The second GASEZ Annual Conference took place on 9 November 2023 in Barcelona, Spain, at the iconic DFactory in the Consorci Zona Franca Barcelona (ZFB). Two hundred stakeholders from the international special economic zone (SEZ) community from 26 countries across Africa, Europe and Latin America attended the event, reiterating their support for the alliance and contributing to its work agenda going forward.
The conference was opened by host Ms. Blanca Sorigué, Managing Director at ZFB who shared how the ZFB’s mission of sustainability and innovation aligns with that of GASEZ. The two current Co-Chairs of GASEZ Mr. James Zhan, Director at UNCTAD, and Dr. Samir Hamrouni, CEO of World Free Zone Organization (World FZO) provided introductory remarks, highlighting the work of GASEZ during the past year since it was launched in 2022 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Ms. Claudia Pellerano, President of AZFA that held its annual conference just one day before, spoke about the importance of GASEZ at a time when multilateralism is undergoing many challenges and the significance of the alliance to AZFA’s members across Ibero America.
All 8 GASEZ Founding Members were represented at the conference. In addition to UNCTAD and the World FZO this included, Mr. Ahmed Bennis from the African Economic Zone Organization (AEZO), Ms. Ebba Lund from the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP), Ms. Yuyan Song of the Green Partnership of Industrial Parks of China (GPIPC), Ms. Shannon Fura of the National Association of Foreign Trade Zones of the United States (NAFTZ) and Mr. Juan Torrents of the World Free and Special Economic Zones Federation (FEMOZA).
Representatives of the above mentioned SEZ associations and SEZs from from Angola, China, Lithuania, Spain, and Uruguay participated in two featured panels. The first panel, moderated by Mr. Paul Wessendorp, Chief of the Investment Promotion Section of UNCTAD, focused on the experiences and success stories of SEZs that are contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by converting from fossil fuels to clean energy, by incubating innovation, and by creating linkages with neighboring urban centres. Also emphasized was the need for good labor standards in SEZs. The second panel, moderated by Ms. Stephania Bonilla-Feret, Economist at UNCTAD, discussed current priority issues for SEZs, including the need to increase awareness about their contributions to the economy through policy advocacy, the need for SEZs to keep abreast of policy developments that affect them, and for strong ecosystem around SEZs to foster innovation and linkages with small and medium-sized enterprises.
The conference concluded with the recognition of the 2023 list of 50 SDG Model Zones that have been selected as partners on the basis of three criteria: i) attracting investment in SDG-related sectors; ii) adopting environmental, social and governance standards; and iii) building strong linkages with the local economy. The list can be found here: Microsoft Word - GASEZ 50 SDG Model Zone Partners 2023.docx
A summary video of the Conference is available here: (1) 2nd Annual GASEZ Conference in Barcelona 2023 - YouTube
50 SDG Model Zones were recognized as partners for sustainable development by GASEZ during the 2nd Annual Conference.