens, Chief Executive Officer, Greenomy
  • Abena Amoah, Managing Director, Ghana Stock Exchange
  • Glenda So, Co-Head of Emerging Business and FIC, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited
  • Iman Rachman, Chief Executive Officer, Indonesia Stock Exchange
  • Martine Valcin, Global Manager, Corporate Governance and ESG Advisory, Knowledge and Learning, International Finance Corporation
  • Kris Nathanail, Senior Policy Advisor, International Organisation of Securities Commissions
  • Alina Aldambergen, Chairperson, Kazakhstan Stock Exchange
  • Sohn Byung-Doo, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Korea Exchange
  • Medet Nazaraliev, Chief Executive Officer, Kyrgyz Stock Exchange
  • Altai Khangai, Chief Executive Officer, Mongolian Stock Exchange
  • Haitham Bin Salem Al Salmi, Chief Executive Officer, Muscat Stock Exchange
  • Mazen Wathaifi, Chief Executive Officer, Amman Stock Exchange
  • Petr Koblic, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson, Prague Stock Exchange
  • Margarita Pirovska, Director of Policy, Principles for Responsible Investment
  • Hassan M Dudde, Chief Executive Officer, Somali Stock Exchange
  • Sunil Benimadhu, Chief Executive Officer, Stock Exchange of Mauritius
  • Paul Bwiso, Chief Executive Officer, Stock Exchange of Mauritius
  • Riham Elgizy, Chief Executive Officer, Regional Voluntary Carbon Market Company
  • Yianos Kontopoulos, Chief Executive Officer, ATHEX Stock Exchange
  • Heba El Serafi, Vice President, Egyptian Exchange
  • Soraphol Tulayasathien, Head of Corporate Strategy and Sustainable Development, Stock Exchange of Thailand
  • Wendy Boit, ESG Lead and Senior Officer Corporate Affairs & Investor Relations, Nairobi Securities Exchange
  • Mikiko Takara, Director, Sustainability Department, Japan Exchange Group
  • Abdulla Salem Al Nuaimi, Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange
  • David Harris, Head of Sustainable Finance Strategy, London Stock Exchange Group
  • Lois Guthrie, Senior Technical Advisor, International Financial Reporting Standards
  • Anthony Miller, Chief Coordinator, UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges, UNCTAD
  • Georg Kell, Chairman, Arabesque

 (Reporting by Naomi Abarrondo, Rapporteur Volunteer for World Investment Forum, CUTS International)

Industry 4.0 and the Future of Global Investment
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 9:45-11:15)

Presently, nations and industries are in the business of transformation assisted by advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet-of-things (IoT), smart factories, robotics, and the like. However, progress is not uniform among actors, as some are more capable of adopting these technologies, causing gaps in value chains. It is argued that transformation – Industry 4.0 (I4.O), is one of the drivers to attract investment for development. Likewise, policymakers and stakeholders are more intentional in pursuing policies supporting Industry 4.0 effects in local contexts. This session highlighted the best policy interventions and options to embrace industry transformation to facilitate investments that promote sustainable development.
Session Highlights
Manufacturers face four identifiable challenges – productivity, sustainability, flexibility, and talent, that impact business. All panellists agreed that Industry 4.0 is key to tackling these. Globally, 89 per cent of executives stress that I4.0 technologies must be implemented within the Factories of the Future.
On the other hand, 68 per cent of manufacturers jumpstarted their I4.0 journey, while 16 per cent successfully reached their I4.0 targets. It was stressed that companies and nations tend to focus on the technology aspect of the I4.0 merely. However, the aspects of people and technological infrastructure are often more challenging to achieve and mostly neglected. If companies and nations take these two to account, it will yield at least 20 per cent of productivity improvements across manufacturing industries.
The panels agreed that factories are doing much work in the I4.0, for instance, investing in IoT, people, and increasing connectivity in the data chain. However, progress is not levelled across nations and companies mainly because of weak institutional capacities and difficulty changing traditional practices. Digitalisation must then be viewed as a pathway for opportunities towards optimisation of industries – locally and globally. Moreover, digitalisation does not only mean focusing on technologies but also concentrating on services and data.
The panellists identified the non-uniformity of data as one of the obstacles to successful digitalisation in manufacturing industries. There are a lot of standards and versions used, which makes the trade process counterproductive. There is a need for manufacturers to bolster their data connectivity to the supply chain, and this can happen by harmonising data through standardising or equalising data formats, which then allows a seamless flow of data across the supply chain. I4.0 also poses threats in the data ecosystem, such as cybersecurity and geopolitics,  emphasising the need to collaborate between relevant stakeholders and promote data sharing based on mutual trust.
As for policy development, there are different levels of adaptation done regionally and globally. For instance, Malaysia spearheads the digital economy and green energy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The US, on the other hand, has been active in providing incentive programs for SEZs. One panellist mentioned that eight countries have pioneered a reduction of bureaucracy for supply chain processes, such as trade. Other developments included increasing large research programmes and infrastructures, attracting more investments. 
The session ended with recommendations to stakeholders to be closer together in achieving the I4.0, such as proactive knowledge sharing, government intervention, responsible democratisation of technology, financing, and institutional capacity-building.
Speakers of the Session were:

