Women’s Rights Groups call on Governments to Reject the WTO Declaration on “Women’s Economic Empowerment”

Women’s Rights Groups call on Governments to Reject the WTO Declaration on “Women’s Economic Empowerment”

Dec 17, 2017

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA— More than 160 women’s rights and allied organizations sent an urgent letter to WTO member governments, calling state parties to the World Trade Organisation to refrain from adopting the proposed “Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment”. They argue that the proposed Declaration fails to address the adverse impact of WTO rules on women and instead appears to be designed to mask the failures of the WTO and its role in deepening inequality and exploitation.

Kate Lappin, Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development said, “Women’s rights organisations from all continents have rejected this declaration as simply a ‘pink herring’ designed to distract attention from the harm the WTO does. If there was genuine interest in women’s human rights governments would change the rules of international trade that currently drive down women’s wages, displace women from their land, privatise public goods to enrich multinational corporations. We are sick of gender equality being used as a cynical ploy to justify neoliberalism.”

Vandana Shiva, Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate from Navdanya said: “Women were the first to show how WTO was institutionalised capitalist patriarchy on a world scale. We will not allow “women” to be used as a trojan horse to expand and extend a system that is destroying the lives and livelihoods of women and children, peasants and workers, and the planet .”

Zenaida Soriano, AMIHAN National Alliance of Peasant Women, Philippines – “Women peasants have been devastated by free trade policies that open up agricultural markets to foreign investment. Trade liberalization worsens corporate land-grabs that deprive women of their land and livelihood resulting to widespread hunger that destroys communities and deepens women’s misery. ”

Joms Salvador, GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women, Philippines – “Gabriela Philippines rejects WTO’s gender washing aimed at making palatable neoliberal policies that inflict deep sufferings on women from poor and underdeveloped countries. WTO’s promotion of liberalization and deregulation have strengthened transnational corporations’ control over vast lands and resources. It has driven wages and labour standards to historic lows, with foreign investors exploiting women as a cheap and flexible labour source. All these have further heightened women’s vulnerability with the privatization of social services such as education and health. No amount of gender-inclusive language will conceal WTO’s real anti-people and anti-women character.”

Please find the text of the letter and signatures below:

Statement: Women’s Rights Groups Call on Governments to Reject the WTO Declaration on Women’s Economic Empowerment

12 December 2017

We, women’s rights organisations and allies, call on state parties to the World Trade Organisation to refrain from adopting the proposed “Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment”. We appreciate that governments are increasingly recognising the gendered impact of international trade and trade rules imposed through the WTO and preferential trade agreements. However, this declaration fails to address the adverse impact of WTO rules and instead appears to be designed to mask the failures of the WTO and its role in deepening inequality and exploitation.

The declaration takes a very narrow approach to assessing the gendered impacts of trade. Even if the benefits the WTO bestows on the richest 1% of the world’s population were evenly split between men and women, the majority of the world’s women would not benefit. Increasing access to credit and cross-border trade for a few women will not benefit women’s human rights overall. The declaration is a ‘pink herring’, an attempt to obscure the harm WTO provisions have on women while ensuring the WTO can bring in ‘new issues’, likely to deepen inequality.

The removal of tariffs and import limits alone have been detrimental to women’s rights. Tariff reductions reduce government revenue essential for public investments in health, education, energy, water, transport and social protection. Reduced public expenditure impacts most heavily on the economically poor and particularly poorer women. Governments are increasingly replacing that revenue with regressive taxes, such as Goods and Services Taxes which have discriminatory effects. The influx of subsidised food and inputs displaces local production and the WTO has forced governments to remove valuable policy instruments that allow them to regulate the flow of imported goods in order to support local production and to provide local, pro-poor subsidies.

It is now clear, that the neoliberal project involving austerity, privatisation, deregulation of finance, markets and corporations, and trade and investment liberalisation has had a devastating and discriminatory impact on women. Neoliberalism is sexist and is simply incapable of supporting gender-equitable and just sustainable development, no matter how it is spun.

