DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL XIANGCHEN ZHANG
Mr. Malcom Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU),
Mr. Nikhil Seth, Executive Director, United Nations Institute for Training and Research,
Mr. Joshua Setipa, Managing Director, United Nations Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries,
It is a pleasure to join you today for this discussion on ICTs for Peace.
What is the WTO Trade for Peace Programme?
The WTO Trade for Peace Initiative was created in 2017, however, its origins trace back to the creation of the multilateral trading system in 1948 through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The GATT was intended to act as a mechanism to maintain global peace and stability in the aftermath of the two world wars and in 1995, it was transformed into the World Trade Organization.
The WTO is the only global body whose rules are regulating trade flows in the world, covering 164 states and customs territories, and over 98% of world trade. It provides a forum for negotiating agreements aimed at reducing obstacles to international trade and ensuring a level playing field for all, thus contributing to economic growth and development. The WTO also provides a legal and institutional framework for the implementation and monitoring of these agreements, as well as for settling disputes arising from their interpretation and application.
The linkages between trade and peace, although once at the heart of the multilateral trading system, became less prominent in the WTO over time. However, in 2017, a group of fragile and conflict-affected Least Developed Countries in the process of accession — Comoros, Sao Tomé and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan and Timor-Leste — which came together with recently acceded LDCs — Afghanistan, Liberia and Yemen — reignited the push to harness economic integration as a means of achieving sustainable peace.
Together, these countries established the g7+ WTO Accessions Group at the WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires and drawing from their efforts, the Trade for Peace Initiative was created. Since then, a large number of outreach activities have been conducted to raise awareness on the trade-peace nexus. We have noticed that both the trade and peace communities worked in silos and did not speak to one another. However, we strongly believe it is important to highlight the interconnectedness of trade and peace.
As such, we decided to launch the first edition of the Trade for Peace Week in December last year, which was determinant for the future of Trade for Peace. Indeed, following the launch of the first Trade for Peace Week, the Initiative expanded into a Programme with four key pillars: (i) Political Engagement and Partnerships; (ii) Outreach and Dialogue; (iii) Research; and (iv) Training and Capacity Building.
Under the Political Engagement and Partnerships Pillar, we established a Trade for Peace Network and hosted the first meeting of the Group in July 2021 to bring together representatives of the trade and peace communities. As part of the Outreach and Dialogue Pillar, we launched the Trade for Peace Podcast, hosted by Mr. Axel M. Addy, former Minister of Commerce and Industry and Chief Negotiator of Liberia's accession to the WTO, and have released 13 episodes to date.
Under the Research Pillar, we are in the process of creating a White Paper on Trade and Peace. To improve research efforts, we have also established, in July of this year, a Research and Knowledge Hub with key partners and issued a Call for Papers on Trade for Peace, which will be later transformed into a research publication. Based on our findings, we intend to develop training and capacity building resources in the future.
In all of these areas, we have concentrated our efforts on bridging the silos of the trade and peace communities and on creating lasting partnerships between them to facilitate coordinated research, and action towards sustainable peace
We are continuously looking for new partnerships and diverse voices to push forward our mission to harness trade for peace and to ensure that our work remains relevant, contextual, and inclusive. In that spirit, I invite you all to join us for the second edition of the Trade for Peace Week from 15-19 November focusing on Trade and Security in Eurasia.
From a trade perspective, how can ICT contribute to peace?
Since 1998, the WTO has recognised the growing new opportunities that global e-commerce presents for trade and as such, Members adopted a Declaration on Global Electronic Commerce and a work programme on e-commerce. The programme is continually reviewed to ensure that it encompasses current issues, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on e-commerce and particular challenges faced by LDCs. Negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce were also launched in January 2019 and are ongoing with a focus on issues, such as enabling e-commerce; openness and e-commerce; trust and e-commerce; cross-cutting issues; telecommunications; and market access.
A rules-based multilateral trading system, channelled the WTO, provides essential resources for capacity building to take place and lays the groundwork for innovation. The process of joining the Organization requires institutional reforms for policy coherence and transparency regulations, with support from the WTO Secretariat and key development partners. Accession often results in positive outcome like a more favourable business environment and more ease in starting a business which also leads to significantly attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), big drivers of economic growth. The environment created from the accession process, combined with international collaboration, either bilateral or multilateral through international institutions, can be used to address and reduce the technology gap between many countries, mainly LDCs and Fragile and Conflict-affected states (FCSs) and more developed economies.
We have seen in our time how participation in the global value chain allows for knowledge spill over to take place, especially through research and development cooperation. One prime example is the case of South Korea's successful economic growth model after the Korean War, or as we commonly know as “the Miracle on the Han River”. South Korea's openness to integration in trade and participation in the global value chain allowed technology transfer to take place and ultimately drove economic growth and industrial upgrading transforming it from a manufacturer to an innovator. The success can be contributed to first, appropriate policy and institutional reforms that create sound business environment, and secondly, interaction with global actors helped develop the infrastructure and human capital needed.
The South Korean example shows us that trade-facilitated technology transfer and development do not only help rebuild an economy post-conflict, but also help fill in the capacity gap to make a nation's development equitable and sustainable, leaving no one behind.
The WTO acknowledges the intersectional nature of trade, technology and peace and has been actively engaging with different actors, such as the UN Technology Bank, with which we partnered during the first edition of the Trade for Peace Week and for the last episode of the Podcast with our Trade for Peace Champion, Joshua Setipa. He highlighted that “where there is inclusive economic growth, there's also stability…and peace” and invited us all to imagine the innovation that is possible when there is sustainable peace, a level playing field, and access to finance in a country.
In short, trade-facilitated ICT bring about the peace that goes beyond non-violence, towards promoting better living standards and bringing us closer to achieving the SDGs. While the nexus between trade, trade-facilitated areas like technology development, and peace remains an emerging field, we are committed to support governments in maximizing the benefits of ICT to foster national prosperity and peace.