Good morning. I would like to welcome you all to this, the third annual meeting of the WTO Chairs Programme.
We are at an important juncture in our programme — this is the mid-term point in the four-year Chairs Programme. Your deliberations over the next two days will focus on progress so far, and how to make the most of the programme in the time left this year and next. I also believe that we should be thinking about how to develop our partnership going forward from the end of 2013. It was never the idea simply to provide resources for a programme that would last four years and then say goodbye. We need to look at different modalities for defining a longer-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
I would like to extend a special welcome to the Chair-holders from the 15 universities in the programme. I regret that one of you could not be here — Professor Riza Arfani of Universitas Godjah Mada in Indonesia — who was unable to acquire a visa in time. This is one more example of cross-border mobility — even for a temporary stay — bumping into obstacles in our globalized world.
Ultimately it falls to you, the Chair-holders, to make a success of the programme. My brief examination of the reports prepared on your efforts so far give me a favourable overall impression of progress made in each of the three pillars of the programme — research, teaching and curriculum development, and outreach. The whole concept and design of the partnership underlying this programme was novel, even experimental, and I think the results have been encouraging. But there are possibilities of improving the product — both from your side and on the part of the Secretariat — and I am sure you will be looking at this today and tomorrow. We are learning as we go.
When we launched the WTO Chairs Programme in early 2010, we wanted to try something new, and this effort was a complement to our initial efforts at cooperating with the academic community from developing countries, notably through the regional trade policy courses. We wanted deeper and broader involvement with universities across the range of activities typically undertaken in institutions of higher learning. Policy-relevant research was a key component of this. We can benefit from more and better research on how objectives, policy interventions and outcomes interact, particularly in the field of trade, which of course is our stock-in-trade.
The pillar of the programme that focuses on the didactic function of universities is just as important, as that is where you prepare tomorrow’s public sector officials, business persons, decision-makers and leaders to assume their future responsibilities. Teaching and curriculum development have certainly been significant elements in many of your programmes.
The third pillar of our programme is about outreach and making an impact on public policy discourse. From the perspective of a public institution that presides over trade policy cooperation at a global level, it should not be surprising that we want to emphasize the importance of “getting the message out”. We would consider a programme of this character seriously deficient if its products, particularly from the research and policy analysis side, were just to go from the keyboard to the website or the library, perhaps hardly ever to be seen again.
Effective public communication of the results of your work is key. The more you are able to communicate quality work to the policy community, the greater will be your reputation and the reliance upon you that will grow from your efforts. This too we would consider a very positive outcome of our programme — helping to draw attention to the importance of sound trade and trade-related policy for development and growth.
Another novelty of this programme relates to decision-making in terms of the content and emphasis of the programme. It puts the Chair-holder and her or his institution firmly in the driver’s seat. You own the programme within a broad set of parameters. The approach is based on the simple idea that those on the ground, those who are going to do the work, are best placed to judge needs. But we are working with public money here, so we need serious accountability. You will be assessed on the decisions you have taken and the ways in which you have exercised your responsibilities — not as agents, but as principal actors. In turn, it is for you to hold the WTO Secretariat accountable for its responsibilities in this partnership.
A primary objective of this meeting is to discuss the Mid-Term Review Exercise of the WCP, which concluded recently. This exercise was always an integral component of the Chairs Programme, aimed at providing an independent assessment of the functioning of the programme and the quality of the outcomes generated by WTO Chairs. Before considering some of the salient results of the review, I should like to express my appreciation to those members of the Advisory Board who undertook the reviews and count on their expert advice. This report is a welcome contribution to the monitoring and evaluation of the WTO’s technical assistance and capacity building, which is a priority not only of all of us but also for our members.
In terms of the broad picture, the Mid-Term Review allows us to conclude that the WTO Chairs Programme has contributed as a “catalyst” for a significant amount of activity in the three designated areas of the programme. I use the word catalyst for two reasons. The first is that it is you who actually do the work and the programme that acts as an enabler. The second reason is that the programme is not solely responsible for the academic outputs generated by the WTO Chairs. Other resources have been brought to bear in varying degrees. I view this as entirely positive, but it does raise an attribution challenge when trying to determine how resources coming from different places have contributed in an additive sense. I know this is an issue you are going to address in this meeting.
Not only has output generated by the programme grown as the programme has advanced, but I believe that the Chairs are strengthening their roles as reference points on trade-related matters vis-à-vis their respective communities. The reports indicate that, for instance, with respect to research, more than 100 pieces of research have been produced by the 15 Chairs, including four books, many working papers, articles, case comments and one database. Furthermore, some 43 activities were also generated in the field of curriculum development and teaching, including two new Master’s Degree programmes and several other Master’s programmes, and courses have been updated. Finally, we estimate that 76 outreach activities were implemented by the Chairs in 2011 alone, essentially related to the promotion of research, and including meetings with civil society and governments though seminars, workshops and meetings.
The review also points at areas in which improvements would be welcome. These include the development of new and/or clearer guidelines in relation to some administrative aspects of the programmes and better and more detailed reporting. There is also a question whether some Chairs would like more active participation by Secretariat counterparts in their programmes. As you know, a number of Secretariat officials have volunteered to be available to assist in any way the Chair-holders consider appropriate, but it is for the Chair-holders to let their counterparts know if they think they can be of assistance. I have already mentioned other issues, such as attribution, which no doubt you will be discussing. And I do urge you also to start thinking about how this relationship embedded in the Chairs Programme will develop from 2014 onwards.
I am pleased to see that on this year’s programme you are going to discuss some of your own research among yourselves. This is another benefit or our programme — the network effect of bringing together Chair-holders from different parts of the world who may otherwise have minimal contact.
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the launch tomorrow of a new publication prepared jointly by UNCTAD and the WTO entitled “A Practical Guide to Trade Policy Analysis”. It is intended to assist economists and policymakers with an interest in the applied analysis of trade and trade policies to undertake policy-relevant analysis with the degree of rigour permitted by the circumstances. It is an excellent guide to analytical technique as well as the limitations of such techniques. This new tool is a good example of how international agencies should be combining skills and assets in the public interest. I hope some of you find it useful and I encourage you to disseminate it widely among your contacts in the policy and teaching world.
With that I shall stop and wish you every success with your meetings over the next two days.
Thank you for your attention.