On the 3rd of July 2019, on occasion of the WTO Global Review of Aid for Trade, the WCO organized jointly, together with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the World Bank Group (WBG) and the European Commission, a parallel session on Gender Integration in Aid for Trade Facilitation entitled “Existing tools and lessons learned.” The parallel session was opened by the Minister for Foreign Trade of Sweden, Ms. Ann Linde, who emphasized the importance of integrating gender in Aid for Trade initiatives and called upon international donors to allocate more funding for trade initiatives supporting gender equality. The Minister also highlighted the opportunities generated by the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) to simplify trade flows which is particularly important for SMEs, many of which are women-owned.
The WBG presented research on the links between gender and trade, showing that different barriers hinder women from benefitting from international trade opportunities that men do not face to the same degree. These barriers include lack of information, inconsistency in tariffs and practices on regulation, poor infrastructure at the border, as well as legal discrimination, lack of finance, lack of business networks and time constraints due to household and family care responsibilities. The WBG also highlighted the need to gather more data and the importance of conducting surveys in this area to increase knowledge on this topic. The European Commission shared several concrete examples of how the EU is addressing gender through Aid for Trade initiatives, including supporting women-owned small scale traders, under its updated Aid for Trade Strategy, and the follow-up of the EU Gender Action Plan II. SIDA informed about a new tool on how to integrate gender in Aid for Trade initiatives targeting donor organizations, focusing on data collection and training, as well as their Gender Toolbox. Moreover, SIDA highlighted that 88 % of its development cooperation is gender mainstreamed.
The Commissioner of Customs of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Mr. Dicksons Kateshumbwa, who was also just recently elected as the Chair of the WCO Council, presented the URA’s Women in Trade Facilitation Framework launched in 2018. This initiative started with extensive consultations with women trader groups to better understand their challenges and adapt customs services according to their needs. The URA has also conducted training for women traders on Customs policies and procedures. Moreover, the URA provides storage of goods at no cost and is supporting women small scale traders to become better organized by providing office premises.
The WCO presented its various tools and initiatives to promote gender equality and diversity in Customs, including the recent updates of the Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT), the WCO Virtual Working Group on Gender Equality and Diversity as well as a Blended Training Package composed of a one-week workshop and an e-learning module. The WCO also informed the participants about the recently launched WCO survey on Gender Equality and Diversity which received 95 replies. The WCO thanks the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden as well as Sida for their collaboration in organizing this parallel session and looks forward to continuing its collaboration with WCO Members as well as other international partners to further advance gender equality.
9 July, 2019