The ninth annual Virtual Institute study tour for Russian university members, held April 11-15, brought 39 students and lecturers from six(*) universities to Geneva for a training programme on trade-related topics.

The 14-session programme was delivered by experts from UNCTAD and Vi partner organizations, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC). The group also met with Russian representatives of the Permanent Missions to the UN and WTO.

The first two days of the tour were dedicated to UNCTAD’s work on foreign direct investment, technology and innovation, the international financial architecture, industrial policies, commodities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“I really loved the lectures here in UNCTAD,” said one of the participants. “It was a great opportunity to be involved in a circle of well-educated people and students, and be part of the UN for these days.”

On Wednesday, the group visited ITC, where they learned how to use ITC’s market analysis tools Trade Map, Market Access Map and Standards Map. A second session presented ITC’s programme on Non-Tariff Measures.

During Thursday’s session at the WTO, students examined the contents of the Nairobi Package, key issues of regional trade agreements and recent development in trade in services. In the afternoon, students were able to discuss their country’s participation in international organizations in Geneva with Russian Federation representatives.

The highlight of the week came on Friday, when the students took the floor to deliver presentations detailing what they had learned during the week. The activity took the form of a simulation exercise on foreign direct investment, where the students worked in five groups, each representing a ministry in charge of a specific field -- technology, investment, environment etc.

At the end of the presentations, the students received feedback from UNCTAD’s Kalman Kalotay, of the Division on Investment and Enterprise, and Michael Lim, of the Division on Technology and Logistics, who designed and mentored the exercise.

“It was an engaging and challenging exercise but a good experience to coordinate with other people,” one student said. “Their constructive criticism was much appreciated,” added another.

According to the feedback received, the study tour largely exceeded students' expectations.

“I expected a series of lectures at the UN. However, I was incredibly impressed by the lecturers, who were dynamic and engaging,” wrote one of the students. “They encouraged active participation and discussions.  I was very impressed by the truly international environment.”

“Now I have a clear understanding of how international organizations work,” concluded one of the participants. “I improved my communication skills and got to interact with international experts.”

(*) State University Higher School of Economics, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, St. Petersburg State University, Russian Foreign Trade Academy, North West Institute of Management and East-Siberia State University of Technology and Management.