WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

13 August 2001

647 non-governmental organizations eligible to attend the Doha ministerial

The Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Mr. Mike Moore, today sent letters to 647 non-governmental organizations confirming their eligibility to attend the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November. The NGOs have until 17 September to complete and return their registration forms to the WTO Secretariat.

“I greatly welcome the serious and broad interest civil society is showing in the work of the WTO”, said Mr. Moore. “Based on the information provided by NGOs before the official deadline of 2 July, and in line with criteria established by WTO Members, 647 organizations are eligible for registration. These include NGOs from all parts of the globe and with interests spanning the full range of WTO activities. I urge eligible NGOs to complete the registration process as soon as possible and I look forward to their positive contribution to the meeting in Doha.”

“The Doha meeting takes place at a critical moment for the WTO”, said Mr. Moore. “It is a key opportunity to build on the huge achievements of the multilateral trading system over the past fifty years. It is a chance as well to make the WTO stronger and more open, ready to play a fuller role in international trade relations. The input and involvement of NGOs is important to our shared objective of a successful meeting. I welcome scrutiny from civil society, it is healthy and makes us more accountable. I welcome their engagement, it informs us and encourages us to do a better job.”

The Director-General said the presence of NGOs in Doha would build on similar initiatives to encourage greater interest and involvement in WTO work from political and civil society. Mr. Moore referred to a recent WTO Symposium in Geneva which gathered together more than 400 civil society representatives to discuss issues confronting the world trading system. He said this meeting showed clearly that NGOs want to engage constructively and that they have important insights to offer. Mr. Moore added that NGOs’ enthusiasm could be an important source of strength for the multilateral trading system.

Mr. Moore expressed regret that only one representative per eligible NGO would be able to attend the Doha Ministerial Conference.

“The high level of civil society interest in the Doha meeting is gratifying but left us with a very difficult choice, either to limit the number of NGOs attending or limit the number of representatives per organization. In the end we decided to make arrangements so all eligible NGOs could have a presence at the Conference.”

“We will continue working closely with NGOs between now and Doha”, said Mr. Moore. “We will be seeking their comments and advice on appropriate activities at the Ministerial Conference and beyond. I want to encourage a debate on possible rules of engagement so we can enhance the dialogue between civil society, international institutions and Governments. I know NGOs will have ideas they want to place in front of us too. I look forward to a constructive engagement with NGOs in Doha.”

The Members of the WTO have agreed that the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference will be held in Doha, Qatar, from 9 to 13 November 2001. The Ministerial Conference is the topmost decision-making body of the WTO. It meets at least every two years and brings together all Members of the organization. The Ministerial Conference can take decisions on all matters under any of the WTO Agreements. Previous Ministerial Conferences were held in Singapore (1996), Geneva (1998), and Seattle (1999).

At its meeting on 8 May 2001, the General Council agreed specific procedures for registration and attendance of non-governmental organizations at the Doha Ministerial Conference. These procedures were immediately circulated for the information of Members and were also placed on the WTO website to inform interested NGOs on how to register for the Conference. The information was also disseminated widely in the Secretariat's regular bulletins to NGOs and through other initiatives. The deadline for NGOs to submit their requests for registration was 2 July.