WTO NEWS: SPEECHES — DG PASCAL LAMY


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It was particularly important for me to attend this morning’s Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) meeting for the discussion on trade-related technical assistance (TRTA). A few weeks ago in the Budget and Finance Committee, I informed you, the members, that the largest single proportion of the budget and resources of the WTO (35 per cent) was focused on designing, implementing and monitoring trade capacity building — including through Aid for Trade, TRTA, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), the trade facilitation needs assessments and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

Many of you found this statistic a surprising one.

But this has not occurred by accident. Since becoming Director‑General in 2005, and building on the initiatives of my predecessors, I have made all efforts to situate the trade-related capacity building of developing countries, especially the least-developed countries, as one of the central pillars of the work of this organization.

Eight years later, I am confident that this has been the result, and trade capacity building is now firmly embedded in the psyche of the WTO.

WTO technical assistance is a key contribution in strengthening the human and institutional capacity of the members to take full advantage of the rules-based multilateral trading system, to deal with emerging challenges and to enforce members’ rights and obligations. It is as much a confidence-boosting mechanism as it is a capacity-building one. Increasing knowledge increases confidence. Increased confidence increases identification of priorities and participation. Increased participation of developing countries on trade issues, including on multilateral rule making, is good for the system and good for global governance. The implementation of the WTO’s TA programme has made steady progress over the last eight years. In 2006, a strategic review of this TRTA was conducted — a first-ever external evaluation — and in 2009 a new vision for TRTA was launched, with the objective to ensure cumulative, progressive and sustainable capacity building and to enhance the efficiency and impact of the Secretariat’s TRTA.

You have before you today two documents: the report of the implementation of the WTO’s TRTA in 2012; and a monitoring and evaluation assessment of how we have managed our outputs and impact vis-à-vis our objectives and expectations. In addition, you will discuss the 2014-2015 biennium TA plan which is at an advanced stage of preparation and will be ready for endorsement on members’ return after the summer break. The discussion is hence a three-pronged one: how we have delivered TRTA in the past, how we have judged that delivery and how we plan to improve it, and how the results of both the Results Based Management Framework and the discussions with members will feed into how we craft, programme and implement TRTA in the future.

Building capacity in developing countries and continuing to financially support the WTO’s TRTA programmes is especially important when we see the constant changes that are occurring in world trade. The global debate has increasingly moved from one based around tariff reduction and market access to one around value chains, trade in value-added, non-tariff barriers, trade and environment, trade facilitation and information technology. Developing country administrations must be given the tools and allowed the opportunity to become comfortable with these subjects as they unfold at the global level. Developing countries can no longer afford to be behind the knowledge curve. With the pace of technology and logistics often occurring faster than the theories can keep up with, a relevant, flexible and reactionary TRTA is one important ingredient in building the necessary comfort, confidence and capacity in developing countries to grasp and use the changes in world trade as transformative drivers.

As the Director of the Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC), Bridget Chilala will explain to you shortly how the WTO, in delivering on its TA mandate in 2012, has managed to expand where needed, condense where required, move into new areas, and establish a structure for better monitoring and evaluating the design and delivery of our products, with the aim of constantly improving them based on results. And this has all been done under some budget strain.

Traditional donors have had their budgets squeezed by the global crisis and the need to have ’bang for the buck’ is an understandable priority for these development partners. The irony is that, concurrently, the needs of developing countries for more sophisticated TRTA and in different areas has increased as a result of the same crisis. This has meant some rationalisation of the way that the WTO has delivered TRTA. And I am pleased to say that this had no adverse effect on the quality of the services that we have offered. In fact, it has led to a more robust and transparent system at both the input and output streams. At the level of inputs, we have created a multi-layered architecture of training modules which reflect the expertise of you, our clients, and we have increasingly moved to the delivery of e-learning — a move that has allowed us to exponentially increase the reach and depth of our training at marginal additional costs. At the output level, we have become better at measuring what works and what could work better. The results-based management system allows for a more transparent assessment of how we measure the impact of our delivery.

The Annual TRTA Report has evolved from just an activity-centred one to include the results-focused monitoring report you have before you today. And for the first time, a “logframe” was developed which encapsulates the outcomes and outputs to be achieved and the indicators and baselines to assist in measuring the progress. It is not a perfect science but as we collect more data to measure against our baseline objectives, we will increasingly have a clearer picture of where we are delivering the greatest impacts and where we can do better. A Technical Assistance Monitoring and Evaluation (TAME) team has been established in ITTC, which has consolidated the M&E skills and capacity of the Secretariat and will ensure a sustained focus on results in the future. This will be an important tool for those who fund the TA programmes as well as those who benefit from these programmes.

The WTO has been delivering more than 300 technical assistance activities annually in the last decade. In this time span, thousands of officials have gained valuable knowledge and skills that have enabled them to carry out their roles more effectively. This assistance continues to evolve. In 2012 alone, several new courses and training materials were introduced, such as trade and development, market access databases and eco underpinnings. And in 2013, we have introduced a new online course on trade finance. Technological advancement and access to information technology tools has allowed the WTO to widen its net in the area of e-learning training. Our E-learning Strategy, introduced in 2012, has further contributed to the expansion of this as the training tool for the 21st century.

