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Commodities and the SDGs: UNCTAD Expert Meeting to discuss developments, challenges and opportunities in commodity markets

Commodities and the SDGs: UNCTAD Expert Meeting to discuss developments, challenges and opportunities in commodity markets
Photo credit: CIAT | Flickr

10 Oct 2017

In the 15 years countries have to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the commodity sector will play a crucial role in facilitating their attainment, notably in commodity-dependent developing countries. Experts will meet in Geneva from 12-13 October 2017 to discuss challenges and opportunities in commodity markets.

The terms of reference for the ninth session of the Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Commodities and Development were approved at the thirty-first special session of the Trade and Development Board on 5 April 2017. The purpose of the meeting is to monitor the developments, challenges and opportunities in commodity markets, giving due attention to those commodity sectors that are relevant to commodity-dependent developing countries.

Discussion on these topics, which will include presentations by national experts and experts from relevant international organizations and commodity bodies, as well as representatives from the private sector and civil society, will serve to inform States members of UNCTAD of important developments in key commodity sectors and markets from a development perspective.

To facilitate the discussion, the secretariat has prepared a background note entitled “Recent developments and new challenges in commodity markets, and policy options for commodity-based inclusive growth and sustainable development”. The note reviews recent developments in key commodity markets and analyses the factors that contributed to the trends in commodity prices observed in 2016.

The meeting will also assess the trade and development-related implications of commodity dependence for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this context, the expert meeting will critically look at the following issues:

  • Policy options that increase access to food and energy (goals 2a, 2b, 2c, 7.1, 7b)

  • Value addition to commodities (goal 9.b)

  • Improving the management of natural resources through, inter alia, efficiency in resource use, while preserving the natural resource capital used to produce renewable resources (goals 12, 14, 15)

To facilitate the discussion, the secretariat has prepared a background note entitled “Commodity dependence and the Sustainable Development Goals”. The note reviews the opportunities and challenges associated with commodity dependence and their implications for the achievement of the Goals by 2030 in commodity-dependent developing countries. It provides policy suggestions that could help commodity-dependent developing countries improve their commodity sectors and achieve the Goals by 2030.


Recent developments and new challenges in commodity markets and policy options for commodity-based inclusive growth and sustainable development

In general, 2016 marked the end of a five-year downward trend in commodity prices, which increased significantly during the year. However, given falling commodity prices in the first four months of 2017, whether there has been a real reversal is questionable. While the price increases in 2016 were beneficial for commodity-dependent developing countries, overall, commodity prices remain significantly below their peak values in 2011.

This note explores some policy issues related to recent developments in global commodity markets and suggests policy recommendations to assist commodity-dependent developing countries in their efforts to achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. The note groups commodities into three categories, namely food and agricultural commodities (food, tropical beverages, vegetable oil seeds and oils and agricultural raw materials); minerals, ores and metals; and energy (oil, gas, coal and renewable energy).


Commodity dependence and the Sustainable Development Goals

In the 15 years countries have to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the commodity sector will play a crucial role in facilitating their attainment, notably in commodity-dependent developing countries. Sustainable management of the commodity sector can fuel global economic growth while reducing the environmental footprint of human activities, and will be critical in providing opportunities for decent employment, business development and increased fiscal revenues. By contrast, continued mismanagement practices in the commodity sector could make achieving Sustainable Development Goals difficult due to environmental degradation, displacement of populations, worsening economic and social inequality, armed conflicts and tax evasion and corruption.

This note discusses the complex relationships between development in the commodity sector and the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goals and targets related to food and energy security, adding value to commodities and improving the management of natural resources.