Global Business Network Forum at SIDS4 Promotes Innovative Partnerships for Small Island Developing States

31 May 2024

The Global Business Network (GBN) Forum, an initiative of the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States (UNOHRLLS), successfully convened on the margins of the SIDS4 Conference in St. John's, Antigua from May 25 to 26. This biennial event connected the private sector with Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to foster impactful partnerships and sustainable development.

The GBN Forum featured four thematic sessions:

  • Strengthening Innovative Blue and Green Economies
  • Inclusivity for Transformation and Resilience
  • Building an Enabling Business Environment (co-hosted by the Commonwealth)
  • Securing Financing and Investment for the Private Sector in SIDS

These sessions concluded with actionable recommendations, forming the agenda for the private sector roundtable at the SIDS4 Conference on May 28. The six-month preparatory process included webinars, consultations, and knowledge sharing to shape the forum’s agenda and guide the SIDS-GBN for the next decade.

Key outcomes from the forum included:

  • Leveraging private sector innovation to unlock opportunities in blue and green economies, including marine and sustainable fisheries, zero-carbon shipping, and eco-tourism.
  • Empowering local communities to build resilience and diversify economies, emphasizing partnerships that value cultural context.
  • Enhancing the business environment by strengthening local chambers of commerce and business associations.
  • Implementing policies to improve labour conditions, expand markets, and create inclusive platforms for dialogue between governments and the private sector.
  • Attracting more financing and investment into SIDS, with discussions highlighting the potential of an island investment forum under the Centre of Excellence for SIDS.

During the high-level closing session, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasised the critical role of the private sector in SIDS.

"SIDS need to leverage private sector investments, expertise, and innovation," said Guterres. "The dynamic SIDS GBN Forum has mobilised the private sector, providing a platform for fostering innovation, building partnerships, driving accountability, and aligning business practices with the success of SIDS."

The Commonwealth Secretariat co-hosted Session 3, focusing on crafting an enabling business environment for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Amelia Kelly, Trade Officer at the Commonwealth Secretariat moderated the session, highlighting the importance of robust policy frameworks and capacity building for local businesses to adapt to global market changes.

“Providing support to training and knowledge sharing for MSMEs to capitalise on the opportunities to gain exposure to new markets and secure investment for sustainable economic growth is a key priority for the Commonwealth”, she said.

Outcomes from the Commonwealth session included:

  • Recognition of the current business environment in SIDS.
  • Identification of opportunities for small businesses and youth entrepreneurs.
  • Sharing strategies for building an enabling business environment.
  • Insights into effective policy measures for SIDS governments and business support organizations.

Mr. Garfield Joseph, Executive Director of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority, stressed the importance of partnering with the private sector to remain competitive and adapt to technological advancements.

UNOHRLLS remains committed to leveraging the transformative power of the private sector to achieve a sustainable, resilient, and prosperous future for SIDS.