Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, Director at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has participated in a webinar entitled “Economic Transition into the ‘New Normal’: How can International Organizations help European Economies Bounce Back?”
The webinar was convened by The Brussels Timesand Huawei Technologies and featured a high-level panel, including Isabelle Mauro, Director, Head Telecommunications, World Economic Forum; Abraham Liu, Vice-President of the European Region, Huawei; Jaroslaw Ponder, Head of Europe Office, International Telecommunication Union; and Nada Sirotic, Counsellor, Permanent Representation of Croatia to the European Union.
Calzadilla-Sarmiento who is Director of UNIDO’s Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation noted a very strong downward pressure on jobs due to the pandemic, with 1.6 billion people at risk, while also observing disruption to global value chains, investment and demand. He observed that the outbreak presented a challenge to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 24 million people at risk of falling into poverty as a result, and an estimated 3.6 billion people still lacking access to Internet connectivity.
He also stated that women are particularly affected by the global disruption caused by the pandemic, making Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment more difficult to achieve, while additional medical waste also impacts on environmentally-oriented goals.
Calzadilla-Sarmiento stressed that the Fourth Industrial Revolution would be “at the core” of the “new normal” following the outbreak, with disruptive technologies such as robotics, 3D printing and big data leading to new issues for policymakers and regulators.
“The data sector is coming on very strongly, but we need the regulatory framework to decide how we go about it,” he said, adding,. “Artificial intelligence has to be for the good…we have to put technology on the right track for bringing it to our society, not leaving anyone behind.,”
Standardization will be particularly important, he suggested, especially finalizing international standards on innovation management systems. According to Calzadilla-Sarmiento, UNIDO is prioritizing industrial transition for manufacturers, especially to relevant sectors such as mask and ventilator production, as outlined in the Organization’s response paper to the outbreak, “Responding to the Crisis: Building a Better Future”. He also cited “three C’s” for rebuilding trust in the international system and digital networks- confidence, connectivity and collaboration.
Isabelle Mauro emphasized the importance of regulation and dialogue between the public and private sectors. “We really need to look at being a bit more innovative in the way we regulate and the way we make policy, which is a much stronger dialogue between public and private sector. Because we are going into territories that are sometimes new or less known, both sides [should] come together to make sure we don’t hinder innovation, but that we really promote…an environment that is more conducive to innovation,” she urged.
Jaroslaw Ponder stressed the need for a systemic approach to digital upskilling and addressing the digital divide.
Abraham Liu noted that the digital economy is growing three times faster than other sectors, and underlined how artificial intelligence is key to providing economic and social solutions in the post-COVID-19 era, while Nada Sirotic stressed the need for greater international cooperation, data sharing and trust.