UNCTAD’s 8th World Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi concludes successfully

The prestigious World Investment Forum (WIF) successfully wrapped up its 8th edition in Abu Dhabi under the overarching theme of ‘Investing in Sustainable Development’. The event, which ran from October 16 to 20, saw robust participation from global thought leaders, investors, experts, and stakeholders spanning multiple nations.

Over its five-day duration, the biennial forum welcomed more than 8,000 participants, including 1,100 speakers, interventions by two Royal Highnesses, five heads of state and government, 69 ministers and deputy ministers, 57 high-level representatives of international organizations, policymakers, and legislators. The event also witnessed the participation of 80 international partner organizations, and 700 CEOs and executives from various investment institutions from 160 countries, all of whom actively engaged in 157 diverse events. And from civil society, the forum successfully integrated the voices of thought leaders, academia, non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations, as well as the media. UNCTAD has a proud tradition of inclusivity and multi-stakeholder dialogue: as you have seen this week, the WIF is no exception. UNCTAD’s obligation to ensuring geographical and gender parity is demonstrated by that 34 percent of registered participants, speakers and panelists being women, with more than 60 percent being from the global south.

UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade, His Excellency Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, remarked on the event’s resounding success saying, “This year’s forum underscores the UAE’s steadfast commitment to economic advancement and sustainable growth. We recognize the essential role of investment in fostering sustainable socio-economic growth around the world, and the WIF stands as an exemplary platform to further international collaboration and exchange in-depth insights.”

His Excellency Ahmed Jasim Al Zaabi, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), has extended his gratitude to all attendees and collaborators for making the 8th WIF a benchmark event for dialogue on sustainable investment. H.E.  said: “We are honored that the 8th edition of UNCTAD’s World Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi has paved the way to a new era where international partnerships and investments are geared to achieve sustainable development goals. This year’s WIF, set against a backdrop of swift global changes, showcased our efforts and initiatives to champion sustainable growth and steering economic excellence.”

H.E. Al Zaabi adds: “As catalyst for economic diversification and growth, ADDED remain committed to provide a vibrant, globally competitive, and entrepreneurial ecosystem to generate opportunities for all, enabling them to reach their full potential. Additionally, we will continue nurturing relations with regional and international partners to encourage better trade and investments and promote Abu Dhabi’s business-friendly strengths worldwide”.

Pedro Manuel Moreno, Deputy Secretary-General, UNCTAD, emphasized the significance of the timing of the forum saying, “The World Investment Forum coincided with the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the SDG investment gap in developing countries has increased from $2.5 to $4 trillion. It is clear that we need to accelerate rapidly in the second half of the 2030 agenda.”

He also added, “Ahead of COP 28, we discussed the leadership role investors can take in bringing the world to carbon neutrality, and how investment promotion agencies and special economic zones can contribute to the global energy transition.”

Key discussions during the forum delved into the criticality of sustainability-focused investment priorities such as renewable energy and energy infrastructure; agriculture and agrifood systems to improve food security, resilience, and biodiversity, water management, and healthcare. Prioritizing policy tools and actions to overcome the challenges and push sustainable finance and investment to priority areas, including public-private partnerships, investment promotion and facilitation, and blended finance were a key element of the forum.  

His Excellency Ahmed Khalifa Al Qubaisi, CEO of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “By hosting the World Investment Forum, one of the world’s largest investment forums, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has established its position as a prominent hub for hosting major international conferences and forums of global significance. The forum provided a platform to check the key developments in the local and global investment sectors, and ways to foster sustainable economic development. It also highlighted the importance of having future solutions to support the global economy and increase funding for sustainable projects across the world. The forum facilitated discussions on the best global practices to support decision-makers, policies and stakeholders to structure their strategic plans, to align with the requirements of environmental sustainability and support the objectives of COP28.”

Four ministerial roundtables on investment, enterprise, SIDS and investment guarantees, and LDC-LLDC-SIDS were conducted at the forum, of which the proceedings will feed into intergovernmental processes in UNCTAD, COP 28, MC13, SIDS4, LLDC3 and the World Health Assembly 2023. The link between the WIF Climate Finance and Investment Track, and the COP28 Global Dialogue and investment-focused preparatory events was vital to furthering the impact of the forum.

Several new policies were announced at the event including 50 SDG Model Special Economic Zones to help disseminate best practices to the other 7000 zones in over 140 countries, the Multi-Stakeholder Platform on IIA Reform with the objective to identify ways to fast-track sustainable development and energy transition, a joint initiative with the UN World Tourism Organization to establish a set of guiding principles for promoting investment in sustainable tourism, a new UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges Action Framework to maximize the opportunities of carbon markets, and a host of new publications and policy guides on a diverse range of topics.

Partnerships were forged with the African Sovereign Investors Forum to promote sustainable investments, ISAR for sustainability reporting, scholarly associations and partner universities for a new Academic Research Agenda on Investment for Development, the World Association of PPP units and professionals for the development of a PPP Technical Assistance Facility with partner organizations. Notably, a MoU between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand to jointly launch a new central sustainability platform for the ASEAN region was signed.

Several capacity-building events for the investment stakeholder community to brief them on technical developments relevant to their fields also took place. The sessions included Sustainability Reporting Standards, FDI Statistics, and International Tax Reforms. New capacity-building programmes such as the SSE-IFC-UN Women Gender Equality Training and SSE-IFC-IFRS training on ISSB standards were launched.

UNCTAD announced two new donor-funded technical assistance programmes; the first is a funding partnership with the German IKKI-GIZ programme that aims to support sustainability reporting, and climate disclosure in developing for the ISAR programme. Another new funding partnership was announced by H.E. Ambassador Lucie Berger of the European Union as the EU-OACPS Programme on investment facilitation.

A distinguished awards portion of the World Investment Forum 2023 celebrated winners in the Investment Promotion Agency (IPA), International Standards for Accounting and Reporting (ISAR), Sustainable Funds, Women in Business, and Digital Government categories.

These milestones were achieved in the spirit of UNCTAD’s mandate on investment for sustainable development, that was agreed on at UNCTAD 15 and captured in the Bridgetown Covenant.