A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


Researchers investigating the impact of trade on poverty in their countries presented their work in progress during a workshop organized by the Virtual Institute June 26-28 in Geneva.

Part of the second phase of the Vi project co-funded by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Government of Finland, the workshop gathered top graduates of the online course on trade and poverty – the centerpiece of the first phase of the project -- held last year.

Representing 13 countries, the 14 researchers were awarded financial support and subject-matter mentoring to work in tandem with national policymakers in the development of policy-relevant research analyzing the effect of trade policy on household welfare in their countries.

As the research reaches the midway point, the workshop was an opportunity to receive feedback from their peers and international experts, and to meet with their assigned mentors, drawn from UNCTAD, the WTO, and the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET). It was also an opportunity for representatives from Permanent Missions in Geneva to get a preview of the work, as delegates from Argentina, China, Kenya, Myanmar, Peru, the Philippines and Viet Nam made a point to attend some or all of the sessions.

“The workshop was very useful to sharpen my ideas for the completion of the paper on time,” said Beninese Didier Yelognisse Alia, whose mentor is Claudia Trentini, of UNCTAD’s Division on Investment and Enterprise. “Discussion with experts, mentors and my peers will speed up my work after this workshop. I am very confident about my ability to complete the project, and to do rigorous research in the area of trade and poverty with policy relevance afterwards.”

The first session, chaired by mentor, Amelia Santos-Paulino, of UNCTAD’s Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, discussed research focusing on wheat and corn tariffs in Peru, the economic partnership agreement in Kenya and export restrictions on wheat and maize in Argentina.

“I really enjoyed the presentations (…) and meeting in person the mentor and organizers,” said Paula Calvo, of Argentina’s Universidad de San Andrés, mentored by Marco Fugazza, of UNCTAD’s Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities (DITC). “(…) I still have to solve important issues. However, I now have a much clearer scenario of the future steps I need to take in my investigation.”

The second session, chaired by mentor and online course co-author, Nicolás Depetris Chauvin, of ACET, introduced the work of Chinese and Costa Rican researchers investigating the impact of renminbi appreciation and rice trade policy regime on their countries’ poor.

“It was really a great opportunity to present my work in this workshop,” said Dahai Fu, of Beijing’s Central University of Finance and Economics. “I have not only benefited a lot from the comments from my mentor (Depetris Chauvin) and other participants, but also have learned a lot from the others’ studies, in particular with regard to the methodologies and data issues. It also gave me confidence on this topic. I know now how to improve and finalize my paper.”

During the Thursday morning session, chaired by DITC’s Alessandro Nicita, researchers from Viet Nam, Argentina and Benin presented preliminary findings of their research related to policies linked to rice and cotton pricing, and environmental products.

“I feel well and confident to finish my paper after talking with my mentor (Nicita), and will think about the aspects that can be improved in this work in progress,” said Argentinian Maria Priscila Ramos, of Universidad Argentina de la Empresa. “Mainly I have to better describe the background and better sell the results to highlight the policy implications from them.”

Day two concluded with presentations by researchers from Myanmar and the Philippines working on agricultural trade and the 2008 rice crisis, in a session chaired by WTO’s Marion Jansen.

“It was good to see and gauge the level of rigour that is expected from the participants,” said George Manzano, of the Philippines’ University of Asia and the Pacific. “Getting ideas from the experiences and difficulties of other researchers was very important.”

The last day began with a session chaired by Fugazza, where presenters from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo reported on their ongoing research into agricultural subsidies and liberalization, and external tariffs.

“The comments I got shall be useful in preparing the final draft of the research while colleagues’ areas of research gave me insight on the research to be done in the near future,” said Olayinka Idowu Kareem, of Nigeria’s University of Agriculture, mentored by Piergiuseppe Fortunato, of UNCTAD’s Division on Globalization and Development Strategies. “The workshop also provided a platform for future collaboration and networking.”

The last session of the workshop looked at work on non-tariff measures by Mauritian researcher, Taruna Ramessur, and featured a lecture on writing policy briefs and communicating with policymakers delivered by mentor and session chair, Rashmi Banga, of UNCTAD’s Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes.

“I think this session was a definite asset to the workshop as it tried to bridge the gap between policymakers and researchers,” commented one of the participants. “I have learned how to write a good policy brief and understood how the policymakers think,” added another. “I have also learned how to talk with them and present the research outcomes in an appropriate way.”

Armed with a roadmap to complete their papers, the researchers will continue to benefit from e-mentoring as they complete first drafts due in September.