  • Tran Quoc Phuong, Vice Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Viet Nam
  • Susanne Bieller, General Secretary, International Federation of Robotics
  • Rick Liang, President, Evyd Technology
  • Vinay Chandran, Partner, Dubai, Mckinsey & Company
  • Pamela Mar, Managing Director, Digital Standards Initiative, International Chamber of Commerce
  • Lena Miranda, President, International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation
  • Raymond Siva, Senior Vice President, Digital Investment, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation
  • Detlef Zühlke, Founder, Smartfactory Eu
  • Matthias Tauber, Managing Director and Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group

 (Reporting by Hannah Gabrielle Tejoso, Rapporteur Volunteer for World Investment Forum, CUTS International)

Fireside Chat on the Role of Civil Society for Innovative Investments
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 10:30-11:15)

Civil society organisations (CSOs) are democratic institutions. They are also called what is rightly known as the Fifth Estate, representative of people’s voices. This fireside chat focused on the role of civil society in driving global change and shaping public policy in a sustainable and socially responsible way within and beyond borders and globally. It also discussed the role of finance for climate change and the creation of a ‘Fund of Funds’ for financing sustainable development projects. The fireside chat also advocated for crowdfunding and blended finance for financing sustainability projects. 
Session Highlights
The trade policy agenda at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) includes investment policy and the latest multilateral agreement being agreed upon is the International Investment Facilitation Agreement.  Findings of the CUTS research and advocacy project ‘Investment for Development’ spread across three continents which included diverse countries, such as Brazil, Hungary, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zambia showed that many countries feared Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In South Asia in particular, the East India Company initially came to trade and subsequently colonised the entire Indian sub-continent. This fear of coercion through investments also affects how we look at investments today.
There is a debate on Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Earth Summit in 1992 stipulated that richer countries would provide funding to protect climate-vulnerable countries from the effects of climate change and to help them develop new technologies. But, only US$2bn could be raised through this summit. Today, there is a focus on funding for humanitarian causes which obfuscates the focus on climate change and biodiversity. The war in Ukraine and the turmoil in Gaza have further complicated the prospects of climate finance. 

Among the probable sources of climate finance including funding from the public treasury has become more circumspect requiring private actors to step in. The proposed ‘Fund of Funds’ is a bouquet of funds that may include instruments, such as Tobin Tax, Airline Tax, Carbon Tax etc. The proposed finance is entirely based on market principles. The delivery could be done by the World Bank or United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to countries in need of finance for mitigating and adapting to climate change and biodiversity losses. Unlike the other multilateral organisations, UNDP and World Bank.
However, there are challenges to innovative investments for climate change and biodiversity as multilateral finance institutions driving up infrastructural investments such as the China-led  Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) Bank do not focus on sustainability.
Crowd funding could be one of the sources of sustainable finance as evidenced by ‘Go Fund Me’, a popular crowdfunding platform. Blended finance that brings capital from public or philanthropic sources to increase private sector investments is another significant way of financing sustainability projects.
Speakers of the Session were:

  • Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International, India
  • Robert Grosse, Professor, Thunderbird School of Global Management, USA

 (Reporting by Mihir Shekhar Bhonsale, Assistant Policy Analyst, CUTS International)

GST: Strategic Foresight to Support Long-Term Planning for Sustainable Agrifood Systems
Organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 11:30-13:00)

