A group of 33 students from seven Colombian universities, accompanied by five lecturers, took part in a one-week training programme organized by the Virtual Insitute in Geneva 12-16 November.
After covering trade and development, trade and environment, and non-tariff barriers in the past three years, the universities requested their fourth Vi study tour to focus on South-South cooperation and regional integration, a topic gaining greater importance in light of the prolonged stalemate of the Doha negotiations.
The programme of the tour was designed with support from UNCTAD's Unit for Economic Cooperation and Integration among Developing Countries.
The goal was to go beyond basic trade aspects of South-South cooperation, to analyze the features that make South-South cooperation different from North-South, and to outline policies and measures conducive to optimizing its benefits.
To kick-off the tour, experts from UNCTAD's South-South cooperation unit and the South Centre introduced the opportunities and challenges linked to the phenomenon of the "rising South" and the theoretical and practical aspects of regional integration.
Having laid the ground work, experts took on the analysis of various elements of South-South cooperation, including trade, transfer of technology, foreign direct investment, monetary and financial cooperation, migration and remittances, regional value chains, and transport and trade facilitation. The lectures were delivered by UNCTAD's divisions on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities, and on Technology and Logistics, the South-South cooperation unit, the World Trade Organization and the Graduate Institute.
"I found it really interesting and useful to listen to people with such a high level of expertise explaining different topics related to South-South cooperation. I learned a lot,” commented one of the students.
The discussion then looked at how South-South cooperation worked in the real world, as experts from UNCTAD's divisions on Globalization and Development Strategies and on Africa and the Least Developed Countries joined the South-South cooperation unit in examining the regional cooperation and integration experience of Latin America, Asia and Africa.
"Latin America, despite political difficulties, can aspire to create a region where it is not competition, but cooperation, which prevails,” said one of the students “To advance as a region, we need to start from ourselves, by developing a vision of cooperation and not individual benefits. We need to exploit the potential we have both in the private and the public sector in our countries.”
As in previous years, students had the opportunity of meeting with the ambassador and the deputy permanent representative of their country's mission to the WTO. This meeting provided a much appreciated link between the global and regional issues covered by the tour and the specific situation of Colombia.
To allow a practical application of their newly acquired knowledge, the students formed groups to develop positions on specific questions related to different areas of South-South cooperation, and presented their conclusions and recommendations on the final day of the tour.
The feedback provided in study tour evaluation questionnaires indicates that the tour largely exceeded students' expectations and motivated a number of them to focus on international trade in their future careers.
"The level of inspiration and information this study tour gave has helped me to orientate my professional future. Due to this tour, I found exactly what I needed to continue my studies," wrote one participant.
"This tour MUST continue. It is the best opportunity to learn I have had so far," added another.
"The first and most important thing (I leaned) is that if you go abroad, you should come back to your country with the knowledge you acquire,” said another student. *That is because the development of your country is in our hands – no one else can do anything..”