Seventeen universities from least-developed and developing country members have been selected as new members of the WTO's Chairs Programme, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced at a meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development on 10 November. She warmly welcomed these new participants and highlighted the importance of the Chairs Programme in enhancing knowledge and understanding of the international trading system among academics and policy makers in beneficiary countries.
DG Okonjo-Iweala also announced the intention to admit institutions more frequently to the WTO Chairs Programme on a rolling basis in the future. "Having looked closely into the existing structure of the Programme, I believe there is greater benefit to be had if we are to admit a smaller number of candidates more frequently, rather than a larger number in intervals of four years like in the past. This will allow us to make the programme even more representational, enhance its visibility and generate more momentum in the Chairs network and with members," she said.
Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang praised the achievements of the programme. He said: "For a decade, WTO Chairs have produced a significant amount of relevant research outputs and study programmes. On many occasions, they have provided evidence-based and applied research to policy makers and stakeholders to support trade policy formulation. This shows that the Programme has been fruitful and has long-term sustainability."
Ambassador Muhammad Mujtaba Piracha, the Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development, said: "The Chairs Programme offers a platform for training new generations of trade experts, generating new ideas, insights and innovative responses to challenges facing our members. When members have evidence-based research, facts, figures and advice at their disposal, this promotes economically and legally sound policy choices in beneficiary countries."
The WTO Chairs Programme was launched in 2010 as a capacity-building programme to improve knowledge and understanding of the multilateral trading system through the Chairs' teaching, research and outreach activities in developing and least-developed country members. An independent external evaluation in 2019 by SAANA Consulting showed that the Chairs Programme has played a unique role in generating trade expertise and providing policy advice to governments and other stakeholders in the regions.
The 17 new participants were selected from a total of 126 applications from academic institutions from 54 WTO members following a rigorous selection process led by the Chairs Programme Academic Advisory Board. Special attention was paid to selecting institutions from regions that were previously under-represented by the Programme and from least-developed countries. The 17 new members will join the Chairs Programme network, which will now consist of 36 universities. The expanded Chairs Programme network will strengthen the opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration between universities, and outreach activities with policy makers.
The 17 selected institutions are:
For more information, please visit the website of the WTO Chairs Programme.