A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


The seventh Virtual Institute study tour for Colombian member universities provided 15 students and lecturers with a one-week training programme on trade and development issues November 16-20. The group included participants from three Vi member universities, Universidad EAFIT, Universidad de la Sabana and Universidad ICESI.

The students took part in 15 sessions covering the latest trends in the world economy, as well as foreign direct investment (FDI), science and technology, climate change, industrial policies, the 2030 agenda for development, and international trade negotiations. The presentations were delivered by experts from UNCTAD divisions and from Vi partner organizations, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“I loved that the study tour was very interactive and all of the presenters were very open to our questions and willing to share their knowledge with us,” said one participant.

On Monday, the students met and discussed the work of the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the UN with Ambassador Beatriz Londoño. Ambassador Londoño emphasized that it is important to know how to negotiate the issues that matter to their country in fora taking place at international organizations.

“Meeting the ambassador gave us perspective on how important the topics of the study tour are at the national level,” mentioned one of the participants.

The students also heard about UNCTAD’s work on enterprise development as part of productive capacity building during the presentation on FDI by Kalman Kalotay, of the Division on Investment and Enterprise.

“FDI is not an aim in itself but a tool to attain competitiveness and welfare, and the countries’ national FDI strategy should always be aligned with general development goals,” Kalotay said.

“I learned how important entrepreneurship is, since it is the basis of economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction,” said one student.

Tuesday’s presentations focused on the post-2015 agenda, when Rolf Traeger, of UNCTAD’s Division on Africa and the Least Developed Countries discussed the sustainable development goals, and Robert Hamwey, of the Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities outlined current efforts to stop climate change and their potential impact.

“COP21 in Paris will produce an agreement on national pledges to cut emissions from all sectors, mainly through increased use of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency, but these pledges are not legally binding,” Hamwey explained.

On Wednesday, the students visited WTO, where they learned about the current state of trade negotiations and the Bali package, as well as the impact of the WTO and regional agreements on Latin America.

On Thursday morning, it was the turn of the ITC experts to introduce the students to their programme on Non-Tariff Measures and trade for sustainable development. Students also received hands-on training on ITC’s tools, Trade Map, Market Access Map and Standards Map.

In the afternoon, the students met with Ambassador Gabriel Duque and Deputy Permanent Representative Alfredo Ramos, of the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the WTO, who gave further examples of Colombia’s participation in international organizations and multilateral trade negotiations. 

“It was interesting to learn about different areas of trade and development and to compare them with the situation in Colombia and our country's position in the rest of the world,” a student said.

The week concluded with a simulation exercise on FDI, in which the students took on the roles of ministries of a fictional country and presented their investment advice to the president in small groups. In the exercise, the students were able to apply the knowledge they had acquired during the week.

“The simulation exercise was a rewarding experience as it mirrored a real-life situation, and the discussions that followed were extremely useful to us,”said a participant.

The feedback students provided was very positive, as the majority found that the study tour provided them with a lot of new knowledge and motivation for their studies related to trade and development.

“The study tour went beyond my expectations, I am very grateful for the experience to be here with experts and to discuss diverse topics and UNCTAD’s work,”wrote one participant.

“The most important findings that I am taking home are that no country can progress without collaborating with other nations, that all areas of economics, politics and social sphere are linked together and that there is so much happening in the world that we are not aware of,” concluded another.