VSS, Market Access, and Trade-led Sustainable Development, 27 September 2017, Palais des Nations

Expert meeting organized by UNCTAD, with the supported of the United Nations Forum on Sustainable Standards (UNFSS) and the German Development Institute (DIE), on 27 September 2017, at Room XXV, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.


Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) may be catalytic to achieve win-win-win outcomes for trade-induced economic growth, environmental sustainability and social development. However, small producers and businesses in developing countries and theirs government are not always technically, financially or institutionally capable to reap the developmental benefits arising out of VSS.

UNCTAD analyses potential effectiveness and development impact of VSS from the perspectives of developing-countries and conducts technical assistance towards improving their capacity in using VSS as a tool for achieving sustainable development. UNCTAD is also a member of the UNFSS which promotes dialogue, cooperation and partnership among UN agencies in support the development of VSS in a manner that enhances sustainable development in developing countries.

As part of a process of addressing VSS, a number of developing countries, supported by UNFSS, have recently decided to establish national multi-stakeholder VSS platforms with the aim to holistically discuss strategic approaches to VSS. The national platforms are national initiatives that reflect local priorities. For example, India, with the support of UNCTAD, as a member of UNFSS, has established its national platform on VSS to “facilitate dialogue between stakeholders, (…) enhance market access opportunities of PSS; (and) maximize sustainable development benefits” (Presentation by Quality Council of India at the first meeting of the Multi-Stakeholder Committee). Recently China and Brazil have also moved forward to establish their national multi-stakeholder platforms on VSS.


Objective of the Meeting:

Against the above background, UNCTAD is organizing the workshop to discuss VSS, their impact upon developing countries’ market access and sustainable development, and the contribution of national platforms for VSS. The workshop is also supported by UNFSS and DIE.

The meeting will be Chaired by UNCTAD’s Deputy Secretary-General, Mme Isabelle Durant.

Key questions to be addressed will be:

  • How effective have VSS been for sustained, inclusive and sustainable trade?
  • What type of global partnership can help improve VSS’ effectiveness on inclusive and sustainable trade growth?
  • What is the role of a national regulatory framework on VSS?
  • What are key lessons from the formation of national multi-stakeholder platforms on VSS so far?
  • Is there a need for global governance on VSS?

More information on this meeting: unctad/ntm2017

Agenda of the meeting: Agenda VSS September 27

The meeting will be held in UN Palais des Nations Room XXV. Access to the Palais is granted after registration at: Registration

Event supported by:




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.

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