WTO Chairs Programme conference to prioritize research, training and outreach projects

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Annual Conference of the WTO Chairs Programme will bring together the 17 new academic institutions joining the Programme, the existing Chairs and the Advisory Board members in early Summer in Geneva to present the latest trade-related research and to explore opportunities for new joint projects aligned with beneficiary country needs. Preparations for this conference were launched at a virtual meeting of the WTO Chairs Network on 29 March opened by the Director-General of Austria’s Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, Cynthia Zimmermann.
This will be the first opportunity for the 17 new Chairs to meet in person with the entire network since they joined in December 2021. At the Conference, the Chairs will discuss how to enhance co-operation in the Chairs Programme. Participants will also share best practices regarding training, outreach and dissemination of information to policy makers and other stakeholders in beneficiary countries. They will also have the opportunity to network with delegations from the WTO's permanent missions in Geneva and groups of developing country members.

In January, the programme received a second contribution of EUR 200,000 from Austria to support its new phase. Ambassador Eloi Laourou, Senior Advisor to WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, opened the event on behalf of the DG and Deputy Director-General Zhang: "The Director-General values the support that Austria is providing to the WTO Chairs Programme – both from the government as a whole and through the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs. Deputy Minister Cynthia Zimmermann closely follows and participates in the activities of the Chairs. We continue to rely on Austria's support, which complements the work done at the WTO."
In her first meeting with the 36 Chairs and with the Advisory Board members, Director-General Zimmermann specifically welcomed the Chairs from least-developed countries - Ethiopia, Lesotho, Nepal, Rwanda, and Tanzania - and the new Chairs from Africa, Asia and Latin America.She said: "The Austrian Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs is very proud to be a key donor for phase three of this capacity-building and development programme, with beneficiary countries in all continents gaining expertise through the Chairs Programme. The Chairs network has established a successful record of "South South" learning – with Chairs from different phases of the programme, with different disciplines and from various regions sharing experiences and best practices on how to make research available to policy makers."
Director-General Zimmermann commended the Programme for providing sound evidence-based and applied research, training and outreach activities to governmental and other policy makers and stakeholders to support trade policy formulation. She highlighted the importance of collaborating with policymakers and other stakeholders in the participating countries and of focusing on topics most relevant to them, including those covered by WTO committee work and negotiations. This includes: women and trade; digitalization and e-commerce; micro, small and medium-sized enterprises; investment facilitation for development; agriculture, small-scale/artisanal farming; circular economy; trade-related measures against climate change; energy transformation to renewable energies; green and resilient recovery from the pandemic; compromises reconciling trade-related intellectual property rights and access to public health for all.
The WTO Chairs Programme aims to support trade-related academic activities by universities and research institutions to support and advise policymakers and other stakeholders in developing and least-developed countries. A total of 14 institutions were selected as WTO Chairs for a four-year term in 2009. An additional seven institutions were selected for Phase 2 of the Programme in 2014. Phase 3 of the programme started with a selection process in December 2020, which resulted in 17 institutions being chosen to join the network of Chairs. This further diversifies the Programme's representation across the globe, with the network now comprising 36 universities. The Programme enables Chairs to better understand the nuances of the WTO system while the WTO membership and the WTO Secretariat can draw on the applied research and suggestions of the Chairs to complement and support their work.