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Transformative technologies to support UNECE member States in the post-COVID-19 ‎economic recovery ‎

In this time of economic slowdown, border closures and unemployment caused by COVID-19, transformative technologies can offer solutions to the public and private sectors in reviving international trade. Digital products and platforms, based on the world-wide standards and interoperability, can rebuild supply chains and foster economic recovery.

On 2 July 2020 a virtual conference on the “Role of advanced technologies in overcoming COVID-19 disruptions in international trade” was held to spotlight these technologies as an efficient driver for sustainable change.

Conference discussions centred around concepts presented in the Report on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on international trade and logistics and the ways advanced technologies can help overcome such disruptions prepared by the UN/CEFACT - Advisory Group on Advance Technology (AGAT). This report emphasized that expanded use of digital platforms can enhance supply chain and logistics information exchange, while the use of digital products can address new needs arising from COVID-19. Such solutions, that can support the revitalization of international trade and logistics processes, are only possible if legislators include existing standards into countries’ in policy frameworks.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has spared no country, while at the same time affecting the very fabric of international economic relations – trade and transport. UNECE will continue to assist its member States in mitigating the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, in “building back better” and in aligning recovery efforts with the 2030 Agenda. 

During the conference multiple speakers emphasized UN/CEFACT standards as the building blocks of interoperability, and key tools in limiting trade disruptions. UN/CEFACT dematerialization standards were cited as excellent tools in the simplification and harmonization of all supply-chain procedures, that reduce person to person contact and can help prevent further spread of the virus. Speakers highlighted the importance of providing clear, verified information to the various value-chain stakeholders during the COVID-19 pandemic. UN/CEFACT recommendations and standards on digitalization can reduce red tape by simplifying processes and decreasing time and costs for different actors.

The conference highlighted how blockchain technology can connect multiple platforms and marketplaces and ease supply-chain disruptions. Despite challenges, these transformative solutions can guarantee transparency and trust if combined with further developments in blockchain governance and communication of best practices. The “UN/CEFACT Chain” project is working in this area to establish a framework and mechanisms for a global, interoperable, blockchain infrastructure 4.0.

Advanced technologies play a unique role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 8 and 12 by supporting the rebuilding of the global economy and transitioning our production and consumption patterns toward more sustainable practices. The SDGs can only be implemented through strong global partnerships and cooperation, which can be enabled by advanced technologies.

The virtual conference was organized by the UN/CEFACT Advisory Group on Advanced Technologies in Trade and Logistics – an expert body focused on areas of rapid technological development in the international supply chain such as blockchain technology, the Internet of things, big data and artificial intelligence.