WOMEN AND TRADE
“Gender issues are central to who we are as an organization,” said DG Azevêdo in opening the event. “Achieving gender balance and inclusiveness is an ongoing challenge. That applies to the WTO and to trade and the economy more broadly.” His full remarks are available here.
The event, entitled “Unlocking Trade for Women's Empowerment through Innovation and Sustainability”, took place more than one year after a large group of WTO members and observers endorsed an initiative to boost women's role in international trade. The Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade fosters the exchange of information about policies and best practices in this area. It also launched a series of workshops about how gender issues connect with topics such as government procurement and global value chains.
“I welcome the ambition that we are seeing behind this work and the remarkable momentum that it has gathered over a fairly short period,” said DG Azevêdo.
“Today we have come a long way from feeling that trade rules are ‘gender neutral’ to the feeling that the way we facilitate trade ideally must be positively gender biased,” said Shishir Priyadarshi, Director of the WTO's Development Division.
“Trade is not gender neutral. The deeper I analyse the issues, the more I see the demand for gender-responsive trade,” said Anoush der Boghossian, WTO Trade and Gender Focal Point. “International women's day is a key annual milestone and it helps us set the tone for the work we will carry out this year,” she said. Her full remarks are available here.
New work on trade and gender
During the event, DG Azevêdo announced a training module on trade and gender for officials of WTO members and observers, in response to demand by governments. This module will be offered as part of the WTO's Technical Assistance programme starting in May 2019.
The event also saw the announcement of a research project looking at the intersections between trade, gender and the environment. "Women play a key role, traditionally, in environmental aspects. Whenever there is an environmental issue, they are the first ones to be affected. They are also part of the solution for environmental degradation and pollution," said Ludivine Tamiotti, from the WTO's Trade and Environment Division. The study aims to deepen the understanding of trade's role in this relationship.
Aside from this new work, the WTO and the World Bank are jointly collecting data to better understand how trade impacts women. The two institutions shared preliminary results at a conference in December. They plan to publish findings in the second semester of 2019.
DG Azevêdo also praised the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) for their “Empower Women, Power Trade” initiative. The EIF is a partnership between the WTO and other institutions to assist least-developed countries in using trade for poverty reduction.
“This initiative is unique, because it exclusively targets women traders in the LDCs,” he said. “The target is that by 2022, the initiative will have directly empowered 50,000 women by helping them secure access to markets.”
“Business as usual is not likely to help us achieve our target of increasing the share of women beneficiaries,” said Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director of the EIF. “We have launched a dedicated women economic empowerment programme on International Women’s Day in line with our strategic vision of promoting inclusive trade in LDCs. We have backed our commitment by allocating significant financial resources, which may go up to USD 10 million.”
To watch the full event click here.