WTO Report Notes Increasingly Positive Impact of Technical Assistance Activities

·         The TA success rate in 2023 reached 79%, marking a return to the performance level of the last three pre-pandemic years. This improvement in results was accompanied by an overall increase in the volume of activities and participation, with 16,095 participants trained in 301 activities. In 2023, WTO TA also maintained its efforts to integrate new technologies into the delivery of its activities and to transform its pedagogical approaches. This report highlights the achievements, efforts and challenges of TA during the year, mindful that the efforts and impact of technical assistance are best assessed over the long term and with a bird's eye view.

WTO TA Annual Report 2023

[ABS News Service/07.06.2024]

The WTO’s Annual Report on Technical Assistance, released on 6 June, reveals a strong rebound in technical assistance and capacity-building activities in 2023 following three years of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital technologies are increasingly being integrated into these activities while teaching methods are regularly adapted to enhance the effectiveness of the activities in improving the trade know-how of government officials from developing economies.

Over 16,000 beneficiaries participated in just over 300 technical assistance activities in 2023, marking a 32 per cent increase in participation and a 24 per cent rise in activities compared to 2022. Although the number of participants has not yet fully returned to pre-pandemic levels, participants from least-developed countries (LDCs) - a key technical assistance target group - increased by 40 per cent compared to 2022. Requests for national activities soared by 60 per cent following record lows during the 2020-22 period.

"More than just a year of recovery, 2023 witnessed the first visible signs of sustainable transformation in the delivery of technical assistance activities", WTO Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang said in the foreword. "The constraints of the last few years and their associated effects have pushed us in a forced march towards reinventing our practices and curriculum. Donors should be congratulated for their generous contributions throughout these difficult times."

The report notes a significant increase in the effectiveness of the activities in helping beneficiaries expand their skillset. Close to 80 per cent of targets were fully or partially met, the highest rate in over five years according to the WTO Results-Based Management assessment. An improvement was noted in members' ability to formulate trade policies, bring their laws in compliance with WTO rules, participate in trade negotiations and implement international trade agreements. A combination of face-to-face courses, e-learning and virtual training has increasingly been integrated into these activities. Growing emphasis was given to simulations of WTO practical cases, participation in Committee meetings, coaching of participants and development of action plans to put into practice the skills developed throughout the programmes.

A series of regional workshops were organized to support the ratification of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies and the second wave of fisheries negotiations. Training programmes were also better tailored to the needs of Geneva-based government officials to help them conduct their work and more emphasis was given to helping WTO members comply with their notification obligations under WTO agreements.

WTO technical assistance is traditionally financed through a combination of funding from the WTO Secretariat's regular budget and voluntary contributions from WTO members to Trust Funds. In 2023, the regular technical assistance budget remained at CHF 4.4 million. A total of CHF 6.3 million in voluntary contributions was received from nine donors, most of which was earmarked for specific programmes (certain internship programmes, support to least-developed countries, the WTO Chairs Programme), while resources for other technical assistance activities have declined. Due to resources carried over from the COVID-19 pandemic period, the WTO spent CHF 15 million in technical assistance in 2023. However, more contributions from members for general technical assistance activities is required in the long run.

Background

A core function of the WTO, technical assistance and capacity-building activities seek to enhance professional and institutional trade capacities in developing and least-developed WTO members and observer governments. They provide beneficiaries with enhanced know-how to take full advantage of the opportunities from the rules-based multilateral trading system and address potential challenges. Within the WTO Secretariat, the Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation oversees these activities.