New Economics for Sustainable Development to recover better from the pandemic


In our Zoom for Thought on October 19th, 2021, guest host Scott Rickard, Adjunct Professor at UCD Discovery, spoke with Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development New York Office of the Secretary-General, about, "New Economics for Sustainable Development to recover better from the pandemic". In case you missed it, here are our Top Takeaway Thoughts and a link to the video.


The Role


Chantal Line runs the New York office of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), founded under its original Secretary General, Argentinian economist Raúl Prebisch. UNCTAD was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964 and reports to the UN General Assembly and United Nations Economic and Social Council. The primary objective of UNCTAD is to formulate policies relating to all aspects of development including trade, investment, aid, transport and logistics, finance and technology. 

We are here to support developing countries on better use of trade and development, investment, financing, technology and entrepreneurship for development. We look at how they can better integrate the financial economic system in a fair and productive way.”


UNCTAD Summer School


Last summer Chantal Line attended an UNCTAD summer school programme where she was inspired to think about economics in a new way - by colour-coding the different sectors. 

“If people get bored by economics and trade they get turned off. So if we call it the ‘colour economy’ where you can talk about the blue, orange and purple economy maybe people will want to have a discussion? I wrote a background paper on that and then I talked to the UN chief economist and sold the idea.”

There are now over a hundred economists working on how the colour economy affects, could affect countries.  

“When I proposed it last summer, people were looking at me, like, ‘What do you mean alternative economics?’ But now pretty much everybody is talking about alternative economics. We are realising the economic system we had is not working for people and planet.”


The Colour Economy


The green economy, which is the best known, is defined as low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. The blue economy is about sustainable extraction of biodiversity from the seas. The purple economy came about through feminist economics and refers to the care economy with unpaid or underpaid care provided by women. During the COVID-19 lockdowns women were doing up to 30 hours a week in unpaid care because children were being homeschooled.

“That means we've seen the largest, most unprecedented number of women leaving the workforce, even in developed nations.”

The purple economy also looks at how, as sectors become more feminised, pay and benefits decrease. It focuses on the “economic empowerment of women and not using women's labour as a comparative advantage”. The yellow economy is the attention economy, which refers to “all these platforms that are becoming monopolies and their business model is to keep us as long as possible clicking on the platform because their business model is to basically sell more advertising”. The orange economy is the creative economy “so the mix of digitalisation, along with arts and culture” especially for the digital natives. 




Working across disciplines is “fundamental” to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. “As human beings we feel very comfortable in our own little silos but we know by now that we won't achieve the SDGs unless each one of us contributes and we each bring our specialised knowledge to the table. And so, we must break these silos.”

With preparations for COP26 well underway, Chantal has her own opinion on how the UN Climate Change Conference should unfold. 

“Everybody says, ‘It's all going to have to be about climate change - don't bring the gender issue in, don't bring the blue issue in.’ But, no, we have got to solve these issues together. If you look at them (SDG targets), there are trade-offs and synergies amongst each of the targets. You cannot address the issue without looking at it in a cross-disciplinary, systemic manner.”

To tackle inequality in tandem with climate change, you could, for example, ensure that women own new green energy assets.

“You could empower women economically and start reducing that gap between men and women in terms of wealth.”


Better Together


The onus on solving the SDGs has first been put on governments, then on development banks, the private sector and the financial sector.

“None of them can solve these problems alone. All together we can solve this problem - academia, entrepreneurs, the governments, the development banks, the financial sector.”

Chantal advocates for a change of mindset so problems are seen as opportunities. Globally some 940 million people do not have access to electricity and half of the world’s population does not have internet access - “That is a huge business opportunity for an entrepreneur mindset”. 

Instead of thinking high margin, low volume, entrepreneurs could instead embrace the frugal innovation idea of high volume, low margin.




We can recover better post-pandemic by acknowledging that the poorest and most vulnerable are the most affected every time we have a shock. “We should never again be shocked when we have a shock. We should be prepared. We should have resilient supply chains, we should have a resilient economy and we should have a social protection floor for the most vulnerable in our society.” 


This article was brought to you by UCD Discovery - fuelling interdisciplinary collaboration.



Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier currently serves as Chief, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development New York Office of the Secretary-General, where she coordinates input into the Financing for Sustainable Development, Science, Technology and Innovation, and monitors progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) processes. She focuses on partnerships and innovative financing to support micro, small and medium enterprise, entrepreneurship and gender equality in transitioning to green, blue, purple, orange, resilient, inclusive and connected economic system.

Prior to joining the United Nations, she worked as Head, Environment, Economy and Trade Division of the North American Free Trade Agreement Commission for Environmental Cooperation (2000-2007), policy analyst for the Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture (1998-2000) and postdoctoral fellow for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in the Brazilian Amazon (1996-1998).

Dr. Carpentier has consulted to UNDP, the World Bank, and the OECD and provided technical assistance to USDA, Environmental Defense Fund and the European Union and written and presented extensively on sustainable development including a book on Ethical Investment.

Dr. Carpentier obtained her PhD. in Agricultural and Environmental Economics from Virginia Tech University, as well as both her MSc. and BSc. in Agriculture Economics from McGill University.

Born in Quebec, Canada, she is fluent in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese. She competes in ultramarathon and ironmen.