Women’s Rights Groups call on Governments to reject the WTO Declaration on Women’s Economic Empowerment

The statement by women’s rights groups that calls out the WTO Declaration on Women’s Economic Empowerment which it says “appears to be designed to mask the failures of the WTO and its role in deepening inequality and exploitation”.

We, women’s rights organisations and allies1, 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 effects2. 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.34 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 bi-lateral or multi-lateral 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 This statement was drafted by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) endorsing organisations can be found here.

2 Barnett, Kathleen/ Grown, Caren: Gender Impacts of Government Revenue Collection: The Case of Taxation, Commonwealth Secretariat, London, 2004.

3 See for example the Report of the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice, presented to the 26th session of the Human Rights Council, see A/HRC/26/39.

4 For example, the Committee on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued a statement on public debt and austerity and concluded that “reductions in the levels of public services or the introduction of or increase in user fees in areas such as childcare, and preschool education, public utilities and family support services have a disproportionate impact on women, and thus may amount to a step backwards in terms of gender equality” CESCR 2016: para. 3 and 10.


  1. Alliance of CSOs in Clean Energy Access (ACCESS) Global Coalition

  2. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

  3. ActionAid International

  4. Bangladesh Model Youth Parliament

  5. Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF), International

  6. Project Survival Pacific - Fiji

  7. RITES Forum - India

  8. YouthNet for Climate Justice, Bangladesh.

  9. Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA), for Equality -Fiji

  10. Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (PPGCCSD) - Pacific SIDS

  11. Gender and Environmental Risk Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI) - Nigeria

  12. Feminist League - Kazakhstan

  13. Society For Rural Education and Development - India

  14. Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum - India

  15. