Development: Symposium

Natural Disasters and Trade Symposium

ROOM W, Geneva, WTO Headquarters

See also


Natural disasters affected 98.6 million people world-wide in 2015. The United Nations assesses the economic losses from natural disasters at US$250-$300 billion annually. World Bank Group research suggests this figure may be even higher, with extreme weather alone responsible for consumption losses of US$520 billion. The consequence is to push some 26 million people back into extreme poverty each year according to World Bank estimations.

A Declaration made at the WTO's Eleventh Ministerial Conference, (WT/MIN(17)/37), highlighted the catastrophic impact that severe storms and hurricanes can wreak. It also proposed that there is a role to be played by the multilateral trading system, more specifically the WTO, to contribute to enabling reconstruction and rebuilding.

The frequency and severity of natural disasters is predicted to grow.  Within an inter-connected global economy, international trade is an important factor in disaster response, recovery and resilience.

Against this background, an information symposium is being organized on 26 April to:

  1. discuss the nexus between natural disasters and the multilateral trading system;
  2. highlight the impact on Members' trade and development of recent natural disasters; and
  3. outline the trade dimension to disaster response, recovery and resilience.

Analysis of the relationship between international trade and natural disasters is currently piecemeal and fragmentary. Research on the impacts of natural disasters has examined supply chain disruption, but focused less on recovery and resilience of supply-side capacity and trade-related infrastructure. The symposium will conclude with an information session of a proposed research project to explore this issue in greater depth.


10:00 – 11:00

Opening Session

Keynote Remarks:

  • Roberto Azevêdo, Director General, World Trade Organization
    Speech DG
  • Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • Frances Lisson, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Australia to the World Trade Organization
    Ambassador Lisson speech
  • Kirsi Madi, Deputy Special Representative, Director, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

11:00 – 12:30

Technical Panel

Moderator: Shishir Priyadarshi, Director, Development Division, WTO


  • Trade and Natural Disaster Response – Ricardo James, Senior Trade Officer, Permanent Delegation of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
  • Trade and natural disaster recovery - Mina Aryal, Deputy Permanent Representative, (Commerce), Nepal
  • Trade issues arising in emergency response – Jesper Holmer-Lund, Chief, Emergency Services Branch and the Field Coordination Support Section, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
  • Disaster Resilience – a private sector perspective, Maryam Golnaraghi, Director of Extreme Events and Climate Risks Program, The Geneva Association (by video link)

12:30 – 13:00

Information Session


  • Overview of research project on Natural Disasters and Trade – Michael Roberts, Head, Aid for Trade Unit, Development Division, WTO

Other statements made



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