Despite limitations imposed by the pandemic, 216 activities were carried out by the WTO Secretariat in 2020, benefiting 15,000 participants across the world. They included both e-learning activities that participants follow individually and group courses held virtually.

Entitled “Adapting to Digital Learning — WTO Technical Assistance during the Pandemic”, the report looks at the evolution of technical assistance management and resources in 2020, developments in the training curriculum and countries’ participation in the WTO's programmes. It also analyses the inclusiveness and effectiveness of such activities.

Bridget Chilala, Director of the WTO's Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation, said: “2020 was difficult for all of us. I am proud to say that, despite seemingly impossible circumstances, WTO technical assistance not only survived but thrived, transitioning to virtual delivery of training and support to members and observers. Online courses remained fully available throughout the year and increased in volume and diversity. … This report explains the transition to virtual delivery and the invisible changes that the Secretariat accomplished in executing it. We can all learn from this experience and commitment to adaptability.”

The WTO Secretariat aimed to reproduce most of the training components offered by face-to-face activities to ensure similar high-quality training, the report notes. Virtual courses consisted of self-learning, interactive case studies and live webinars conducted by WTO experts, academics and trade practitioners from various regions. The first virtual regional policy course was held in August-November 2020, involving the participation of 20 individuals from ten Caribbean countries.

Long-term internships, such as the Young Professionals Programme, which gives young professionals from developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) an opportunity to enhance their knowledge regarding WTO and international trade issues by spending a year at the WTO, continued to take place. Twelve participants from twelve countries took part in the programme in 2020.

Under the WTO Chairs Programme, participating universities reported their highest level of research output since the launch of phase II of the Programme in 2014. The objective is to help academic institutions in developing countries and LDCs improve their expertise in WTO-related areas such as trade policy, international trade economics, international relations and international economic law.

The main objectives of the WTO's training activities include:

  • helping government officials implement WTO agreements and participate in WTO meetings in a more autonomous way
  • improving access to relevant trade information so that officials can better enforce their rights and obligations — such as formulating trade policies
  • helping governments negotiating their WTO membership to participate in accession negotiations.

Dynamic electronic dashboards were launched in November 2020, the report notes, to help WTO members, donor countries and others track the implementation of the WTO’s technical assistance and training programmes through access to real-time data. The dashboards can be accessed here.

Potential areas for improvement highlighted by the report include enhancing the participation of LDCs in capacity-building programmes and addressing compliance with WTO notification obligations for both developing countries and LDCs. In addition, while the online course for Middle Eastern countries registered the highest proportion of women in WTO technical assistance activities for this region, room for progress exists in the overall participation of women, who have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The WTO Secretariat remains committed to ensuring gender parity in its activities.

The report can be found here.

The WTO's technical assistance activities are funded by the WTO regular budget and by members' voluntary contributions to the Global Trust Fund and to earmarked trust funds. More information can be found here

More information about technical assistance can be found here.




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