Agrifood systems play a pivotal role in tackling challenges, such as malnutrition, poverty, loss of biodiversity, ecosystem services and climate change. It is projected that US$300-US$350bn per year is needed for the next decade to transform the food system and sustain healthy people, a healthy planet and a healthy economy.
The World Investment Forum 2023 explored the critical role of the private sector in contributing to sustainability, agriculture, food security and rural development. The challenges facing agrifood systems are unique and demand creative policy decisions, specific investments, and accountable governance. To address the intricacy, unpredictability, instability, and vagueness of these challenges and trends, the FAO foresight approach is being more frequently employed in long-term planning and the development of policies.
Session Highlights
Understanding the geographic distribution of emerging technologies and innovations is crucial for addressing the diverse needs of agri-food systems across different regions. While common challenges unite us, the top drivers for innovation and technology demand may vary significantly. The speaker addressed Strategic Foresight which empowers us to navigate the complexity of our rapidly changing world.
Innovations are now trickling down to farming communities across geographies and scales, creating a focused dialogue for sustainable agriculture. This national and international governance mechanism aims to ensure the widespread adoption of beneficial technologies, enhancing collective efforts for a more effective, inclusive, equitable, resilient, and sustainable system. During the presentation, a panellist raised crucial questions that demand our attention and thoughtful consideration:

  • Are we investing in the right technologies and innovations that cater to the needs of the various stakeholders in agri-food systems?
  • When should these technologies and innovations be deployed to maximise their impact and benefits?
These questions serve as a starting point for aligning our actions and strategies with the ever-evolving landscape of agri-food systems. Panellists emphasised the necessity of addressing these critical questions to guide investment decisions effectively.
During the panel discussion, a scenario analysis was presented, focussing on the potential future of agri-food systems. This specific scenario, referred to as "Strengthening between Technological Illusions and Progress towards Sustainability," explores a critical pathway for the agri-food sector. The scenario considers the impact of policy and investment choices and the vital role of partnerships and communication between the private sector, public policy, and international organisations.
This analysis is part of a broader project dedicated to foresight, which explores five distinct scenarios, each shedding light on the potential paths that the agri-food sector could follow. These scenarios consider the critical influence of policy and investment choices and emphasise the significance of partnerships and communication between the private sector, public policy, and international organisations. 
  • Scenario A - Strengthening between Technological Illusions and Progress towards Sustainability
  • Scenario B - Monopoly Model in Technologies and Innovations
  • Scenario C - Regional Adaptation and Collaboration
  • Scenario D - Inclusive Innovation Ecosystems
  • Scenario E - Transformative Global Governance
In conclusion, the session themes revolve around the exploration of agrifood technologies and innovation, informed by scenarios that contribute to long-term strategic vision, consensus-building and policy goals. These findings from the collaborative foresight work of FAO and its diverse partners pave the way for informed recommendations aimed at strategically allocating resources to enhance the sustainability and resilience of agrifood systems.
Additionally, they have started a journey that harnesses technology to create spaces for new business models associated with cutting-edge agricultural technologies. Their goal is to bring the outcomes of these foresight exercises to the people who will shape the future of agri-food systems.
They spoke about scenarios that have to be avoided in which a large portion of the population is adversely impacted. They emphasised the necessity of fostering a truly inclusive environment, underscoring the critical significance of sustainable food systems transformation amidst the array of challenges. Furthermore, they also stressed the need to align short-term actions with long-term endeavours by pivoting towards innovation.
Panellists shared their perspectives on the intriguing yet challenging nature of the scenarios, emphasising the critical role of innovation and technology in addressing both current and future challenges. They highlighted the uncertainties of the future, citing their own country's complex historical and geopolitical changes. Despite these challenges, the panellists stressed the importance of engaging in such foresight exercises and aligning technological advancements with government strategies and stakeholder needs to ensure productivity and sustainability. They acknowledged that the desired scenario is one where technology and innovation harmoniously align with governmental and developmental goals, maximising their potential and delivering tangible benefits.
 The insightful analysis of these scenarios underscores the crucial role of foresight in guiding investment decisions within agri-food systems. Each scenario offers a unique perspective on the potential future of this vital sector. By contemplating these scenarios, stakeholders can make well-informed choices, ensuring that sustainability takes centre stage, and working collaboratively towards a future that benefits all.
Speakers of the Session were:
  • Vincent Jean Martin, Director, Office for Innovation, FAO of the UN
  • Sarah Audouin, Science Researcher, Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique Pour le Développement
  • Romano De Vivo, Vice-President of Sustainability, Crop Life International
  • Jorge Lagunacelis, Director, UN Environment’s One-Planet Network
  • David Laborde, Division Director, Agrifood Economics Division, FAO of the UN
  • Estrella Penunia, Secretary General, Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development
  • Kacper Nosarzewski, Business Development Director, 4CF Strategic Foresight
  • Zofia Mroczek,  Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services Specialist, FAO of the UN
  • Nevena Alexandrova, Agricultural Extension Officer, FAO OIND

(Reporting by Rifa Kabeer, Rapporteur Volunteer for World Investment Forum, CUTS International)

Technology and Innovation to Increase Resilience and Support Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
Organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations 
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 14:30-16:00)

The Arab region is currently facing extreme aridity and is projected to experience a temperature increase of up to 4.8 °C by the end of the century due to climate change. This will worsen issues of drought and water scarcity, leading to substantial economic losses estimated at 6-14 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050. Sectors such as agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forestry will be severely impacted.

