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Urbanization and the role of Special Economic Zones - WUF10 (8-13 February 2020, Abu Dhabi, UAE)
11 Feb 2020 -  Special economic zones (SEZs) are widely used as an important part of economic policy in many developing and developed economies. Within these geographically delimited areas, governments facilitate industrial activity through fiscal and regulatory incentives and infrastructure support. According to UNCTAD estimates, there are nearly 5,400 zones across 147 economies today, up from about 4,000 five years ago, and more than 500 new SEZs are in the pipeline. The SEZ boom is part of a new wave of industrial policies and a response to increasing competition for internationally mobile investment. The aim of SEZs, in addition to attracting investment and facilitating manufacturing and exports, is to develop interlinkages with local economies, create decent jobs, and serve as incubators of innovation and skills upgrading. In this regard, cities are at the heart of policies to foster and promote SEZs. However, it is often observed that SEZs are developed in isolation and become enclaves with limited impact in the broader urban environment in which they are situated. Therefore, it is critical to align SEZ plans with the broader urban planning framework, integrate them in the local innovation systems and cultures, and optimize their contributions to sustainable development. As the lead entities for attracting and facilitating investment, investment promotion agencies (IPAs) can play a role, particularly in targeting investors that bring innovation and in supporting efforts to link SEZ companies with enterprises outside the zones. This event will focus on recent research by UNCTAD on SEZs as part of its World Investment Report 2019, with a specific emphasis on how SEZs can foster innovation and sustainable development in or close to urban centers. The event will feature case studies of successful SEZs that have contributed to urban economic development and cultures beyond their geographical boundaries, cooperation between SEZs and IPAs, and UNCTAD’s model of a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) model SEZ.