SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

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Good morning everyone.

Let me start by wishing you all a happy International Women’s Day.

I am pleased to join you today. This event has become a highlight in the Secretariat's calendar. So let me thank everyone involved in organizing it, in particular Anoush, Monica and Ninez.

Promoting women's empowerment and gender equality is a moral imperative as well as an economic one.

I am also convinced — and the facts back me up on this — that concrete steps by governments, businesses, international institutions, and also at the individual level can help us get there.

The 2020 International Women’s Day campaign puts a spotlight on this. This year's theme is “Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights”.

This is a call for action as far as I see it. It's about rolling up our sleeves and making sure that we take concrete steps to promote equal rights and opportunities for everybody.  

This year we are also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a landmark initiative that placed women's empowerment firmly on the international agenda. Through it, governments committed to act to promote gender equality across multiple fronts, including education, health, and in the economy.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also emphasises gender equality as essential to build a better future. It rightly recognises that so long as inequalities persist between men and women, boys and girls, we cannot hope to eradicate poverty or achieve equitable growth.

We all have a role to play to make gender equality a reality — and that includes us here at the WTO.

Today, we have an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved so far and to introduce some new initiatives on trade and gender.

Over the last few years, we have seen members put greater weight on gender issues.

The Buenos Aires Declaration was a decisive step, putting trade and gender on the WTO agenda like never before.

The declaration aims to promote women’s economic empowerment and tackle barriers that hamper their participation in global trade. To achieve this, it provides a platform to better understand the links between trade and women's empowerment.

I am very proud that this happened during my tenure as Director-General. This is a welcome addition to our efforts to make trade more inclusive.

126 WTO members and observers have endorsed this initiative, and concrete work has been done to bring this debate to the fore.

This includes a number of workshops as well as research and joint studies dedicated to this topic.

Members have also started to integrate gender into their WTO work. Last year, 10 out of the 12 members who went through the Trade Policy Review process voluntarily included information on their gender-responsive trade policies. This is a 66% increase from the year before.

In line with requests from members, we have also incorporated trade and gender into our Technical Assistance Plan. Last March the WTO launched its first training module on trade and gender. Since then, 13 courses have been provided to government officials, including three at the regional level.

WTO members' demand for these courses is growing, so we will continue our efforts on this front. By 2021, we plan to launch an e-learning module on this issue, which will be available to all WTO stakeholders.

The Buenos Aires Declaration has been a catalyst for all this work.

As a next step, the Declaration's proponents are currently working on a report on its implementation to be presented to ministers at our 12th Ministerial Conference in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. They are looking at ways to take this work forward, including by making the discussion more structured and prominent.

I am looking forward to hearing about members' discussions in the run-up to MC12 and to see what they will be able to accomplish in Nur-Sultan.

But the WTO also has an important role to play as an employer.

We are moving towards greater gender balance within the WTO. I have been reporting regularly on how we have improved on this front.

Women represent approximately 54% of staff in the WTO. In roles classified as 'professional', however, women account for 45% of positions. But this share is rising — it was 31% in 1995 and 42% in 2014. So we are on the right track.

In addition, the WTO has been working to ensure gender diversity in all aspects of our work.

This includes the “Respect and Harmony @ WTO” e-learning programme. This training aims to build a more harmonious, harassment-free and inclusive workplace by creating awareness on appropriate conduct.

This is a priority for me and for the organization. Our approach to harassment must be an approach of zero tolerance. That's why we made this a mandatory e-learning programme for all staff.  

Human Resources has also held a number of events to build awareness, such as the Gender Forum Event, “Building Bridges”, leadership trainings for female staff, and a Barbershop forum for male staff.

I am also pleased to announce that today, we are introducing a new set of Gender Diversity Guidelines for Events and Speaking Panels.

We want to avoid all-male panels and ensure that the WTO Secretariat works to bring a more representative set of perspectives to the table. While we have been ensuring gender diversity in practice, this is the first time we are enacting a specific policy.

But, of course, ensuring gender equality is an ongoing effort. This is a process, a change in culture.

We are making progress. But we can do even better. This year I also intend to look more specifically into developing a gender policy for the Secretariat. We'll continue looking at ways to foster an even more inclusive organizational culture.

Progress should not give way to complacency. Looking ahead, we must continue this work towards equal and inclusive societies — in all areas of our lives.

This includes work at the institutional level, ensuring that we have in place policies that promote respect and inclusiveness. It also includes action at the personal level, making sure that we uphold gender diversity in our everyday conduct. 

Step-by-step, we can ensure that nobody is left behind. So let's keep up the good work!

Thank you for listening. I hope you have an excellent discussion today.

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