To address these risks and enhance the resilience of small-scale farmers in Arab countries, it is essential to allocate more climate finance to agriculture, land use, forestry, and water management. Despite the vulnerability and limited climate resilience of countries in the Near East and North Africa, they receive comparatively low levels of climate finance for adaptation efforts in agriculture and land use. This situation necessitates a significant increase in investments to promote climate-smart agricultural solutions and boost the resilience of food and agriculture systems against climate-induced extreme events and related challenges.

Session Highlights
The conference commenced by delving into the most critical climate change adaptation challenges. It painted a grim picture of the impending climate impacts that the region faces, including temperature increases. The session emphasised that digital agriculture has emerged as a game-changer. It harnesses a wide range of technological tools and practices to address pressing global challenges, including the need to feed a growing population, boost sustainability, enhance crop quality, and increase resilience against the effects of climate change.
Digital agriculture is reshaping the industry, primarily through the use of big data. However, addressing issues of data ownership and ensuring the equitable distribution of data value throughout the supply chain are essential steps in maximising the potential of this transformative technology. The insights shared by the panellists highlight the complexities and importance of these issues in the world of agriculture.
The speaker also stressed that special attention should be given to the impact of data distribution on smallholder farmers. Fair practices should be established to prevent data exploitation and ensure that they reap the benefits of digital agriculture.
A panellist passionately discussed an array of cutting-edge agricultural and food-related topics that are shaping the future of the industry. The concept of aggrotech took centre stage and the transformative role of technology in agriculture, from precision farming to data-driven decision-making was highlighted. Equally significant was the discourse on carbon farming underscoring the importance of agriculture in sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change. The discussion on biological innovation shed light on the promising developments in biotechnology, enabling more sustainable and efficient crop production while reducing environmental impact. Aquaculture was also emphasised, heralding the rise of aquatic farming methods that contribute to the diversification of food sources.
Additionally, food production from other resources underscored the potential of alternative protein sources like insects and algae in meeting the world's growing food demands. Finally, the waste conversation illuminated innovative solutions to tackle food waste, emphasising how reducing waste and repurposing by-products can contribute to a more sustainable and resource-efficient food system.
A panellist began by highlighting the dual role that tree crops, such as cocoa, play in the agricultural landscape. He pointed out that these crops offer not only significant economic benefits to small-scale producers but also substantial environmental advantages. By doing so, these farmers are not only improving their financial well-being but also preventing the need for drastic measures like burning forested areas, which can have devastating consequences on biodiversity habitats. This approach not only sustains their livelihoods but also conserves valuable ecosystems.
Panellists highlighted the disproportionate vulnerability of small-scale farmers and rural communities and the dire need for resilient agrifood systems to ensure food security in the face of climate-induced extreme events. They also highlighted the role of technology in building resilience. Digital agriculture and precision farming provide real-time data, helping farmers make informed decisions, optimise resource use, and mitigate climate risks.
Resilience is not just about enduring challenges but thriving in the face of adversity, particularly in an environment where both predictable stresses and unpredictable shocks can impact the livelihoods of farmers, especially those in vulnerable regions. Climate change, in particular, serves as a stark reminder of the urgency of building resilience within the agricultural sector.
In conclusion, climate change adaptation in agrifood systems in the Arab region is a complex and urgent challenge. However, with innovative technologies, sustainable practices, and increased climate finance, there is hope for building resilience and ensuring food security. The insights provided by the panellists serve as a foundation for addressing these challenges, stressing the need for collaborative efforts and creative solutions to secure the future of agrifood systems in the face of climate change.

