This year's event is the first occasion since the United Nations General Assembly decision (A/RES/75/318), on 30 August, to officially recognize 7 October as World Cotton Day as proposed by Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali. The UN resolution acknowledges cotton's economic and social impact around the world.
DG Okonjo-Iweala stressed the far-reaching impact of the UN resolution. "First and foremost, the UN's official recognition of an international day for cotton is a recognition of all the women and men who derive their livelihoods from cotton production, processing, transformation, and commercialization," she said.
The DG also underscored the relationship between the cotton sector and sustainable development. "Today, the sector faces new challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of climate change, and changing consumer preferences. In this context, the cotton sector has a crucial role to play in making a concrete contribution towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals," she noted.
The WTO is hosting an exhibition on cotton in its headquarters in Geneva from 6 to 8 October, with contributions from the WTO Secretariat, WTO members and partner organizations.
Further information is available on the WTO's World Cotton Day webpage: WTO | Celebrating World Cotton Day: an opportunity to recognize the global importance of cotton
On the eve of World Cotton Day, the WTO and the International Trade Centre (ITC) organized a webinar on "how to develop a sustainable cotton to clothing value chain in Africa".
In his opening remarks, Deputy Director-General Jean-Marie Paugam noted the WTO's long-standing work on cotton. Since the launch of the cotton initiative in 2003, it has streamlined and enhanced the WTO's work to improve cotton trade and markets while providing much-needed development assistance to developing countries, he noted.
World Cotton Day reminds us that "much more can be achieved, especially for farmers and other people working in the cotton sector in Africa," DDG Paugam pointed out. He highlighted the link between the cotton sector and the overall situation of African economies, stressing the cotton sector has generated spillover effects that benefit other sectors. This is particularly crucial for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. DDG Paugam's full remarks are here.
Harouna Kaboré, Burkina Faso's Minister of Commerce, Industry and Handicrafts, underlined the development assistance needs of the Cotton-4 members (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) and pointed out they are seeking further international cooperation to implement important development programmes such as the "Route du Coton" (the Cotton Roadmap programme, which aims for regional integration of their cotton value chain and to tackle existing infrastructure and human capacity gaps). He highlighted the opportunities provided by the African Continental Free Trade Area to develop markets for African cotton and its by-products, with the aim of promoting local processing and giving added value to cotton. He also appealed for the continuation of technical assistance for Cotton-4 members, in particular regarding technology transfer.
Dorothy Tembo, ITC Deputy Executive Director, highlighted the positive outcomes from ITC's technical assistance in Africa, notably creating jobs and generating income for African cotton farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises through the initiative on cotton by-products launched in 2018 by the WTO, ITC and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. She called for harnessing the environmental advantages of cotton and its untapped economic potential.
Other speakers from international organizations, governments and the private sector examined the trade potential of cotton and the business opportunities resulting from further regional integration, especially through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
A strong call was made to align trade policies and to create synergies in future projects to strengthen the cotton value chain in the region and to increase local value addition. The importance of the sustainable development of the cotton sector was stressed by many speakers. Participants also discussed sustainable investment to lower the carbon footprint of cotton, capacity building for artisanal producers, and the market potential of green products.