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WTO D-G selection, harnessing finance for the SDGs, and the ILO achieves a milestone

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

August 7, 2020

The Geneva Observer


This article is the longer version of our newsletter briefing sent out on Thursday August

6, 2020. Sign up to our newsletter to get our content a day early and straight in your inbox.


WTO’s selection process continues, see here for a run through of the eight nominees. The second phase, where the candidates “make themselves known to members” and campaign, ends on September 7th at which point the heads of the selection process will consult with all WTO members to determine whether there is one candidate the members could coalesce around. This process should take no more than two months and the member states could agree even sooner. However, if some member states do decide to dig their heals in, or the US elections could end up throwing a spanner in the works and lengthen that process, possibly until past January 2020 (if a new US President is inaugurated). Kenya’s Amina Mohamed and Nigeria’s Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala are leading the race and have been interviewed by the Financial Times.

In the meantime, outgoing D-G Roberto Azevêdo will step down on August 31st and one of the four Deputy D-Gs should be appointed as Acting D-G. This said, Bloomberg have been reporting on disagreements over which Deputy D-G should take over. While this isn’t massively consequential and shouldn’t have an impact on the broader selection process, it is a sign of how far apart some of its members are.


The Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance have just published a report “Renewed Recharged and reinforced: Urgent actions to harmonize and scale sustainable finance”—it’s not quite beach reading material, but still worth a perusal!

The Alliance was set up in 2019 by the UN Secretary General António Guterres as part of the Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It’s made up of a group of 30 private sector CEOs “chosen for their ability to provide decisive leadership in mobilizing resources for sustainable development.” The list is a who’s who of global finance, including the CEOs of Citi Bank, Bank of America, Allianz, Santander, and others. UBS is the only Swiss member.

Nominally addressed to the European Commission as it renews its sustainable finance policies, this report is part of the post-pandemic shot in the arm that Guterres is attempting to give the SDGs. In it, the Alliance calls on the authorities to “be bold” and “act now” as “we move from response to recovery from the epidemic.” For them “the supply of capital is there,” but (and amongst other things) “inconsistent approaches to metrics and the failure to come together around common taxonomies” have created “a wall between capital and the world’s sustainability needs,” and which has left “the investing orchestra paralysed.”

Things might actually improve on this front as two of the world’s largest environmental, sustainable and governance (ESG) standard setters, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) have finally decided to cooperate. Covid-19 might also mark a turning point for ESG investing, which has already seen a surge in activity. Asset managers and eco-warriors seem to be finally joining forces. All good signs, but whether these changes will really translate into lasting change remains to be seen. A recent study by ShareAction shows that more than a third of the world’s 75 largest asset managers—think Black Rock and State Street—fare badly on ESG issues.


Finally, to end with another small, small piece of good news for the multilateral order: The ILO has been celebrating the universal ratification of its Convention No.182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour after the Kingdom of Tonga deposited its ratification on Tuesday (August 4th, 2020). In a “historic first” (dixit ILO Director-General Guy Rider), it is the most rapidly ratified Convention in the history of the ILO, and the first to be ratified by all member states. The Convention was initially adopted in 1999, and actually entered into force in November 2000, so this week’s ratification doesn’t have any legal impact, but the symbolism of universal approval shouldn’t be lost.

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