Speakers of the Session were:

  • Matthias Tauber, Managing Director and Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group
  • Nadine Gbossa, Director for Food Systems, International Fund for Agricultural Development
  • Dominique Burgeon, Director, FAO Liaison Office to the United Nations in Geneva
  • Saifullah Khan, Director, Bizilance Legal Consultants
  • Alejandro Esobar, Lead Investment and Operations Officer, Interamerican Development Bank
  • Assamoi Abbe Jonas, Promire Project Coordinator, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Côte d'Ivoire
  • Mansi Shah, Senior Technical Coordinator, Self-Employed Women’s Association
  • Tamas Vattai, Food Security Specialist, FAO

 (Reporting by Rifa Kabeer, Rapporteur Volunteer for World Investment Forum, CUTS International)

High-level Panel on Investment in Energy Transition
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 14:30-16:30)

Energy transition initiatives can be costly. Thus, promoting such must include practices that are inclusive and sustainable, especially for the developing world. The role of the private sector in the transition through investment is crucial in advancing proposed solutions to combat climate change. However, not all nations have the same capacity to attract private financing for the transition. This session highlighted problems in energy transition, the climate finance investment gap, and policy recommendations for achieving SDG 7 for all.
Session Highlights
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) expressed concern about how most energy transition investments took place in developed countries for decades. 31 developing countries, including 11 Least Developed Countries (LDCs), have not yet registered any financial energy transition project to date. The panellists concurred that the disparity is evident and needs immediate action from relevant stakeholders to forward the just transition agenda.
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shared that the 2022 investments in energy transition were recorded to be US$1.3tn, the highest for the past eight years. However, this investment pace is insufficient to meet the global climate and socio-economic development goals. Thus, IRENA stressed the private sector as a critical source of finance. Moreover, private-public-philanthropic collaboration is essential to increase climate investment flow.
The academe posed another perspective to look at the investment problem in LDCs. It was said that the common narratives about the climate change problem should be reframed into a green growth narrative where stakeholders connect the decarbonisation problem of developed countries and the growth problem of developing countries, alongside how developing countries can help decarbonise. It was argued that the transition to green growth requires inputs developing countries can produce, such as renewables. Therefore, energy-intensive initiatives should relocate to places with high concentrations of renewable energy, and developing countries can help produce goods that enable the world to decarbonise.
As for the private sector and multilateral development banks (MDBs), both representatives expressed readiness to invest in the energy transition to the developing world. However, they often face barriers that hinder the investment flow, such as the lack of supply of investable projects, governments’ physical capacities restraining public finance, and limited data available on investable projects because of macroeconomic vulnerabilities that add to investor uncertainties. The private sector representation suggested that these could be alleviated by helping promote regulation changes and market reforms to build investor trust. Moreover, the private sector can also help make crucial investments that could start new markets for them. To develop these, planning, regulatory change, finance, and technical assistance must come into play.
From the perspective of a developing country, Indonesia shared its energy commitments by emphasising its need to retire from being a fossil fuel exporter. They are also pioneers of clean energy transition in the ASEAN. Lastly, governments need to strike a balance between appeasing investors and satisfying consumers. The middle ground would determine opportunities for private investment and public finance.
Speakers of the Session were:

  • Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General, UNCTAD
  • H.E. Tran Quoc Phuong, Vice Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Vietnam
  • Abdulaziz Alobaidli, Chief Operating Officer, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar
  • Jorge Arbache, Vice President of the Private Sector, Development Bank of Latin America, Caf
  • Santiago Bañales, Managing Director, Iberdrola Innovation Middle East
  • Alicia Eastman, Co-Founder and President, Inter-continental Energy
  • Khalid Bin Hadi, Managing Director, UAE Siemens Energy
  • Yudo Dwinanda Priaadi, Director General of New Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Republic of Indonesia
  • Ricardo Hausmann, Founder and Director, Harvard’s Growth Lab and The Rafik Hariri Professor of the Practice of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Beata Javorcik, Chief Economist, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Francesco La Camera, Director-General, (Irena)
  • Joice Mendez, United Nations Secretary General’s Youth Climate Advisor
  • Prof. Ralph Ossa, Chief Economist and Director of the Economic Research And Statistics Division, World Trade Organisation (WTO)
  • Dorothea Schütz, Deputy Director-General, German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and Head, Subdirectorate, Middle East, North Africa, Trade Fair and Development Policy 
  • Sharanjit Leyl, International Broadcaster

(Reporting by Hannah Gabrielle Tejoso, Rapporteur Volunteer for World Investment Forum, CUTS International)

Delivering Public Sector Investment for Sustainable Development
UNCTAD, in partnership with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 15:00-17:00)

