UNCTAD – Day 6

The last day of the conference was fascinating. The negotiating delegates were up late last night working out the wording of the document; this morning you could tell a lot of people were worse for wear. It was the kind of thing diplomats train for. Horse-trading, side switching, and shifting alliances. They had to delay all the closing activities while translators frantically got the final text ready in all languages. You can find a description of final text of the Doha mandate here.

In terms of my own experience, I think the best adjective for this trip would be humbling. First, the size of the conference, and the size of the UN system implied by this conference. I am not sure I ever realized just how massive the UN is, as a set of agencies.

Then, of course, the size of the problems we’re facing. This was not a conference heavy on optimism. It was a review of the massive challenges we’re looking at, and, for me, just how uncertain we are of the way forward. I met more than one person who was certain of what needs to happen next for sustainable development, but people have been certain before.

That was the last thing that humbled me. I just know so little. Sure, I can design a child survival project. But I don’t know how to tell who’s right about our global economic future. And that scares me.

Disclosure: My trip to Doha was funded by APCO, which has been contracted by the Qatari Ministry of Trade to support UNCTAD. They don’t have editorial control over my writing, and they don’t pay me to post.

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