The sixth Virtual Institute study tour for Colombian member universities gathered 29 students and five lecturers from six Colombian universities(*) in Geneva November 17-21 for a one-week training programme on trade and development issues.
During their stay, the students participated in 14 sessions covering development and industrial policies; foreign direct investment; science and technology; the world economy; and international trade negotiations. The presentations were delivered by experts from UNCTAD's divisions on Globalization and Development Strategies, Technology and Logistics, Investment and Enterprise, and Africa and the Least Developed Countries. In addition, the students had the opportunity to visit the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“All meetings that I attended were of extremely high-level and the topics of the presentations will be really useful for my academic life,” said one participant.
“I learned that trade, development and foreign policy are three areas with a lot of linkages and that coherence among them provides the basis for good governance,” added a student. “I also learned that foreign trade provides immense opportunities for countries and enterprises in the developing world.”
During the session at WTO, the students learned about the Bali package, Colombia’s trade policy review and the impact of the WTO and regional agreements on Latin America. The session was followed by a half- day hands-on training at ITC on trade and market analysis tools, and a lecture covering non-tariff measures.
“I found the ITC’s tools for market research important in order to improve entrepreneurship in Colombia,” mentioned a participant.
The students also had the opportunity to meet with both ambassadors of their country's permanent missions, Juan José Quintana (UN) and Gabriel Duque (WTO), to discuss Colombia’s participation in multilateral organizations and global trade negotiations.
The programme also included a simulation exercise on FDI, in which the students took on the roles of ministries of a fictional country offering investment advice to the president. On the last day, the students applied their acquired knowledge by delivering speeches they had prepared in small groups based on the material they had received during the week.
“The simulation exercise was very constructive, it made us realize the importance of collaboration amongst the group as well as with other students,” stated one of the students. “This exercise will be extremely useful in our future projects,” added another.
According to the feedback students provided, the tour has largely exceeded students' expectations in terms of its learning outcome, and provided them with a lot of new knowledge and motivation for their studies related to development. Furthermore, several of the students mentioned that the experience strengthened their wish to work for international organizations upon finishing their studies.
“My expectations were exceeded, now I know more about the UN organizations and I really believe this will be useful for my professional career,” wrote one participant.
Another added that “the study tour is a great way to encourage students to consider working for these organizations. It gives us the opportunity to understand some of the problems in our country and find solutions to them while visiting a new country, culture and making new friends.”
“By offering us this training, you UNCTAD are helping us to close geographical and social gaps in us participants, and therefore you’re helping us in strengthening the social tissue of our country, and this – I’m sure – will have important effects in our societies when we get back home,” concluded another participant.
* Universidad EAN, Universidad Javeriana, Universidad EAFIT, Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Universidad de la Sabana, Universidad ICESI