The panel of financial experts assessed the performance of public financial management globally in the context of the PEFA framework. Strong emphasis is put on collaborative action between public and private sectors in financing public infrastructure projects.
Session Highlights
In light of the UN SDGs, the concept of value is being reframed to go beyond profit. Globally, new regulations are beginning to talk about value and risk with consideration of silent stakeholders (i.e., the environment). In the process of this reframing, public financial management experts have been taking concrete steps to use a multidisciplinary approach to public investments. At the same time, there is a push for greater involvement of private investments as the panel acknowledges that government resources alone are not enough to fund public projects, especially projects made to direct a country’s economy to sustainable development.
The importance of long-term investments is also highlighted by the panel in the context of sustainable development. The panel expresses the challenge of long-term investments wherein policymakers typically prefer quicker solutions rather than long-term sustainable solutions because of self-interest.
However, upon the development of the UN SDGs, there have been more countries that consider the importance of long-term investments. As an example, the WIF 2023 host country, the UAE, has pursued many sustainability-focused policies and projects, one of which is the UAE Net Zero. These projects cannot be accomplished within five-seven years but the UAE continues to pursue these long-term investments as the UAE government has a collective vision of sustainable economic growth, a vision and purpose that exceeds that of self-interest.
These long-term investments also raised the discussion on many governments turning to accrual-based accounting for government budgets as this allows them to allocate budgets for long-term investments more comprehensively. As a whole, the subject of public financial management should be seen from a political economic point of view wherein in addition to financial and technical factors, the management of public investments is also driven strongly by good leadership and strong political will.
On the Panel were:

  • Srinivas Gurazada, Head, PEFA Secretariat & Global Lead, Public Finance, World Bank
  • Maggie Mcghee, Executive Director, ACCA
  • Saad A. Alshahrani, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs and Investment Studies, Saudi Arabia
  • Caroline Aggestam Pontoppidan, Professor, Copenhagen Business School
  • Ali Mohsin H. Al Hosani, Director, Internal Auditing at Department of Economic Development, Abu Dhabi Government, United Arab Emirates
  • Alex Metcalfe, Head of Public Sector, ACCA

 (Reporting by Naomi Abarrondo, Rapporteur Volunteer for World Investment Forum, CUTS International)

GST: The AfCFTA Protocol on Investment: Towards a New Generation of Investment Policies in Africa
In partnership with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 16:30-17:30)

This session delved into the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a protocol on investment ratified by the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government. The central theme was to explore how the AfCFTA bolsters public and private endeavours for investment in Africa's sustainable development. Emphasising the AfCFTA's significance, it was highlighted as the African Union's flagship project aiming for a prosperous and integrated Africa.

With Africa's combined GDP surpassing 3.3 trillion dollars, this protocol could be pivotal for African integration. As of September 2023, the protocol boasts the agreement of 43 parties out of 54 signatories. The key ambition is to foster intra-Africa investment and propel sustainable development.
Session Highlights
This protocol epitomises Africa's proactive steps towards the protection, regulation, and facilitation of investments. Adopting this protocol marks the commencement of a harmonised investment journey, envisioning a unified market for sustainable and human development. A noteworthy focus is on trade and industrial development, integral to the protocol's objectives. Key sectors are targeted, ensuring the promotion and protection of investments. This approach is anticipated to invigorate investor confidence in Africa. Interestingly, the policies resonated with UNCTAD’s Investment Policy Framework.

At the heart of this protocol are investment promotion, facilitation, and sustainable development. A distinct priority is investing in the digital economy, underlining the role of Africa's youth. By 2050, Africa is projected to constitute a quarter of the global population, accentuating its global significance. Rich in resources like minerals, Africa's potential is undeniable.

The AfCFTA is poised to be the world's most extensive tariff-free market, catalysing intra-Africa trade. However, external investments are indispensable for transforming Africa into an industrialised economy. Presently, Africa predominantly exports raw materials. Given adequate investment, there is potential for comprehensive processing and production of finished goods within Africa. For instance, while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accounts for 67 per cent of cocoa bean production, it reaps a mere 10 per cent of the profit.

This protocol's emphasis on trade and investment facilitation is anticipated to attract substantial Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). A clear focus on technology was evident, considering 85 per cent of Africa's businesses are informal medium enterprises, often overlooked for investment. Notably, the protocol levels the playing field for both multinationals and smaller enterprises.

Africa is a budding consumer market with a substantial labour force and a ripe landscape for data-driven technology. The AfCFTA not only champions investment and human rights but also underscores sustainable development. It delineates responsibilities, mandating foreign investors to adhere to domestic laws, human rights standards, non-discrimination, and environmental conservation.

The AfCFTA is designed not to conflict with other existing protocols; it supersedes them, essentially nullifying previous agreements. Namibia, having ratified the agreement, expressed concerns for less-developed nations with inadequate infrastructure, stressing the imperative for productive integration.

