Vinblad Speaks on Panel Co-Organized by ILO, UNEP and UNICEF at UN Stockholm+50

Center: USCIB’s Agnes Vinblad

USCIB participated in the high-level international meeting, UN Stockholm+50 from June 2-3 in Stockholm, Sweden, joining over 4,000 other participants. The meeting was planned as a key milestone en route to the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Egypt later this year. Furthermore, Stockholm+50 served as a means to reinvigorate and renew international environmental multilateralism after the worst impacts of the pandemic. The meeting commemorated the first UN Conference on the Human Environment held fifty years ago, also in Stockholm, in 1972. Topics such as the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution took center stage with plenty of references to the UNEA 5.2 resolution on plastics pollution, and, to principle 1 of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration – the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. 

Representing USCIB, and as one of the few U.S. business representatives on hand, was Policy Associate for Sustainability Agnes Vinblad. Vinblad was joined by Co-Chair of the USCIB Environment Committee Justin Perrettson (Novozymes), as well as Melissa Kopolow and Melissa Estok – USCIB members from Albright Stonebridge Group.  

The U.S. Government delegation was led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) John Kerry and Assistant Secretary Monica Medina. USCIB was in regular contact with the U.S. Delegation in the lead-up to Stockholm+50 and Vinblad met with members of the delegation during the conference emphasizing the need to consider U.S. business views in these critical conversations.   

Nominated by IOE, Vinblad joined a panel co-organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the UN Environment Program (UNEP), and UNICEF on the role of private sector engagement in green jobs creation for youth. This panel was part of an official side event at Stockholm+50 titled Green Jobs for Youth and some of the key messages emphasized during the panel included: 

  • the green and circular economy may create 100 million jobs by 2030 – the private sector will stand at the core of this transition; 
  • the transition will have to be just to ensure that there will be a transition at all; 
  • green jobs in renewables and environmental protection are rapidly growing – a development clearly driven by the private sector.   

Vinblad was joined on the panel by Naoko Ishii, former chief executive of the Global Environment Facility and chairperson of the Global Advisory Board of the University of Tokyo; Vladislav Kaim, Children and Youth constituency to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (YOUNGO) Green Jobs focal point and UN Secretary General Youth Advisor on Climate Change; and Nate Williams, senior director, Economic Graph partnerships, LinkedIn. 

“Overall, Stockholm+50 furthered the trend toward convergence of current legally binding environmental deliberations, for example the development of a new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework via the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the recently adopted UNEA resolution on plastic pollution,” said Vinblad in summarizing the outcomes of the high-level UN meeting. “By allowing space to discuss all these critical topics and agreements in one joint forum, it yet again emphasized the need to act on the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution in a cohesive manner, guided by the true interconnectedness of these issues.” 

To find more details on the outcomes of Stockholm+50 and the ten Key Recommendations presented by the co-chairs Sweden and Kenya, please review this document 

USCIB Represents U.S. Business at United Nations Preparatory Meetings on COP27

The United Nations concluded two weeks of preparatory meetings in advance of the next Climate Summit, known as COP27, which will be held November 8-18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.  As the first official negotiations since Glasgow in 2021, this meeting brought all UN member states, UN bodies, business and other groups to discuss urgently accelerating implementation of the Paris Agreement.

According to USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Global Strategy Norine Kennedy, who was on the ground representing U.S. business, the intense session included special presentations of the most recent scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and technical roundtables under the “global stock take,” which will assess the need for and degree of additional greenhouse gas emissions reductions required to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees C. The session also took up further development of “Article 6” measures to allow carbon trading and offsets under the Paris Agreement.

In addition, new attention is now being directed toward the private sector with respect to voluntary pledges and initiatives, such as those announced last year at the Glasgow Summit. The UN Secretary General and the UNFCCC High Level Champions have each recently announced new initiatives to review such voluntary announcements to ensure they are being put into practice.

