A virtual ceremony took place on December 7, 2021, to mark the conclusion of three 2021 internship programmes as well as this year’s programme for young professionals from developing and least-developed countries. A total of 39 government officials and 14 young professionals from across the world took part in the programmes, benefiting from the opportunity to develop their expertise on various aspects of trade and the work of the WTO.
The programmes, which formally conclude on 17 December, are the Netherlands Trainee Programme (NTP), the French-Irish Mission Intern Programme (FIMIP), the Regional Coordinator Internship (RCI) Programme and the Young Professionals Programme. To date, over 580 officials and young professionals have taken part in these programmes, representing more than 100 countries.
In bidding farewell to the participants, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala commended the interns and the young professionals for their active engagement in the work of the WTO despite the challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Your presence has been very valuable to the WTO Secretariat,” she said. “Your perspectives and experiences have helped to enrich the Secretariat’s work, where inclusivity and diversity are at the core of our activities.”
“I am confident that like past alumni of these programmes, you will put the expertise and knowledge that you acquired here to good use, either in helping your governments engage in the WTO and benefit from the global trading system, or in helping the private sector engage more effectively in global trade.”
This year, the participants had the opportunity to be involved in the preparatory work for the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference, which had to be postponed because of the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 – “another reflection of the unprecedented times in which you have been working here,” DG Okonjo-Iweala noted.
Trainees came from all continents, with an emphasis on Sub Saharan Africa, least developed countries (LDCs), small, vulnerable economies (SVEs), countries with small missions in Geneva, as well as acceding and recently acceded countries. The young professionals also drew from a wide range of developing and least developed countries — particularly from WTO members that are under-represented at the professional level in the WTO Secretariat.
The NTP, funded by the government of the Netherlands, aims to assist LDCs, low‑income countries and SVEs in areas of trade policy related to economic and social development. A total of 15 government officials worked in various divisions of the WTO Secretariat in 2021. More than 200 public officials from developing countries have taken part in the programme over the past 15 years.
“I warmly congratulate this year’s trainees for concluding the programme, despite these challenging times, the Netherlands’ WTO ambassador Paul Bekkers said. “With this programme, the trainees deepened their understanding of trade rules and obtained profound knowledge of multilateral cooperation. This will enable them to promote sustainable economic development back home and to fully benefit from WTO membership.”
The objective of the FIMIP programme sponsored by France and Ireland is similar to the aims of the NTP, but interns work in their respective permanent missions in Geneva and have the opportunity to represent their countries at WTO meetings. Priority is given to missions of LDCs and SVEs. This year’s programme involved 20 government officials, and 235 interns have participated in it since its inception.
France’s Permanent Representative to the WTO, Etienne Oudot de Dainville, said: “Trade multilateralism only works when it is inclusive and for the benefit of all stakeholders. The French and Irish Mission Internship Programme (FIMIP) actively contributes to the inclusiveness of the WTO, by improving the institutional capacity of beneficiary countries. Its objective is to enable delegations in Geneva to actively participate in WTO negotiations, mobilize their capital and thus better defend their offensive and defensive interests in these negotiations.”
Ireland’s Ambassador to the WTO, Michael Gaffey, praised the commitment and resilience of the officials who had successfully completed their internship during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He said: “Ireland is committed to strengthening the participation of LDCs and small, vulnerable economies in the work of the WTO. Our support for the Mission Internship Programme promotes this both in Geneva and in capitals as officials return home with increased knowledge and a network of contacts.”
Interns for the RCI Programme are nominated by WTO members that coordinate regional groups in the WTO and chosen by a selection committee. Funded by the WTO Global Trust Fund, the programme allows the beneficiaries to work directly with the permanent missions in charge of regional coordination. Six interns participated in this year’s programme.
Launched in 2016, the Young Professionals Programme provides an opportunity for qualified young professionals from developing and LDC members of the WTO to enhance their knowledge regarding the WTO and international trade issues. The programme aims to attract professionals from under-represented countries who can consequently improve their chances of being recruited by the WTO and/or other regional and international organizations.
The selected young professionals are allocated to a specific division of the WTO Secretariat for one year in accordance with the needs and priorities of the organization and based on the areas of interest of the young professional. Fourteen professionals were chosen from more than 2,400 candidates to take part in this year’s programme, which is funded by the WTO Global Trust Fund.
