Trade and Gender: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries

Trade and Gender: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries

Trade and Gender: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries

Trade and Gender: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries

Synopsis

Equal rights between men and women are enshrined as a fundamental human right in the UN Charter, and reflected in various internationally agreed instruments, such as the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Although there has been notable progress in some areas, in most nations women are still at a disadvantage in terms of their role and position in the economic and political arenas. This publication examines the gender dimension of trade and seeks to identify policy challenges and responses to promote gender equality in light of increasing globalisation. Issues discussed include: economics of gender equality, international trade and development; multilateral negotiations on agriculture in developing countries; gender-related issues in the textiles and clothing sectors; international trade in services; gender and the TRIPS Agreement; the impact of WTO rules on gender equality; human rights aspects; fair trade initiatives; the role of IT in promoting gender equality, the Gender Trade Impact Assessment and trade reform.

Excerpt

Few causes have been as persistently advocated in the history of the United Nations as that of gender equality. Equal rights between men and women are enshrined as a fundamental human right in the UN Charter, and many international conferences have been held to further that goal. The outcomes of these conferences have been reflected in various internationally agreed instruments, the most important of which are the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Notable progress has been achieved in some areas. Women’s participation in the labour force has increased in most regions of the world; women’s education, at the primary, secondary and university levels, has also improved significantly; and there are signs of a narrowing of the wage gap between men and women in many countries (most of them industrialized). However, in most nations women are still at a disadvantage in terms of their role and position in the economic and political arenas.

Against this background, the forces of globalization, of which international trade is one of the most important channels, may bring additional challenges and opportunities. Questions arise as to how the costs and benefits of trade can be evenly distributed by gender, and whether trade rules and policies deepen, or, on the contrary, reduce existing gender inequalities. There is therefore a need to assess the impact of trade on gender equality in order to assist countries in designing appropriate strategies and policies to support the objective of gender equality in the context of an open multilateral trading system.

It was with the dual objectives of deepening the understanding of the gender dimension of trade and identifying policy challenges and responses to meet the goal of gender equality that, in February 2003, the UN InterAgency Network on Women and Gender Equality created a task force on gender and trade, of which UNCTAD was designated task manager. The Task Force comprises UN agencies and regional commissions, the World Bank, WTO, OECD and the Commonwealth secretariat.

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