Group of people posing in front of a screen that says Youth Trade Summit on Gender

Madison Paisley’s Dispatch from the World Trade Organizations’ Youth Summit on Trade and Gender in Geneva

Photo credit: Madison Paisley

By Madison Paisley, MAGG

I was one of fifty-six delegates selected from across the world to attend the WTO’s inaugural Youth Summit on Trade and Gender. A diverse mix of representatives from government, international organizations, and academia all gathered together with experts on trade and gender to discuss current issues and possible solutions pertaining to the gendered impacts of trade policy.

During the two-day summit, I participated in technical conferences on several topics related to trade and how gendered impacts were being accounted for, and the challenges that still exist with trying to quantify these impacts. We discussed challenges women face in obtaining trade finance, gender disaggregation in research, gender and e-commerce, and several other topics. We also listened to talks from permanent country representatives at the WTO who sit on the informal working group on trade and gender as well as from representatives of countries that have adopted feminist foreign policy programs.

I spent the second day participating in different working groups. We were given a case study of a fictional country, and were tasked with analyzing the country’s success in affirming women’s economic empowerment (WEE) and integrating gender issues into its policies and programmes. The country had no name, but was a collection of statistics from countries within the South American and African regions. We also needed to determine a few key issues and prescribe ways that trade could help to address them; our group pinpointed the low levels of education and literacy for women and the lack of women in leadership positions as a few of the most important issues to address. Finally, as a group we needed to agree to future commitments to do trade better so that existing regimes do not exacerbate gender imbalances, and propose one recommendation to the WTO. The caveat was that, in traditional WTO style, all participants needed to come to a consensus on all of our recommendations and pledges.

The country, though fictional, represented an amalgamation of very real issues faced by many states. Working through the process of analyzing the countries issues, our group needed to prescribe ways in which trade policy can positively influence gender-related issues. This was a really good challenge in synthesizing theoretical and practical knowledge, and also challenged us to think outside of our respective roles. For example, some of my group members had a law background, which is very different from that of my own liberal arts background. I found that my ability to work with nuance and consider ‘grey areas’ was beneficial to my group’s analysis, because I was able to see the connections between the areas that were selected for analysis in the case study.

At the end, my group pledged that we would, “facilitate and/or conduct impact assessments, within the context of each of our roles, of the gender-related commitments taken by our respective entities (academic institutions, our own research, domestic governments, and international organizations). We also put forward a recommendation to the WTO that the Secretariat build a platform for “information sharing, containing policies, financing options, technical assistance, capacity building, research, and programs supporting communities that face gender-based barriers in international trade” to which, representatives from the WTO trade and gender office said that they would be interested in bringing forward in further meetings.

Though I found this experience to be greatly beneficial for my own knowledge of trade policy and processes, it also reinforced just how much work is yet to be done in promoting equal and inclusive trade. I plan to follow my pledge and consider gender in all of my work, even to a greater extent than currently, and I hope to be able to follow up with my fellow delegates and WTO representatives about progress down the line.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BSIA, its students, faculty, staff, or Board of Directors.

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