Welcome to this fourth annual conference of the WTO Chairs Programme (WCP). This programme was launched in 2010 and will reach the end of its four year life span in December 2013. This fourth annual conference will be the last one under the existing programme. The WTO Chairs Programme will continue to exist but in a different format.
The objective of the WTO Chairs Programme is to enhance knowledge and understanding of the trading system among academics and citizens but also policy makers in developing countries by stimulating teaching, research and public debate on international trade and trade cooperation at the level of tertiary education and research institutions.
With these objectives in mind, the WTO Chairs Programme has provided funding to 15 academic WTO chairs in developing countries over a period of four years. It has also provided chairs with access to WTO material and to WTO expertise. In the context of events like the WCP Annual Conference or the recent Global Review of Aid for Trade, the WTO has also provided chairs with an opportunity to present their work to the Geneva-based policy community. In addition, the WTO Chairs Programme has allowed for networking and collaboration among chairs.
Since its launch in 2010, the WCP has produced significant output.
Under the component of curriculum development, resources have been used to strengthen existing courses on international trade and also to develop new trade and WTO-related programmes or courses. Textbooks have been written with the help of WCP resources and WTO reference and information centres have been created. In many cases, students from across the region in which individual chairs are based have been able to benefit from the courses and course material developed under the WTO Chairs Programme.
Under the research component, 36 journal articles and 20 books have been published in addition to over 150 research papers. A new journal entirely dedicated to trade and WTO-related issues has been created in Latin America under the auspices of the WTO Chairs Programme.
The third component of the WTO Chairs Programme is outreach. This is a very important component because the knowledge developed under the research and capacity-building elements of the programme should ideally find its way into the policy community and, more generally, be accessible for national and regional stakeholders. Over 60 seminars, 27 conferences, 24 workshops and 13 roundtables have been organized. Chairs have worked with government agencies, private and public sector companies and also with international organizations other than the WTO.
Overall, the work accomplished since the WCP’s inception has been impressive. Not all has been perfect, though. Some individual chairs have encountered difficulties in delivery. The WCP’s management and monitoring structure has not always run smoothly. It has also undergone changes to which chairs needed to adjust. The experience gained during the past years will form a useful basis on which to build the next round of the WTO Chairs Programme.
This next round of the programme will be less ambitious in size. The number of chairs to be funded through the programme will be halved. This is on account of budgetary considerations but also because we want part of the funding available for the programme to be used to keep the current chairs involved. Indeed, we very much hope that the chairs present today will continue to play an active role in the WCP network, a network which we would want to strengthen. We will find a way to allow them to continue using the WCP logo, they will continue to have access to e-training modules and to WTO counterparts and they will be able to use the WCP website to disseminate their work and participate in relevant regional and global events organized by the WTO.
I hope that the discussions over the coming two days will contribute to elaborating some of the details of this future collaboration and how to make best use of the remaining six months and the remaining resources of this first round of the WTO Chairs Programme.
Many of you are already aware of one of the WCP projects for the final phase of 2013. We would like to work with chairs on an edited volume that focuses on the themes developed in the Aid for Trade side events organized by the WCP and on the themes discussed on this first day of the WCP Annual Conference. Ideally, that volume would be published by the end of this year. A volume containing contributions by most if not all WCP Chairs would contribute to strengthening the programme’s and the chairs’ visibility at the global level. It would also be a vehicle to channel findings from chairs’ research into the global policy debate. I hope that the discussions during this week in Geneva will give authors ample material to revise their chapters for publication.
We would also welcome any ideas from the Advisory Board, the chairs and WTO counterparts on how best to design the extension of the WCP Programme. In the context of the thematic sessions tomorrow, you will notably be asked to give your views on aspects of the programme that might be improved. There appears, for instance, to be room for improving the visibility of research produced under the WTO Chairs Programme and we welcome your views on how to achieve this. It may be possible to create more synergies between work done on curriculum development activities by individual chairs and work done at the WTO Secretariat. Again, we welcome your views on how to create these synergies. For monitoring purposes, we would like to receive more information about the nature and impact of your outreach activities, especially those involving policy makers.
The contributions of Advisory Board members, chairs, and WTO counterparts present here today have contributed to shaping the first round of the WTO Chairs Programme. Your work during the coming two days will contribute greatly to shaping the next phase of the WTO Chairs Programme.
I thank you in advance for your inputs and hope that this and the future WCP annual conferences you attend will provide the platform for fruitful discussions and collaboration.