Master's students from Vi Colombian affiliate member university, Universidad Sergio Arboleda, took part in a training programme delivered by UNCTAD experts October 25. The 15 students participated in sessions covering the latest UNCTAD flagship reports topics related to investment and entrepreneurship in developing countries and the Post-2015 Development Agenda. 

Ricardo Gottschalk, of the Division of Globalization and Development Strategies, asserted the need for policy intervention in the wake of economic fragility during his presentation, based on the 2016 Trade and Development Report.

The discussion gave students an in-depth view of the need for coherence in policymaking, and the strength of corporations in fostering development especially in Latin America. He outlined the trends in trade over the past years and the changing attitude of corporations, which now focus on shareholder dividends rather than local investment.

"There is a pressing need for investment in higher value sectors, financial reform, and diversification in developing countries," he said. "The ideal solutions would require policies that allow the developmental state a substantial degree of autonomy, the capacity to set policies and ensure a political commitment to economic development."

The next presentation, delivered by Stephania Bonilla-Feret, from the Division on Investment and Enterprise (DIAE), highlighted the findings of this year's World Investment Report.

In 2015, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows rose by 38 percent, but this was mainly due to tax-inversion deals and mergers and acquisitions without significant productive impact, she reported. In 2016, FDI is expected to decrease by about 10 percent to 15 percent, as a result of low aggregate demand growth, falling commodity prices, and decreasing profits of multinational corporations (MNCs) in 2015.

During the session, Bonilla-Feret also brought up the strategic issue of this year's report, which focused on investor nationality, and highlighted that more than 40 percent of foreign affiliates worldwide have "multiple passports." This reflects the increasingly complex ownership chains of MNCs.

“The notion of investor nationality is becoming increasingly blurred," she said. "As a result, the Report questions the relevance of nationality restrictions imposed by a majority of countries for investment in specific sectors, and proposes alternative measures which focus more on strengthening the national regulatory framework."

Cristina Martinez de Silva, also from DIAE, led a presentation on UNCTAD's efforts to promote entrepreneurship, high quality corporate reporting, and financial inclusion of SMEs, particularly the 28-year-old programme EMPRETEC, which has already provided support to 375,000 entrepreneurs in 36 countries.

"Entrepreneurship is a major topic for developing economies such as Colombia, given the importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which generate around 67 percent of employment and have an important multiplier effect," she said.

Rolf Traeger, from the Division on Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, concluded the study visit with a review of the achievements and shortcomings of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the outlook for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He reviewed the reasons for some partial failures, the success achieved regarding some goals, lessons learned, and what can be expected from the SDGs.

"There was substantial progress made towards the MDGs, particularly on issues of poverty, education and health. However, out of the 48 least developed countries (LDCs), only Laos managed to successfully comply with seven selected MDG goals,” he said.

One of the shortcomings of the MDGs was a lack of emphasis on the underlying economic processes behind the social goals established, he explained. In comparison, the SDGs have more ambitious goals, and are harder to achieve than the MDGs, but contemplate instead a higher degree of attention regarding the instruments and means of implementation of the required policies.

"They require new types of policies, both at the domestic level, on issues like industrial policy, and at the international level, on matters of economic and environmental governance," Traeger said.