According to the WTO Secretariat's analysis, Aid for Trade programmes aimed at achieving gender equality have increased over the years; however, there is room for improvement in how this objective is prioritized, as indicated by aid flows and evaluation surveys. Less than 12% of overall Aid for Trade disbursements between 2006 and 2017 went to programmes where women's empowerment was one of the objectives and about 1% to programmes where women's empowerment is the sole objective. 

The Working Group heard regional perspectives on Aid for Trade programmes based in the Indo-Pacific, West Africa, and Arab states. These programmes have proved valuable in mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs, helping women take advantage of e-commerce opportunities and bridging the gender digital divide, the speakers said. For example, members heard that 78% of Australia's Aid for Trade investment in 2019-2020 effectively addressed gender. Members also discussed the importance of monitoring and evaluating the performance of these programmes on gender equality.

A global perspective was meanwhile provided by the International Trade Centre (ITC). In addition, members considered examples of capacity building programmes and e-commerce training for women entrepreneurs. The WTO Secretariat also presented the new WTO training strategy on trade and gender, due to begin in early 2022. Presentations from the meeting are available here.

Exploring how best to support the delivery of the WTO Aid-for-Trade Work Programme is the fourth objective in the Working Group's work plan. At a previous meeting on 23 June, members exchanged views on the third pillar of the work plan, which is to consider how a “gender lens” could usefully be applied to the work of the WTO. A gender lens analytical framework for the work of the WTO is currently being developed and should be launched at MC12.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, said at the 23 June meeting that the WTO should use the opportunity of post-COVID-19 recovery to help boost the organization's impact on women who have been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Members shared experiences on initiatives to increase women's participation in international trade through strategies to stimulate women's employment and representation in leadership positions. Presentations from the meeting are available here.

With dedicated meetings on all four pillars of the work plan completed, members next aim to intensify discussions on an outcome on trade and gender at MC12. The group “Friends of Gender,” composed of 19 WTO members, four observers and the WTO Secretariat, has begun work on the MC12 package and will submit a draft text to the Working Group by end August to early September.

The Working Group was established in September 2020 (WT/L/1095/Rev.1) as the next phase of an initiative launched at the 11th Ministerial Conference in 2017 in Buenos Aires, where the “Joint Declaration on Trade and Women's Economic Empowerment” was signed. Currently, 127 members and observers support the Declaration.




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