Women, youth and the environment take centre stage at Aid-for Trade Global Review

5 July 2019
ITC News

Good trade is one that mainstreams women, youth and the environment. This was the consensus as prominent participants from around the world gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, for the Aid for Trade (A4T) Global Review from July 3 to 5 at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The A4T initiative encourages developing country governments and donors to recognize the role that trade can play in development.

Under the umbrella theme of "Supporting Economic Diversification and Empowerment", participants explored a variety of related topics during more than 80 meetings and side -events. These sessions focused on issues, challenges and best practices for making trade an engine for growth and sustainable development without leaving behind women, young people and vulnerable communities.

The event opened with a keynote address by Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, prime minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

ITC Executive Director Arancha Gonzales, also speaking in the plenary, said: ‘Even in countries that were more successful at tapping into global markets, the gains were not always widely shared. That is why it matters so much to connect micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to international value chains. When they thrive, the benefits of trade and growth are spread across society. This is why MSME competitiveness is at the heart of ITC's work.’

Ms. Gonzalez underscored that gains made through trade need to be inclusive and that women must not be left behind. She also reminded the A4T community of the importance of providing young people access to affordable finance – the theme of ITC’s chapter in “Aid for Trade at Glance”, a publication linked to the event.

The uncertainty presented by digital, ecological and social changes occurring around the world was identified as an impediment to growth which can only be addressed through collective action.

Two sessions supported by ITC were dedicated to the tourism sector, which analysis by the United Nations World Tourism Organization suggested is underfunded.

A high-growth sector compared to the merchandise sector, soft infrastructure could be developed by facilitating better financing for small and medium-sized enterprises in tourism (as highlighted by the SME Competitiveness Outlook 2019, ITC’s flagship publication launched in June). Global development plans, including the Sustainable Development Goals linked to tourism (Goals 8, 12 and 14) could be achieved by fruitful partnerships between the public and private sectors. This way benefits would trickle down to the communities engaged in the tourism business.

From Ireland to Kenya and from Guinea to Finland panellists in a session gave examples of how they had achieved success on issues related to the empowerment of women in trade.

In a discussion on how to make full use of the second phase of an Aid for Trade initiative for Arab states, panellists agreed that an innovative, customized and flexible approach was needed. This would help deepen integration of value chains across the region.

Also reflecting on value chains in the African context, participants heard that regional integration and stronger value chains have to be achieved through improved logistics, infrastructure and access to finance.

The Aid for Trade initiative was launched at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005. The purpose of the Global Review is to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of Aid for Trade to provide a strong incentive to both donors and recipients for advancing the Aid for Trade agenda.