I consider e-learning to be the most important TRTA innovation under my watch. Not only is it incredibly cost-efficient but its dynamism and flexibility as a tool for delivery allows for real-time curriculum changes and adaptations based on needs and priorities. The new E-learning Platform will allow an even greater number of simultaneous users and an enhanced level of interaction with and amongst participants using a variety of innovations, such as simulation exercises and video conference applications. The investment in e-learning and the e-campus has led to a number of positive results. For example, the number of e-learning courses has increased from one in 2005 to 14 in 2013. From the 247 enrolled participants in 2005, we increased to almost 5,000 in 2012. By the end of 2012, the WTO Secretariat had provided access to e‑learning to 22,000 participants.

The centrality given to e-learning has also permeated all other TA products, as through e-learning the Secretariat has been able to better incorporate the concept of progressive learning. The introduction of the Progressive Learning Strategy (PLS) has brought a welcome reorganisation of the rich TA menu offered by the Secretariat. Now participants can register for different training levels (introduction, intermediate or advanced) depending on their familiarity with the subject. They can also choose a generalist or a specialist path, according to their professional needs. All these changes have been introduced with the purpose of making the TA more relevant and useful and have enabled the Secretariat to use the Strategy as a tool for encouraging progressive and sustained capacity building of our existing and new clients.

In line with the Doha Declaration, the integration of least-developed countries (LDCs) into the multilateral trading system continued to be one of the priorities of the TA provided by the WTO. LDCs were invited to more than half of all the activities organized in 2012, and to three-quarters of the activities organized in Geneva. Some of these activities were specifically designed for LDCs. A priority has also been to increase the participation of women in the capacity building. In 2012, 45 per cent of the participants — both in traditional and e-learning modules — were women. Our challenge is to continue to increase that and achieve greater gender parity in specific regions, such as in Africa and the Middle East.

Africa remains a priority region for trade-related capacity building, given that it is home to two-thirds of the world’s LDCs. Among regions, Africa has benefited from the greatest number of activities and for the largest part of the budget. When this is looked at within the broader perspective of the institutional building led by the EIF and the private sector capacity upgrade supported by the ITC in Africa, I am confident that the WTO is delivering for those members that require it the greatest. We have also seen a more concrete focus on other regions which have clearly set out their needs. Just last week at the Fourth Global Review of Aid for Trade, the Pacific e-learning strategy was launched and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the WTO was signed, which ensures even greater partnership between these two institutions in delivering effective TRTA, through partnership, on the African continent.

Partnerships. This is really the key to effective delivering of TRTA. Not only does it allow a pooling of increasingly scarce resources but it allows for a combination and blend of expertise, experience and focus. Partnership is the WTO’s path to better understanding the on-the-ground needs and ensuring the way the TRTA is constructed will have the greatest efficacy. In 2012 alone, about 30 per cent of all TA activities have been implemented jointly with one or more partners and around 8 per cent of them have been co-funded. The ITTC entered into nearly 20 formal agreements (signing of Memorandum of Understanding, Letter of Agreement or Letter of Intent) during the same year. These partnerships have contributed to the ITTC doing more with less and have been expanded to include collaboration with regional development banks, such as the collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IaDB) and Intel in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, and with regional secretariats such as with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. It has also included partnerships with academia through the WTO Chairs Programme, which I am very pleased to say was extended for an additional four-year period at the Chairs’ Conference last week.

The re-launch of the strategy for the WTO Reference Centres Programme in 2010 has also led to concrete dividends which I have personally seen on the ground. Collaboration with academia increases the reach of the WTO’s TRTA and widens the scope of the trade-related research conducted by these institutions. It is a win-win as the result is a merger of the theory and practice of trade and one which takes on the specific developing region spin of the WTO Chairs and Reference Centres. The same focus on results, interaction and ownership can be clearly seen in the WTO-supported European Law Students Association (ELSA) Moot Court Competitions. Going forward, it will be a priority to have increased participation of African universities, with the aim of strengthening the legal knowledge in Africa on trade issues.

To enable these expectations to be met, there is a need for secure funding from traditional partners and from new partners in development assistance — and here I recognize the contribution that China has made to the LDC accessions programme. The Doha Development Agenda Global Trust Fund is the main funding mechanism for the WTO’s TRTA and while the extra-budgetary funding requirements remained at the same level for the last four years, contributions to the DDAGTF have started to deteriorate since 2008. This meant a focus on doing more but with less. I applaud the ITTC and the budget arms of the WTO for maintaining the standards and expectations with fewer resources. But I believe that all ten fingers have been used to plug the holes in the dyke — there is very little space for manoeuvring and I call on development partners to recommit to the Trust Fund as we move to endorse the next TA plan.

I am confident that over the past eight years the WTO has delivered on its trade-related capacity building mandate. Institutionally, we are in a more structurally sound place than ever before, with the ITTC reorganized to reflect delivering on results. There is a robust results-based framework in place and e-learning has increased the reach of our services. Every year, interns are exposed to trade on the ground either through attachments at missions or at the WTO. And here, I must welcome the recent commitment provided by the Netherlands as well as that offered by Germany and Ireland.

A sign of this success is the clear message that I received from the G-90 during the preparation of the next biennium TA plan. Members called for TRTA in new areas, such as non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and trade finance, a greater focus on following the progress of technical assistance participants, expanded e-learning, and increased internship opportunities. In essence, the call was for a deepening and an increasingly progressive and sophisticated approach to TRTA.  After the Aid for Trade Global Review last week, I heard calls for more exposure to value chain analysis and trade in value-added. I see this as the greatest proof that the WTO has delivered on the capacity building — the call for more and for better.

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