The proposal for the WTO to deal with ‘new issues’ threatens women’s human rights even further. Those ‘new issues’, include harmful services provisions that deepen corporate power and the inclusion of e-commerce that will limit regulation of the world’s largest, tax avoiding corporations. If governments are genuinely interested in advancing women’s human rights through just trade arrangements, they would allow for pro-poor public stockholding of food, allow any domestic regulations a state deems necessary to advance women’s human rights and the public interest, ensure that states can fully utilise intellectual property flexibilities to provide access to medicines, seeds, technologies that advance women’s human rights and refrain from entering into any bilateral or multilateral agreements that further restrict the capacity to use domestic regulations in the interests of the public in any way they deem necessary

We do not seek a retreat to combative nationalism in the name of trade protectionism. We support multilateralism. However, multilateralism must be based on solidarity, democracy and human rights, rather than the interests of unaccountable multinational corporations or wealthy states.


  1. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
  2. Project Survival Pacific – Fiji
  3. RITES Forum – India
  4. Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA), for Equality -Fiji
  5. Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (PPGCCSD) – Pacific SIDS
  6. Gender and Environmental Risk Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI) – Nigeria
  7. Feminist League – Kazakhstan
  8. Society For Rural Education and Development -India
  9. Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum – India
  10. Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Philippines
  11. Indian Social Action Forum – India
  12. Echoes of Women in Africa (ECOWA) – Nigeria
  13. Nijera Kori – Bangladesh
  14. African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)
  15. Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF), International
  16. Adéquations – France
  17. Trade Collective
  18. South African Women in Dialogue
  19. Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways, Turkey
  20. Women’s Coalition – Turkey
  21. PWESCR International (Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)
  22. JANPAHAL – India
  23. Feminist Learning Partnerships – India
  24. We Women Lanka- Sri Lanka
  25. Akina Mama wa Afrika – Uganda
  26. South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)
  27. Centre d’appui aux initiatives locales de développement et d’Assistance aux personnes vulnérables (CIDEP) – BURUNDI
  28. CPDE Feminist Group (CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness)
  29. European Network of Migrant Women (ENOMW)
  30. Free the Marginalised Women Advocates (FREMWA) – Ghana
  31. Alliance of CSOs in Clean Energy Access (ACCESS) Global Coalition
  32. ActionAid International
  33. Roots for Equity – Pakistan
  34. African Women’s Rights Collective
  35. Association Nigérienne des Scouts de l’Environnement (ANSEN) – Niger
  36. Alliance de Lutte contre la Faim et la Malnutrition du Niger (ACFM Niger)
  37. Centre for Research and Advocacy – India
  38. Insan Foundation – Pakistan
  39. National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN)
  40. Sathi ALl for Partnerships India
  41. Afrihealth Optonet Association [CSOs Network]
  42. Society for Conservation and Sustainability of Energy and Environment in Nigeria (SOCSEEN)
  43. Uzo Adirieje Foundation (DUZAFOUND)
  44. Coordinadora de la Mujer – Bolivia
  45. Centre for 21st Century Issues (C21st) Nigeria
  46. Women Fund Tanzania
  47. Centre for Human Rights and Development – Mongolia
  48. Development Observer – Mongolia
  49. People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty – Mongolia
  50. WIDE+ (Women In Development Europe plus) Network
  51. Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres (CEIM) – Spain
  52. Citizen News Service (CNS)
  53. National Forum of Women with Disabilities – Nepal
  54. Haurralde Foundation
  55. Fundacion para Estudio e INVestigacion de la Mujer (FEIM) – Argentina
  56. South African Women in Dialogue
  57. GDMR-Grupo Para o Desenvolvimento da Mulher e Rapariga
  58. Haus of Khameleon – Fiji/Pacific
  59. Fundación Mexicana para la Planeación Familiar AC MEXFAM
  60. TIYE International – The Netherlands
  61. ANANDI – India
  62. Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (MAKAAM)
  63. StandUp Movement Lanka (SUML) – Sri Lanka
  64. Organisation des Femmes Autochtones pour la Lutte contre la Violence (OFALV) Rwanda
  65. Alliance des Peuples Autochtones et Locales d’Afrique centrale (APALAC coalition ) Pays-Bas.
  66. Keturah Cecilia Babb – Individual
  67. Equality Bahamas
  68. Pacific Womens’ Indigenous Networks
  69. Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM)
  70. Pacific Women’s Watch – New Zealand
  71. YWCA of Solomon Islands
  72. Participatory Research Action Network (PRAN) – Bangladesh
  73. IT for Change – India
  74. EMPOWER – India