At a meeting with members of the U.S. Government delegation at Bonn, Co-Chair of the USCIB Environment Committee Justin Perrettson (Novozymes) called out the “importance of private sector innovation to tackle the inter-linked challenges of climate change, food security and energy transitions,” and went on to highlight the need to include business in the implementation phase of the Convention.

The most contentious issues in Bonn concerned mobilizing financial resources for adaptation to impacts of climate change, and the establishment of a fund to provide compensation for loss and damage caused by climate change.

As the host of COP27, Egypt is expected to place particular emphasis on food and water security, just transition, and adaptation for resilience. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), serving as the official focal point for business in the UNFCCC, has already begun dialogue with Egyptian government authorities on key topics relating to carbon markets, the role of SMEs and ways to further increase ambition across private and public sectors.

Temperatures Soared in Geneva and So Did the WTO!

Washington D.C., June 17, 2022—Despite a shaky start, the WTO negotiators delivered a historic trade deal this morning. After hours of negotiations, the 164-country organization adopted the “Geneva Package” with commitments on some very difficult issues, including pandemic response, intellectual property, fisheries, food security, electronic commerce and institutional reform.

For many, this Ministerial was about the continued viability of the WTO. Recent struggles caused by increased protectionism and previous Ministerial Conferences that created few – if any – outcomes, raised serious questions about the rules-based trading system that grew out of the GATT in 1995. Concerns have ranged from relevance to functionality to value.

The WTO adoption of a ministerial decision to waive intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines raises serious questions and presents a number of risks. This waiver under the WTO TRIPs Agreement will not solve vaccine access issues but, rather, it brings dangerous implications on incentives for innovation for future health challenges and future pandemic preparedness and response.  As disappointing and counter-productive as this decision is, business continues to work to advance vaccine literacy and fight COVID-19.

The Ministerial Statement on WTO Reform has charted a path forward for the trade body that is expected to address longstanding concerns and set a process for discussions on how the WTO can be reformed to be fit for purpose.

The “Geneva Package” covers a range of topics. A group of Ministerial Declarations was adopted on WTO response to emergencies covering food insecurity; export prohibitions on World Food Programme food purchases; and WTO pandemic response and preparedness.

A partial deal to curb fishing subsidies was reached; however, it fell short of a fuller agreement that has been under negotiation for more than 20 years. The agreement addresses rules to prohibit subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, while action on subsidies for fuel, ship construction and other areas was left unresolved.

Negotiators wrestled to address divergent views on the continuation of a moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions that has been in place since 1998 but was set to expire at the end of the ministerial. A handful of countries challenged the benefits of the digital economy for the developing world, seeking to end the moratorium, gain policy space to address the digital divide and collect needed customs revenues. Ultimately, delegates agreed to an extension of the moratorium with a commitment to study development impacts and revisit the issue at the next Ministerial Conference.

“USCIB congratulates WTO Director General Ngozi and all participants in MC12 for proving that multilateralism is alive and still functional in Geneva,” said Brian Lowry, USCIB Senior Vice President, who is reporting from Geneva at the ministerial meeting as an NGO delegate.

Several concerns about agriculture went without resolution. “The lack of a declaration on these concerns was a disappointment to some but the overall success of MC12 is noteworthy,” said Lowry.

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development, and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and regulatory coherence. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms from every sector of our economy, with operations in every region of the world. USCIB is the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD. More at www.uscib.org.

Olsen Attends UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Meetings in Senegal on Plastic Pollution

Left to right: Raelene Martin (ICC) and Chris Olsen (USCIB)

In an effort to address global plastic pollution, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is seeking to develop an internationally legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic. To develop such an instrument, UNEP hosted a series of meetings to set the rules of procedure, leadership and schedule, in Dakar, Senegal from May 30 to June 1.

The meeting in Dakar, officially titled the “Ad hoc open‑ended working group (OEWG) to prepare for the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) on plastic pollution” allowed the private sector an opportunity to help inform the UN process. USCIB Policy Manager for Regulation and Trade Chris Olsen represented USCIB at this meeting as a part of the Business and Industry Major Group.

