The working group will focus on continuing to share best practices among WTO members on increasing the participation of women in trade and exploring ways to support the delivery of the WTO Aid for Trade work programme, among other activities.
The working group will convene its first meeting in the second half of 2020 to establish a schedule of activities and themes for discussion ahead of the 12th Ministerial Conference.
A group of WTO members established an Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender to increase the participation of women in trade. An online meeting, held at the invitation of Iceland and Botswana, launched the working group on 23 September 2020.
The working group’s establishment marks the next phase of a 2017 initiative to remove barriers to women’s participation in trade. The initiative emanated from the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment, which was supported by 118 WTO members and observers at the 11th Ministerial Conference and now has 127 signatories.
Introducing the proposal to establish the Informal Working Group, Iceland Ambassador Harald Aspelund, Co-chair of the International Gender Champions (IGC) Trade Impact Group, said it “stemmed from consultations with WTO members who expressed support for following-up on the commitments contained in the Buenos Aires Declaration.”
Women’s empowerment is at the heart of building economies that are more economically prosperous and socially inclusive.
The working group will focus on: continuing to share best practices among WTO members on increasing the participation of women in trade; clarifying the meaning of a “gender lens” in the context of international trade and reviewing how it could be applied to the work of the WTO; reviewing and discussing the WTO Secretariat’s gender-related analytical products; and exploring ways to support the delivery of the WTO Aid for Trade work programme.
Addressing meeting participants, WTO Deputy Director-General Yonov Frederick Agah (Nigeria) described women’s empowerment as being “at the heart of building economies that are more economically prosperous and socially inclusive.” He outlined the WTO’s ongoing efforts stemming from the Buenos Aires Declaration, and noted that the working group’s launch “marks an important new phase in moving this work forward on a continued transparent, collaborative and open basis.” Agah recognized the disproportionate impacts of trade-related disruptions from COVID-19 on women due to women’s overrepresentation in services and sectors that have seen the sharpest falls in demand, concluding that “we cannot build back better without women.”
Botswana Ambassador Athaliah Molokomme, Co-chair of the IGC Trade Impact Group, acknowledged “strong support for the formation of an Informal Working Group,” and identified the need for “concrete activities and timelines.”
The working group will convene its first meeting in the second half of 2020 to establish a schedule of activities and themes for discussion ahead of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), which is currently expected to take place in June 2021. [WTO Press Release] [Interim Report Following the Buenos Aires Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment]