Selected from over 5,500 applicants, the WTO Young Professionals (YPs) come from developing economies and least developed countries (LDCs), especially WTO members that are under-represented at the professional level within the WTO Secretariat. The programme, launched in 2016, is a springboard for increasing diversity and broadening WTO membership representation, while building trade expertise among young people.
In her welcoming remarks, DG Okonjo-Iweala congratulated the Young Professionals for succeeding in a highly competitive recruitment process. She stressed the significance of their arrival at an important time for the organization, as it gears up for the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) to be held in Abu Dhabi on 26-29 February. She also thanked the Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC) for the work done in selecting the group.
“In addition to beating out the tough competition, all twenty of you have something else in common, for each one of you is from an underrepresented member. And that is also another source of pride because there is no reason why any member of this organization should not at one time or the other have some representation,” she said.
DG Okonjo-Iweala told the YPs they should be “enormously proud” and hoped their year at the organization will contribute to building their WTO-related knowledge and skills. “The skills you take with you at the end of this year will be particularly valuable for you personally, your future endeavours and for your home countries. But it is beyond that we also need your skills. It is a two-way trade. It is not just about you learning, it is about us learning from you.”
Speaking on behalf of the YPs, Samah Issa Al Rawahi from Oman, said: “Our dedication to this endeavour is further fuelled by the recognition that the Young Professionals Programme is not just a capacity-building initiative but also an opportunity for us to leverage our accumulated experience and knowledge. We are eager to contribute to emerging trade topics such as digital trade, climate change, environmental sustainability, and the needs of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), thereby supporting the existing work of the WTO.”
“We stand resolute in our commitment to tirelessly work towards the WTO’s goals, unified in our belief that together, we can shape a world where trade becomes a powerful force for positive change,” she added. Here full remarks are available here.
During their first weeks at the Secretariat, YPs have benefited from a tailored, intensive and enriched induction programme designed to give them a global perspective on the work of the WTO. This year, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Senegal, Seychelles and Tanzania are represented for the first time among the participants in the Young Professionals Programme.
What the participants expect from the programme
“The Young Professionals Programme is a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth within the dynamic and evolving landscape of international trade. Being a part of the Information and External Relations Division, I am looking forward to applying my skills to communicate information about the WTO’s work, while embracing the chance to learn from my colleagues. At the same time, I am eager to deepen my understanding of various trade-related areas, with a specific focus on trade and environment, as well as trade and development.” Gaiane Arutiunian (Armenia)
“To ensure an equitable multilateral trading system, WTO members are committed to a periodic review of their national trade policy. It is a real honour for me to join this process of policy review as a Young Professional in the Trade Policies Review Division as its work is about impact through sound analysis that is useful to members. I look forward to strengthening my skills in trade policy analysis during the programme and putting them to good use in my career.” Bouraima Sawadogo (Burkina Faso)
“My ultimate aspiration as a WTO YP is to make a positive impact on international trade by promoting fair and transparent trade practices that benefit all countries. I believe that by implementing effective trade policies and adhering to international trade rules, countries can harness the benefits of trade to accelerate their economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve the livelihoods of their citizens. I am committed to working towards a more equitable and sustainable global trade system that empowers all countries.” Tambi Arrey Emmanuel Besong (Cameroon)
“Coming from Latin America, it is a tremendous honour to join the WTO as a Young Professional at such a pivotal moment in its history. Joining the Economic Research and Statistics Division will bring me the privilege of further immersing myself in the important work undertaken here and contributing to relevant issues such as digital trade, foreign investment, technology transfer, productive policies, and the transformative opportunities they hold for global trade.” Nicolás Grimblatt Riquelme (Chile)
“I look forward to the year ahead with the Trade and Environment Division as I continue to deepen my expertise in climate economics, and the range of economic tools that enable a just and resilient climate transition. The Young Professionals Programme provides me with a valued opportunity to learn and contribute to the way the WTO leverages its unique multilateral position and strengthens the role of trade and finance in advancing global net zero ambitions.” Meng-Lian Li (Chinese Taipei)
“I am humbled to join the Trade Policy Review Division as part of this year’s cohort. Over the course of the year, I hope to deepen my skill set in trade policy analysis and broaden my understanding of the multilateral trading system, as well as leverage my expertise to contribute to the WTO’s cause of fostering a better understanding of members’ trade policies and practices to enhance transparency for inclusive growth.”Gifty Akua Botwe (Ghana)
“The future of trade is digital, green and inclusive. Indeed, the current state of the international political economy further emphasizes the necessity of incorporating these dimensions into current and future negotiations. As a Young Professional, with the privilege of working in the Office of the Director-General, I hope to contextualize the important role the WTO, and trade, can play to facilitate this transformation.” Diana Arjune (Guyana)
