News Brief

13 May 2015
ITC News
EU donates extra €2m to WTO to boost participation in trade talks

The European Union (EU) has pledged an additional €2 million (US$ 2.2 million) to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Development Agenda Global Trust Fund (DDAGTF) and €100,000 for evaluating the fund. The contributions will support the active partici-pation of developing and least-developed countries in the Doha Round negotiations. The fund finances some 280 activities per year, mostly tailor-made training delivered at regional and national level covering all traderelated areas including trade facilitation, agriculture and services.

‘With these welcome donations, the EU has again demonstrated its longstanding commitment to helping developing and least-developed countries reap the benefits of trade and better integrate into the global economy,’ said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo. Angelos Pangratis, EU Ambassador to the WTO, said that proper regulation was an important of economic exchange. He said: ‘Trade rules can play an important role in supporting development when appropriately adapted to the needs and priorities of a country. The initiatives financed under the DDAGTF are key for the further integration of developing countries into the global trading system.’

Women’s participation in cooperatives is surging, research shows

An online survey conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Co-operative Alliance suggests that women’s participation in co-operatives has increased over the past 20 years. Key findings indicate that co-operatives are having an increasingly positive impact on women. Four of five of survey respondents felt that cooperatives were better than other types of private or public sector business in advancing gender equality.

The poll of nearly 600 respondents included co-operative practitioners, civil society organizations, academics and government workers. Half the respondents were from Europe and 15% from Asia and North America, respectively. The remaining respondents were from sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Central America, the Middle East and North Africa.

Early gender gaps drive career choices, OECD study says

While education systems have made major strides to close gender gaps in student performance, girls and boys remain deeply divided in career choices, which are being made much earlier than commonly thought, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Gender bias – whether conscious or unconscious – among parents, teachers and employers is partly responsible for the divide, according to the report entitled ‘The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour and Confidence.’

Fewer than one in 20 girls was considering a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) compared to one in five boys despite similar performances in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) science test. PISA surveys have shown that girls lack the same self-confidence as boys in science and math and new analysis reveals striking differences in parental encouragement that exacerbate the problem. Parents are much more likely to expect their sons to work in STEM careers than their daughters, even if they show the same ability. The report suggests some 50% of parents in Chile, Hungary and Portugal expect their sons to work in STEM fields while less than 20% expect the same of their daughters. In Korea, by comparison, the gap is only 7 percentage points.

Afghan government,ADB sign US$ 130m deal to aid transport network

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Government of Afghanistan signed two agreements worth US$ 130 million to finance a new road link that will open up an east-west trade corridor with Tajikistan and beyond.

The 108km road in Badakhshan province is being funded under ADB’s Transport Network Development Investment Program, with the European Union (EU) providing additional financing of US$ 21m. The funds will be used to strengthen the Afghanistan Railway Authority; improve the movement of goods and people along Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation road corridors; and to carry out a new pilot project to promote best practices in road operations and maintenance across Afghanistan. On top of US$ 667m in direct ADB assistance, the program has received US$ 144m in co-financing from the Afghanistan Infrastructure Trust Fund, with contributions from Japan, the United Kingdom and the EU.

UNIDO project to support solar energy in Egyptian industry

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) will help in building local capacities to manufacture solar energy systems and components in Egypt while promoting the application of solar energy in the country’s chemicals, agro-food and textile industries. The project will focus on developing the manufacturing of solar energy components that are in compliance with international quality norms with the objective of pursuing sustainable industrial development. It is expected to bring in private-sector investment to support building the solar industry within Egypt, allowing it to play a leading role in the Middle East and North Africa.

The project, worth US$ 6.5 m, is expected to generate almost five times that amount in investments and will further contribute of the objectives of the economic development objectives of the Government of Egypt. The project is expected to boost job creation and support entrepreneurship in the renewable energy sector.

Private sector hardest hit by losses after disasters

New research from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (UNESCAP) shows that small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs), which make up 90% of the private sector in the Asia-Pacific region, are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. During the 2011 Thailand floods, for example, the private sector suffered 94% of a colossal US$ 44 billion in economic losses. The recent UNESCAP publication, ‘Resilient Business for Resilient Nations and Communities,’ developed in partnership with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), and R3ADY Asia-Pacific, argues that governments and businesses must work in partnerships towards common resilience through supporting business continuity for value chains, undertaking more risk-sensitive investment and providing incentives for resilience projects.

The report stresses that, although SMEs often employ over half the workforce and generate as much as 50% of GDP, they are the least prepared to bounce back from disasters. As such, the sector should be offered special support to address disaster risks more effectively, the report said. Further detailed is the need to recognize that businesses should be held accountable for their own share of risk creation, both by governments through adequately enforced legal and regulatory systems and by society at large. On the other hand, governments are responsible for creating an enabling environment for businesses to invest in disaster risk management.