  75. Women Against Rape Inc.
  76. Gramya Resource Centre for Women
  77. Rainbow Pride Foundation Fiji (RPF)
  78. Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia – Mexico
  79. IMA Research Foundation – Bangladesh
  80. Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam (Women Workers Union) – India
  81. Independent Democratic of Informal Economic Association (IDEA) – Cambodia
  82. Fiji Trades Union Congress – Fiji
  83. Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) – Philippines
  84. KABAR BUMI (Migrant Workers Families Association) – Indonesia
  85. Reacción Climática – Bolivia
  86. Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice – Indonesia
  87. Indonesian Migrant Workers – Hong Kong
  88. Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong (ATKI-HK)
  89. Centre for Community Economics & Development Consultant Society (CECODECON) – India
  90. Public Advocacy Initiative for Rights & Values in India (PAIRVI) – India
  91. Mahila Dakshata Samiti/Women2030 – India
  92. National Alliance for Women (NAWO) – India
  93. NGO Federation of Nepal – Nepal
  94. Nepal SDGs Forum – Nepal
  95. Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS) – Bangladesh
  96. International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific
  97. Federation of Women Farmers Rights -Tamil Nadu (makkam) – India
  98. Rural Women’s Liberation Movement -Tamil Nadu – India
  99. Women’s Coalition For Change-Tamil Nadu – India
  100. Tamil Nadu Dalit Women’s Movement – India
  101. Govind Kelkar – Individual
  102. Dristi Nepal (Rights to Existence) – Nepal
  103. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) – Thailand
  104. Maati, Uttarakhand- India
  105. National Alliance of Women Human Right Defenders – Nepal
  106. Agricultural Missions – USA
  107. Servicios Ecumenicos para la Reconciliacion y Reconstruccion (SERR) – USA
  108. ENLACES por la Sustentabilidad – El Salvador
  109. Solidaritas Perempuan – Indonesia
  110. Women Forum for Women – Nepal
  111. Naga Indigenous Women Network (NIWN)
  112. Women Rising – India
  113. Asociacion Ciudadana por los Derechos Humanos – Argentina
  114. DEWA Project (Development and Empowerment for Women’s Advancement)
  115. Women for Peace and Gender Equality Initiative (WOPEGEE) – Nigeria
  116. Peoples Development Community (PDC) – Bangladesh
  117. AwazCDS – Pakistan
  118. LDC Watch
  119. IBON International
  120. WAVE (Women in Adult & Vocational Education Inc.) – Australia
  121. Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment (SAWERA) – Pakistan
  122. Youth Association for Development – Pakistan
  123. Human Rights Focus Pakistan
  124. Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) – Bangladesh
  125. AWAJ Foundation – Bangladesh
  126. Rural Reconstruction Nepal
  127. Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  128. Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand (IWNT)
  129. PROGRESS (Palangkaraya Ecological and Human Rights Studies) – Indonesia
  130. NEthing – India
  131. Worker’s Information Center (WIC) – Cambodia
  132. Women Network for Unity (WNU) – Cambodia
  133. Social Action for Change (SAC) – Cambodia
  134. The BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) – Philippines
  135. Unified Employees of Alorica – Philippines
  136. Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation (CFSWF) – Cambodia
  137. Associatiion pour le Développement Global des Batwa au Rwanda (ADBR) – Rwanda
  138. Women’s Centre – Sri Lanka
  139. Journalists for Human Rights – Macedonia
  140. Mothers & Daughters of Lanka – Sri Lanka
  141. Women Workers for Justice Group
  142. Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)
  143. African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF)
  144. Institute for Gender Studies, Unisa – South Africa
  145. West African Young Women Leaders Network (ROAJELF) – Senegal
  146. Le Conseil Senegalais des Femmes (COSEF)
  147. Health Poverty Action – UK
  148. Asia Dalit Rights Forum
  149. National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights – India
  150. Young Associates for Integral Development (JADI) – Democratic Republic of Congo
  151. Adivasi Women’s Network – India
  152. India HIV/AIDS Alliance
  153. Koperazzjoni Internazzjonali (Kopin) – Malta
  154. Instituto del Tercer Mundo of Montevideo – Uruguay
  155. Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
  156. Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies – Jordan
  157. Trade Justice Movement – United Kingdom
  158. Ruth Kruger (individual) – South Africa
  159. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
  160. Right to Food campaign, India
  161. Fundación Vía Libre, Argentina
  162. National Network for Education Reform (NNER) – Myanmar
  163. Public Services International (PSI)
  164. Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era (DAWN)

Source: www.apwld.org

About RRN

Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN) is a Nepali non-government, not for profit, social development organisation, initially set up as a small organisation in 1989

Contact Us