According to Olsen, UNEP Executive Director Inger Anderson made opening remarks which outlined issues for countries to consider when negotiating. Calling for the agreement to be broad and cover the full lifecycle of plastic, be informed by science, have close engagement and involvement with stakeholders, spur solutions for a new economy, and learn from previous multi-lateral environmental agreements (MEAs) while being willing to embrace new and bold innovations in the multilateral space.

USCIB also joined meetings, along with International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Head of Sustainability Raelene Martin, regarding the role ICC can play in the negotiating process. ICC brings not only a global voice of business, but also a combination of large multinationals and SMEs across its global affiliates.

“It was encouraging to hear consistent support for stakeholder engagement throughout the week both in informal side meetings and in the official negotiations themselves,” said Olsen, reporting from the field. “However, much work remains to be done to educate governments and convene business perspectives between now and the first negotiations (INC1) this fall and then sustain that engagement throughout the INC process. USCIB will continue to develop member engagement in the coming weeks and months, but we encourage members to come to us with any questions, concerns, or ideas of their own for how to get involved. The negotiation of this treaty, and its outcome, will have an impact across industries. It will be important to bring a broad view of private sector voices into the process.”

UNEA and the negotiating governments are looking for new, innovative ways to engage the stakeholder community in the creation of a multistakeholder action agenda.

USCIB Promotes Foreign Direct Investment Qualities Initiative at OECD Ministerial

The OECD Ministerial Conference Meeting (MCM) took place in Paris June 9-10, focused on “The Future We Want: Better Policies for the Next Generation and a Sustainable Transition,” with a ministerial conference statement promoting sustainable economic recovery in the post-pandemic world, transition to sustainable and inclusive development, adoption of resilient health systems, among other important initiatives. Importantly, ministers at MCM adopted roadmaps for accession to the OECD for Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Peru and Romania, opening up a key opportunity for USCIB to work through Business at OECD to advance member priorities in these countries.

At a side event, “Strengthening Sustainable Investment Policies,” Chair of the USCIB Trade and Investment Committee and Chair of Business at OECD Rick Johnston promoted the OECD FDI Qualities Initiative and the newly unveiled FDI Policy Toolkit for supporting sustainability goals. According to Johnston, the FDI Qualities Initiative is not only important to OECD members states but also to the developing markets they serve. “Sustainability indicators must be part of FDI regimes or the host country will not only suffer bad investments but also collateral problems.” He underscored that the private sector takes seriously sustainable FDI and urged countries to work closely in partnership with business in adopting policies that “make sense.”

On 10 June, the OECD Council Recommendation on FDI Qualities for Sustainable Development was adopted by OECD ministers. USCIB through Business at OECD (BIAC) strongly contributed to the FDI Qualities effort. Launched in 2018, the OECD FDI Qualities Initiative aims to better link FDI with sustainable development, focused on four Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): productivity and innovation, job quality and skills, gender equality, and decarbonization. The Initiative includes:

  • The FDI Qualities Indicators provides data measuring the impacts of investments on SDGs in host countries; the FDI Qualities Indicators report for 2022, includes new sections on the green economy and resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The FDI Qualities Policy Toolkit is a new product to help governments identify priorities to align investment policy and institutional reforms to sustainable development goals.
  • The FDI Qualities Policy Network is a platform for stakeholder consultation and exchange on sustainable investment policies.

USCIB Calls for Elimination of Child Labor, Calls on Governments to Invest in Rule of Law

June 12, 2022, New York, NY  — On this World Day Against Child Labor, the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) joins the chorus of global voices calling for elimination of child labor. This issue is one of profound concern for the business community and we applaud the robust efforts of our corporate members to help tackle the scourge of child labor.