The AfCFTA builds upon foundational protocols in Africa, such as the South African Development Community (SADC). There is palpable optimism about its tangible implementation. This initiative's first phase concluded in 2016, unveiling significant disparities in investment policy alignment. The AfCFTA is envisioned to unify these fronts, making it a binding legal benchmark across countries. Institutionalisation is pivotal, laying the groundwork for fostering investment collaboration.

  • Emily Mburundoria, Director, Directorate of Trade in Services, Investment, Intellectual Property Rights and Digital Trade, AfCFTA Secretariat
  • Wamkele Keabetswe Mene, Secretary-General, AfCFTA Secretariat
On the Panel were:
  • Radwa I. Kamouna, Under Secretary of State, Head of International Relations Department Promotion Sector, General Authority for Investment and Free Zones, Arab Republic of Egypt
  • Angela Pretorius, Deputy Director, Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade, Republic of Namibia
  • Makane Moise Mbengue, Professor of International Law, Director of the Department of International Law and International Organisation, University of Geneva
  • Hamed El Kady, Senior Coordinator, International Investment Agreements Section, UNCTAD

(Reporting by Nahom Kiflemariam Abraham, Rapporteur Volunteer for World Investment Forum, CUTS International)

FDI, ESG and Inclusivity- Promoting Decent Work and Social Development
Organised in partnership with CUTS and the International Labour Organisation (ILO)
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 15:30-17:00)

This session focused on the critical importance of ESG principles  ̶  Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) in shaping the future of the global economy. It focused on investment’s impact on employment. There is a need to reckon with the value-creation aspect of recognising the long-term benefits of investments in employment including through the development of infrastructure, speakers of the session argued. Focusing on the ‘S’ gives companies the social licence for operations.
Session Highlights
In recent years, ESG principles have gained unprecedented prominence, becoming key drivers of international trade agreements. However, as these principles become more deeply integrated into our economic landscape, there is a need to ensure that they do not inadvertently become trade barriers, particularly for firms in the Global South. Balancing economic development with sustainability goals is a complex challenge that we must face together.
Recent developments in promoting decent work and social development within global supply chains underscore the importance of the 'S' or the social dimension of ESG. The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed the need for post-pandemic supply chain resilience, amplification of worker voices, fair wages, gender parity or equality, and above all, worker safety and social protection during the crisis. Multi-stakeholder collaborations and technology-driven transparency initiatives are fostering accountability, ensuring that the 'S' in ESG is no longer neglected.
Yet, despite the significance of the 'S' dimension, its focus on production, international investment, and global supply chains has been inconsistent over time. Environmental and governance aspects have often taken precedence due to factors, such as climate change discourse and corporate governance.
Investment has an impact on employment. The effects on employment vary depending upon the types of investment. For example- technology can be a variable that can have a different effect on employment.
FDI inflow has a positive effect leading to more production and more jobs and therefore strengthening society or the ‘S’ aspect. Jobs remain while tasks change. The government need to look at long-term employment effect including infrastructure development which will have an impact on development.
There is a general assumption that FDI will lead to more spill-over effects on technology. However, countries like Mali and Indonesia do not have technological spillover effects. Therefore, instead of just focusing on the job outcome of FDI, there is a need for investments to create an impact on the communities. Companies must have programmes for local development through skilling populations. Marginalised people need to be brought into the fold. Any FDI in a given nation must refrain from excluding the local population and must include the marginalised sections of the society.
ILO defines the working environment including what constitutes fair income, equal wages for equal work, gender nationality, and social network for workers and their families. However, this needs to be contextualised in the global context. Jobs outcome of FDI, whether impacting the community  ̶  companies must have programmes for local development skill populations, and marginalised people should be brought into the fold.
Multinationals operate with phenomenal complexity when it comes to ESG. They grapple with questions such as how to set the right standards and how to create the ambience in which the rights of employees are protected. FDI similarly comes with a certain amount of set specifications including the extent to which the workplace should be global and how to build parity with local employees. Only the right balance can take employees and teams which take you to a greater level. The social aspect of ESG is very important because the generation gap is narrowing and it is just about five years now. ESG here emerges as the balancing factor.
There are difficulties for investments in the MENA region because of the free tax regime unless you are at the top of the line or bottom of the line. When we are looking at frameworks such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), shared value creation, and different kinds of global markets, it is important to see how communities are involved with some regulation.
Recently, there has been a backlash against ESG including in the US, as exemplified by an anti-ESG crusader and Republican presidential aspirant, Vivek Ramaswamy who is rampaging down the principles. However, ESG must be looked at from the perspective of long-term value creation and it is sensible for investors to look at investing in human capital for their benefit.
Speakers of the Session were:

  • Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International
  • Christoph Ernst, Senior Specialist, Informal Economy, ILO
  • Pranav Sharma, Co-founder and General Partner, Woodstock Fund
  • Shraddha Bhandari, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Confluence Consultants
  • Hannah Irfan Siddiqui, Managing Principal, Kaleidoscope Dei Consulting LLC
  • Jean Shahdadpuri, Managing Director, Nikai Group of Companies and Founder, Ardent Consulting
Game-Changing Solutions for Sustainable Development: Health
(Date: October 17, 2023 Time: 15:00-16:00)

This session presented pioneering solutions anticipated to augment the quality, accessibility, and affordability of healthcare. Central to the discussions was how artificial intelligence (AI) and digitalisation are transforming the provision of health services to underserved communities and advancing drug discoveries, diagnoses, and treatments. Policymakers and investors were urged to fund enterprises committed to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while the session also delved into various sustainable health sectors, including pharmaceuticals and genetics.

Session Highlights
Insilico Medicine, a biotechnology company, has significantly influenced the drug discovery industry over the past 10 years. The drug discovery process is notably challenging, with a success rate between 1 to 9 per cent. In the US, 50 drugs were approved last year, with each drug necessitating an average of US$6.1bn and nearly 12 years for development. However, AI is revolutionising this process:

AI enhances predictions of success probabilities. Though human clinical trials still require years, AI can better identify ideal patients, aiding in more effective disease management. AI can pinpoint proteins most associated with a disease. Generative AI is conceptualising new molecules for synthesis and testing, potentially condensing drug synthesis to just 1-2 years.

Insilico integrates these processes on a single AI platform, democratising drug experimentation across countries. A drug developed using their AI is now in phase 2 of clinical trials. Despite its innovative approach, Insilico laments the lack of support from policymakers, attributed to the nascent nature of AI technology.

The UAE launched a Preventative Medicine Genetic Association in 2007, conducting its first population genetic screening that year. This identified three genetic disorders. By 2017, through genetic screening and encouraging screenings among soon-to-be-married couples, the UAE saved 32 million dirhams by preventing these disorders. For instance, in 2004, one child died every week from thalassemia, but by 2017, the last child with this disorder was treated. The role of women in medicine is also an evolving innovation in the UAE.

In 2023, relying solely on genetics is considered outdated. The emphasis is shifting to health, prevention, and epigenetics – factors other than genes that can induce diseases. While the US's healthcare system primarily addresses an ageing population, the UAE boasts a youthful demographic, with 62 per cent being young individuals. Hence, the emphasis is on prolonging lifespans through preventative medicine. This new strategy is termed "future medicinal science", which is gradually replacing conventional disease care systems. Foreign investors in the UAE need to prioritise patient involvement and foster comprehensive healthcare. Initial exclusion of insurance and legislation is causing setbacks. Early integration can result in cost savings by focusing on prevention rather than treatment.

Singapore-based healthcare AI company EVYD specialises in data intelligence infrastructure and solutions. They have prioritised data management and quality control for policymakers, ensuring robust data security. Furthermore, in collaboration with Brunei's health system, EVYD repurposed the "blue health app", which proved invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Health Foundation is addressing the disparity in healthcare innovation access between the West and the Middle East. The evident gap in COVID-19 vaccination rates between these regions underscores this challenge. Collaborating with policymakers to reshape the healthcare framework is vital, as shown by the Egypt governmental efforts that screened 15 million people for hepatitis C. Partnering with private entities is crucial for spurring healthcare innovation. By leveraging technology, these gaps can be bridged further.

AI is emerging as a pivotal tool in medical research. For instance, AI is now capable of predicting breast cancer progression through imagery, and AI-powered ultrasound scans can identify high-risk breast areas without a radiologist.

Drug discovery in China is growing, highlighting the importance of global collaborations. Drugs can be conceptualised globally but synthesised and tested in China, leveraging their advanced drug production facilities. The significance of a unified global community is paramount.

On the Panel were:

  • Maryam Mohd Fatma Matar, Founder and Chairperson, UAE Genetic Diseases Association
  • Alex Zhavoronkov, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Insilico Medicine
  • Ming Jie Chua, Chief Executive Officer and Board Director, EVYD Technology
  • Akram Bouchenaki, Chief Executive Officer, Abdul Latif Jameel Health
  • Sarper Tanli, Managing Director, MEA Mass General Brigham, Founder, Diginova Health Solutions­­­
(Reporting by Nahom Kiflemariam Abraham, Rapporteur Volunteer for World Investment Forum, CUTS International)
Programme at a Glance
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