“I am honoured to be joining the Legal Affairs Division (LAD). I am looking forward to gaining insights on how the WTO dispute settlement system works, in terms of procedures, all while remaining cognizant of the challenges it’s facing at the moment. I am also looking forward to meaningfully contributing to the division’s work in its role in contributing towards safeguarding the predictability and security of the whole multilateral trading system.” Annabel Nanjira (Kenya)
I am excited to join the WTO’s Intellectual Property, Government Procurement and Competition Division. I believe this endeavour will afford me the opportunity to attain an in-depth understanding of the work of the WTO in promoting transparency, integrity and competition in the government procurement market. I also hope to contribute to the WTO’s work of providing technical assistance on the interaction between trade and competition policy.” Lozindaba Mbvundula (Malawi)
“Coming from Montenegro, one of the last countries to become a member of the WTO, the YPP builds capacities in relation to the post-accession process by sharing invaluable lessons learned. These insights are beneficial not only to the WTO but also to my home country. The programme also offers me a chance to support the accession processes of my neighbouring countries and contribute to the valorization of existing and forthcoming international trade initiatives.” Danilo Đikanović (Montenegro)
“I am honored to be part of the Trade Cost Analysis team in the Economic Research and Statistics Division (ERSD) and to contribute to the drafting of the 2024 World Trade Report. I believe these experiences will provide me with a holistic view of the role of international trade in promoting economic growth and reducing inequality. Furthermore, the current challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving geo-political tensions make this work even more crucial and relevant.” Uzochukwu Alutu (Nigeria)
“Joining the Council and Trade Negotiations Committee Division as a YP means being included in the work of the highest decision-making bodies of the WTO. It is indeed a privilege as one gets to understand the mechanics of the organization and the way decisions are brought forward. In light of the upcoming MC13, I am eager to learn and contribute to the Division in its mission to ensure a smooth and efficient Ministerial Conference.” Iljir Baftijari (North Macedonia)
“Honoured to be part of the 2024 cohort of the WTO Young Professionals Programme, representing Oman and the broader Middle East region. As I embark on this journey and join the Information and External Relations Division, my goal is to enhance my communication skills through media engagement and public relations while deepening my understanding of international trade, the multilateral trading system, and the diverse areas of work within the WTO.” Samah Issa Al Rawahi (Oman)
“The Young Professionals Programme provides a unique opportunity for me to enhance my knowledge of the WTO and to immerse myself in the discussions that ensure our global trading system is fair and equitable for all. I am very excited to contribute to the work of the Office of the Director-General, especially in implementing key outcomes of MC13, and collaborating with other divisions to get in-depth knowledge of certain trade topics.” Osama Moeed Nawab (Pakistan)
“With MC13 on the horizon, there is no better time to join the WTO. The imminent challenges underscore the necessity for collaborative efforts and the exchange of insights to comprehensively address global issues. I look forward to deepening my understanding of global agricultural issues with the Agriculture and Commodities Division. I am confident that my engagement within the programme will equip me with the skills and perspectives necessary to make meaningful contributions in this critical field.” Thierno Bocar Diop (Senegal)
“As a doctoral researcher in international economic law from a small island developing African country, I am deeply honoured to be part of the YP cohort for 2024 among extremely intelligent and accomplished peers. I am particularly keen to learn from my colleagues, to develop my skills in legal practice and knowledge transfer, and to provide valuable support to the Legal Affairs Division and the WTO by extension.”Cheryl Dine (Seychelles)
“I am genuinely excited and grateful to be joining the Trade in Services and Investment Division for the duration of the Programme. I see my TISD colleagues as a veritable treasure trove of unparalleled institutional and technical knowledge on services trade and investment, which I hope to tap into as extensively as possible in my pursuit of becoming an international expert on digital trade and e-commerce.” Alex Beyleveld (South Africa)
“During my stay in the Market Access Division, I aim to enhance my expertise in tariff and non-tariff measures, with a specific focus on understanding why the business community, especially in developing countries, underutilizes trade concessions provided on a most-favoured-nation (MFN) basis and those in preferential trade arrangements. I am eager to explore the role and efforts taken by the WTO to address this issue.” Philipo Michael (Tanzania)
“As a Young Professional in the Rules Division, I seek to reinforce my expertise on trade remedies from an international perspective as well as to broaden my understanding of various aspects of the intricate multilateral trading system as we navigate through unprecedented difficulties in international cooperation and globalisation. 2024 shall undoubtedly be an unforgettable milestone in my life and career thanks to the WTO Young Professionals Programme.” Nguyen Thi Phuong Trang (Viet Nam)
“I am eager to absorb the wealth of knowledge and expertise within the WTO and learn how LDCs such as Zambia can leverage WTO agreements to develop and integrate fully into the global trading environment. I will benefit from the experience and exposure of the diverse perspectives of my colleagues in the Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation Division. I am confident that this experience is undoubtedly a milestone that will catapult my career to new heights.” Yande Mwenda (Zambia)