Former Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
September 19, 2022
World leaders are gathering in New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this week during a critical and uncertain time with war in Ukraine, energy shortages, climate change, food security, heightened geopolitical tensions, and high inflation among other concerns.
With multiplying and increasingly complex global challenges, the need for strong private-public partnership is more important than ever. As the world’s largest business organization, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a key stakeholder with a global presence that is continuously engaged with U.S. and foreign government officials. At UNGA, we will have an opportunity to address these issues and talk about trade, economic growth, and shared prosperity with world leaders.
The UN’s theme for this year’s gathering is: A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges. Two years ago, the COVID pandemic made it clear just how interconnected we all are, and the obstacles facing the global community today are no different. As we head to New York, here are the five trends that will be front and center:
What we’re watching: Only two out of 10 people live in a free country (according to a report by Freedom House) as democracy around the world backslides and authoritarianism rises. Expect increasing U.S. focus on strengthening and supporting democracies.
Why it matters: Strong democracies, with solid rule of law, give businesses confidence and structural incentives to invest. This drives economic development and prosperity by attracting companies that provide long-term investments, create jobs, pay taxes, and put down roots in the communities where they operate. This year, there was no bigger attack on democracy than... Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
What we’re watching: Nearly seven months after Russia’s invasion, the Ukrainians have executed a stunning counteroffensive, but the next steps are unclear.
Why it matters: Millions of Ukrainians are affected by this conflict, which has hammered the country’s private sector. Like much of the rest of the world, the U.S. business community had a swift and unified reaction: condemning Russia’s unprovoked actions, providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, working with the U.S. government on sanctions, and – for around 1,000 companies – exiting Russia. The invasion also brought vast disruptions to global supplies of food and... energy.
What we’re watching: Russia has weaponized energy, sending prices soaring and adding to high inflationary pressures around the world.
Why it matters: Many have felt the impact of rising energy costs, which began prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but have soared across Europe as Russia has cut off the flow of natural gas. As a result, the EU’s inflation rate has reached a 40-year high. European countries are scrambling to add to gas stockpiles ahead of the winter and seeking alternative energy sources. A mild winter might allow Europe to avoid widespread energy rationing, but the picture is bleak for industrial users. The supply shortages are also impacting U.S. business operations leading to calls for the Biden Administration to boost domestic energy production even as it feels pressure to accelerate the energy transition to address... climate change.
What we’re watching: We know there is limited time for us to act on climate, and that we must urgently act together. This is reflected in the UNGA agenda, much of which focuses on climate change. The U.S. Chamber is hosting the President-designate of COP27, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and other business and government leaders for Partners in Climate Solutions, highlighting the collaboration between government and industry on climate. Audiences will be able to watch the session live on uschamber.com.
Why it matters: Heatwaves in Europe and China, along with massive flooding that left one-third of Pakistan underwater, heighten the immediacy of the issue. Developing the needed technology has been a major focus for government and business and will be boosted with federal funding in the years to come. That includes investments in climate resilient infrastructure, including better city planning and rural land use, and finding ways to help the most vulnerable – especially those who are struggling to feed their families amid rising... food insecurity.
What we’re watching: This year is forecast to be the most food insecure year on record. Globally, almost 800 million people are hungry and tens of millions more could be pushed into hunger because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Why it matters: Food fuels people, who fuel the economy. Unfortunately, the myriad of global challenges is exacerbating food insecurity in regions that were already struggling.
All these trends are impacted by – and are contributing to – a gloomy global economic outlook. The IMF and World Bank forecasts are showing dramatically slower growth this year: just around 3% compared with 6% in 2021 – an economic downturn that is hitting emerging markets particularly hard.
If nothing else, the UN is a vital forum for global debate, and joint action is more critical than ever given the challenges outlined above. Isolationist policies cannot be the answer. Ultimately, we are striving toward the same thing: a safe world where we can continue to advance and grow. Each challenge we’re facing is immense on its own, and combined, the complexity and scale can seem insurmountable, but the private sector has been bringing innovative solutions to humanity’s challenges throughout history. And as foreign leaders gather in New York this week, the U.S. Chamber will provide the connective tissue between the public and private sectors, facilitating critical discussions to help change our perceptions of what can be achieved—together.