POLICY BRIEF: Fostering the Sustainability of Global Value Chains (GVCs)

In several G20 countries, national multi-stakeholder coordination platforms on Voluntary Sustainability Standards are currently taking shape pro-actively, supported by national governments and the UN Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS). The G20 should further promote these initiatives as well as the UNFSS.

The world economy is increasingly embedded in Global Value Chains (GVCs). Meanwhile, although the rising significance of GVCs increases the importance of removing both export and import restrictions, the willingness of nations to cooperate in that regard is at an ebb, noticeably regarding Deep Preferential Trade Arrangements (PTAs), something which needs to be addressed by policy-making.

Our main proposals are to (i) measure and set targets for the manifold contribution of GVCs to the global economy, (ii) commit to standards for the mitigation of economic disruption and sudden change, and (iii) set up a Global Pact for Sustainable Trade that sets a social and environmental agenda for the three other policy proposals, underlining the significance of the globally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) is a joint initiative of 5 UN Agencies (FAO, ITC, UNCTAD, UN Environment and UNIDO) that seeks to address these challenges. It is a demand-driven forum for intergovernmental actors to communicate among each other and engage with key target groups (producers, traders, consumers, standard-setters, certification-bodies, trade diplomats, relevant NGOs and researchers) to address their information needs and influence concerned stakeholders. It aims to provide impartial information, analysis, and discussions on VSS and their potential contribution to facilitate market access, strengthen public goods and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most importantly, the UNFSS focuses on potential trade or development obstacles VSS may create, with particular emphasis on their impact on SMEs and less developed countries.