Many of our affiliates and partnerships work on combating child labor through their work in monitoring and developing best practices. The U.S. Department of State also monitors and reports on child labor in their annual Human Rights Report and Trafficking in Persons Report and contributes to the Department of Labor’s annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Similarly, the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains identifies the worst forms of child labor as a serious human rights abuse associated with the extraction, transport or trade of minerals that companies should not tolerate, profit from, contribute to, assist with or facilitate in the course of doing business.

This year the International Labor Organization (ILO) hosted its 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor where delegates agreed that the Durban Call to Action include strong commitments on action against child labor while raising concerns that existing progress has slowed and is now threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict, as well as food, environmental and humanitarian crises.

Despite universal ratification of ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, there remains an unacceptable 152 million children in child labor, 72 million of which are in hazardous work. Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labor, a quarter of the victims of modern slavery are children. One child is too many. Therefore, the private sector calls on governments to invest in rule of law and stands ready to partner with governments, academia, civil society and the public to reinvigorate efforts to achieve SDG Target 8.7 in order to end all forms of child labor by 2025.

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development, and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and regulatory coherence. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms from every sector of our economy, with operations in every region of the world. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (BIAC), USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

Focus Turns to Global Food Security as Commodity Supplies Destabilize by War in Ukraine

According to USCIB Senior Vice President for Regulation, Innovation and Trade Brian Lowry, the focus in the United States last week shifted from sanctioning Russia toward urgently addressing global food insecurity caused by the war in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened a high-level UN Global Food Security Ministerial Meeting on May 18, bringing together approximately thirty-five countries to discuss ways to stave off global food shortages linked to the conflict in Ukraine, which is potentially impacting forty million people, according to the World Bank. The U.S. issued a fact sheet calling for Days of Action on Global Food Security and Blinken provided a statement outlining objectives for the ministerial meeting. Ministers ultimately produced a Roadmap for Global Food Security-Call to Action, a commitment to act urgently to address global food security and nutritional needs as well as strengthen resilient and “inclusive” food systems in line the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals and the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.

That same day, multiple International Financial Institutions (IFI) released the IFI Action Plan to Address Food Insecurity, a program of financing, policy engagement, technical assistance, and know-how developed by the by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group to address food insecurity. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen commended the release May 18 as the Action Plan was conceptualized at a meeting she convened with the international financial institutions in April.

The G7 joined the World Bank Group to announce on May 19 the launch of the Global Alliance for Food Security to support work on food security at the UN and other international institutions.  The Alliance will leverage existing institutions and programs to develop a short-term response to shortages in food, fertilizer, and fuel and work together to remove trade barriers and provide the support needed to alleviate the negative impacts of the war.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) of which USCIB is unique affiliate, called on G7 governments on May 19 to spearhead efforts to provide logistical supports – humanitarian sea corridors, rail and road land routes – sanctions carve-outs, and risk guarantees to restore trade in Ukrainian grains and vegetable oils and Russian fertilizers. Ukraine and Russia had been major exporters of wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizers, creating a trade a gap today that cannot be readily filled. This is consistent with recent messaging from UN Secretary General António Guterres to reopen the Black Sea to agricultural shipments from Ukraine.

Similarly, the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governor’s released a communique May 20 expressing support for Ukraine and a commitment to help close short-term financing gaps and ensure its macro-economic stability. They pledged continued coordinated action to isolate Russia and Belarus from the global economy through economic and financial sanctions, to prevent sanctions evasion and backfilling and to support the ongoing work of the Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs Task Force.

According to USCIB, there is no doubt that additional sanctions are in the offing, as the G7 Foreign Ministers released a statement May 14 affirming continued coordinated actions against Russia and in support of Ukraine. They pledged to continue working together to pressure Russia with future economic and financial restrictions on sectors that Russia depends on, and by imposing penalties on Russian elites, institutions and military. In fact, the United States has already resumed punitive actions this week.

USCIB’s Statement of Priorities for the Proposed Global Digital Compact

On occasion of the United Nations Secretary General’s inclusion of the proposed Global Digital Compact (GDC) as part of Our Common Agenda, USCIB released a statement of priorities, which highlights how digital technologies and the online environment act as drivers that help grow the global economy, bridge inequalities, foster creativity and innovation, build trust, and expand societal engagement and exchange.

