The role of trade as a powerful engine for development is well recognised, including within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Electronic business tools and trade facilitation have a key supporting role to play by providing effective, efficient and accessible solutions to reduce trade barriers; increase trade competitiveness; and support related environmental and social objectives within the SDGs.
At its annual Plenary on 22 April 2016, the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), which has a mandate to develop standards and recommendations with global participation, adopted a new strategy for its future work which embraces the SDGs and supports their implementation.
UN/CEFACT has the potential to play a significant role in the efforts that will be deployed to meet the SDGs through its work to simplify, standardise and harmonise the procedures and associated information flows that are required to move goods from seller to buyer and to make payments. Its recommendations, standards and tools make it simpler, faster and cheaper to trade between countries as well as supporting trade in safe, legal and environmentally friendly products.
The electronic business tools promoted by UN/CEFACT, like the Single Window for exports and imports, electronic certificates and other paperless trading deliverables, make it easier for companies to trade, while reducing the need for paper and increasing government revenue collection. This contributes to growth, productivity and employment (SDG 8) as well as the reduction of inequalities within and between countries (SDG 10).
Then, beyond the obvious contributions to the economic aspects of development, the work of UN/CEFACT also supports a broad range of other SDGs, including:
- The eradication of hunger (SDG 2) by making international and national logistics more efficient and cost-effective so that the food produced is more likely to reach markets in good condition, be consumed and not be wasted; and
- The conservation of marine resources (SDG 14) through the Fisheries Language for Universal Exchange (FLUX) standard, which strengthens sustainable fishery management by supporting automation of the needed collection and dissemination of the fishery catch data.
UN/CEFACT deliverables are developed by a dedicated group of volunteer experts from around the globe, in close cooperation with other United Nations bodies and standards organizations. In addition, they are available free of charge, thus making them highly accessible for developing countries and small and medium-sized enterprises.
It is in recognition of this potential, that UN/CEFACT’s new strategy explicitly embraces the need to develop and promote electronic business tools and trade facilitation recommendations with a focus on the SDGs.