In their own words — reflections on their experience
The Netherlands Trainee Programme
“The internship programme was a very good learning experience for me despite the unique and challenging situation. The various meetings, webinars, research, training and other activities provided me with a broad knowledge base and understanding of the functions of the WTO and the multilateral trading system in general. My attachments with the EIF and the LDC Unit were particularly noteworthy and useful, given the current status and relevance to my country. Furthermore, the opportunity to work and share knowledge and experiences with other fellow interns broadened my outlook and enabled me to learn about new ideas and solutions.” – Dechen Zam (Bhutan)
The French-Irish Mission Intern Programme
“In addition to the optimal facilities and conditions made available to us, the internship programme has been an extraordinary experience for me as a young professional from the Senegalese Trade Administration in charge of international trade policy issues. The programme has enabled me not only to enhance my knowledge and expertise in respect of the multilateral trading system and trade policy analysis and formulation, but also to support the Permanent Mission of Senegal within the context of the WTO’s day-to-day work. I have also had the opportunity to network with interns from other countries and WTO staff, contacts that will serve us later on in the interest of the multilateral trading system.” – Chérif Younouss Souaré Diallo (Sénégal)
The Regional Coordinator Internship
“The WTO RCI programme has provided me with the unique opportunity to deeply understand the multilateral trading system through active participation in regular body meetings and negotiating groups special sessions. By being attached to the Permanent Delegation of the Pacific Islands Forum to WTO, I have had the privilege to support the collective interests of my fellow Pacific Islanders, whilst also facilitating my country’s implementation of WTO obligations and advancing its negotiating priorities. I am now looking forward to continuing utilising the skills and knowledge gained during the past six months to assist my country and its participation in the WTO” – Lonnie Tuatagaloa (Samoa)
The Young Professionals Programme
“The YPP has provided me with the opportunity to contribute to a wide realm of work areas, from technical assistance activities developed by the Secretariat to work in ongoing transparency related efforts as well as various workshops and thematic sessions carried out throughout the year. The programme has also given me the opportunity to explore other areas of interest and contribute to the efforts of the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) in trade facilitation.” – Carmina Báez (Dominican Republic)
Through the YPP, I have obtained invaluable understanding of the importance of accountability through a Results Based Management system. I have also gained insight into the different trade related issues, including WTO Agreements that my country is signatory to. As someone who comes from a developing country, I am confident that the knowledge and skills I have accumulated will be beneficial to me individually and to my country in the future .” – Mkhosi Bandile Mdluli (Eswatini)
“My year as a YP was challenging but extremely valuable professional experience. I really enjoyed being a part of the organisation that makes a difference to people’s lives around the globe. I also enjoyed the possibility to observe how the international trade agenda is changing. I consider my time at the WTO has been an “eye opening” experience that constitutes a solid milestone for my career path.” – Nana Ramazashvili (Georgia)
“As the first Guatemalan ever to be selected for the YPP, I had an incredible honour to represent my home country at the Secretariat. I was pleased that I helped the Secretariat and its Economic Research and Statistics Division to deliver two milestones: the World Trade Report 2021 and the trade4MSMEs.org website. I had enormous pleasure working with high calibre economists, statisticians, trade policy specialists and lawyers during my tenure at the Secretariat” – Sergio Martinez Cotto (Guatemala)
“Overall, I was satisfied with the opportunity to work with the Trade Monitoring Section through the YPP. The programme provides me with first-hand experience in one of the transparency exercises in the WTO (and) allowed me to enhance my skills on research, analysis, and writing. The relations with colleagues and supervisors, the working environment, and the teamwork are precious experiences that helped me to grow personally and professionally.” – Oscar Fernando (Indonesia)
“Joining the programme, I had many expectations and was enthusiastic to contribute towards the work of the Trade Policies Review Division, specifically in the Trade Policies Review Section. I am glad to say, upon completing my year at the WTO, that the programme has lived up to my expectation, proving to be an enriching experience that has strengthened many of my skill sets and allowed me to further appreciate the transparency mechanism of the WTO.” – Sangwani Mkandawire (Malawi）
“I got a chance to network with other WTO staff, government officials from member states, and representatives from other international organizations. I learned how international organizations plan and implement, create awareness of their activities, and understand how the multilateral trading system operates. I had a great experience throughout the programme, and I am empowered and motivated to continue working in a trade-related field.” — Monika Shifotoka (Namibia)
“My journey as a Young Professional is close to reaching its end. However, my journey in the international arena has just started. Trade is part of the solution to climate change and many other challenges we are facing worldwide. Trade measures can expedite or slow down supply chains, and this is where all of us play a key role to ensure that our countries are using the multilateral system appropriately to jointly achieve sustainable development.” — Marisol Dar Ali (Nicaragua)
“Working on negotiations on the TRIPS waiver and compulsory licensing proposals gave me an unparalleled experience to observe first-hand how different countries collaborate to find a pragmatic solution in response to the pandemic. Overall, I can honestly attest that this is a very successful programme, and this is particularly commendable during these difficult times.” – Ting-Wei Chiang (Chinese Taipei).