USCIB’s statement outlines several specific issues as key to realizing improved digital cooperation, such as infrastruture, connectivity and spectrum; multistakeholder governance approaches; free flow of data; the avoidance of internet fragmentation; the importance of trust; open markets and predictable regulatory environments; protection of freedom of expression online; importance of Artifical Intelligence (AI); and finally accountability criteria for discriminatory and misleading content.

“Key to realizing the developmental benefits of digital transformation are policies that support an enabling environment for technology innovation,” said USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner. According to USCIB, such policies may address economic, social/cultural, technical, and governance issues, all of which are interlinked and cross-cutting. This holistic approach best ensures the development of an open, safe, highly secure, stable, interoperable, seamless and sustainable digital ecosystem with the potential to close development gaps and address other inequities.

 

USCIB Promotes World IP Day; Encourages Members to Vote in Youth Video Competition

Photo credit: WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is hosting their annual World Intellectual Property Day on April 26 with a focus on youth. The official theme, “IP and Youth Innovating for a Better Future,” recognizes the incredible and untapped potential of young people’s ingenuity and creativity which can drive the change the world needs to move to a more sustainable footing.

According to WIPO, IP Day 2022 is an opportunity for young people to find out how IP rights can support their goals, help transform their ideas into reality, generate income, create jobs and make a positive impact on the world around them. WIPO has been working with its member states and partners to create a legal and policy environment for young inventors, creators and entrepreneurs to thrive.

WIPO has also invited the public to vote on a youth video competition. The videos will demonstrate how young people perceive innovation and IP for a better future. Youth from sixty-three countries have submitted videos. Online public voting closes on April 22.

“Young people are the future and we must support them,” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Innovation, Regulation and Trade Brian Lowry. “We look forward to IP Day where we can better explore and understand how young people have been driving change.”

USCIB Joins Stockholm+50 Preparatory Meeting at UN Headquarters   

Agnes Vinblad

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, the UN General Assembly will convene an international meeting in Stockholm, Sweden June 2-3, 2022. The theme of the meeting will be, “Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity.”  

On March 28, the President of the General Assembly Ambassador Abdulla Shahid invited government delegations and civil society to partake in the Stockholm+50 Preparatory Meeting at UN Headquarters in New York. Representing USCIB, Policy and Program Associate for Sustainability Agnes Vinblad attended in person. The meeting was chaired by the Stockholm+50 co-hosts, Sweden and Kenya, with sessions organized around the three Stockholm+50 Leadership Dialogues: 

  • Leadership dialogue 1: Reflecting on the urgent need for actions to achieve a healthy planet and prosperity of all.  
  • Leadership dialogue 2: Achieving a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).  
  • Leadership dialogue 3: Accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.  

Plenary interventions focused on topics such as mitigation and adaptation, climate finance, sustainable production and consumption, nature-based solutions, and the recommendations outlined in the UN Secretary General’s Report, “Our Common Agenda.”  

“This preparatory meeting emphasized systemic change and the need for new ways to measure economic success through a lens of sustainability and intergenerational justice with an ambition of achieving a just transition,” said Vinblad. “USCIB sees Stockholm+50 as an opportunity for business to yet again show its unparalleled ability to not only contribute to – but also take the lead on – sustainable development.” 

Adopted on June 16, 1972, the UN Stockholm Declaration was the first document to recognize the interconnections between development, poverty, and the environment. Building on this heritage, Stockholm+50 will be a global conference focused on multilateral dialogue to accelerate action on the SDGs towards the realization of Agenda 2030, while serving as a critical steppingstone for the global multilateral community on the path towards UNFCCC COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in November.  

Building on the commemorative nature of Stockholm+50, Vinblad said that USCIB wants to fit business into that narrative, showing that the private sector has been concerned with issues related to sustainability and climate change since the inception of the Stockholm Declaration in 1972.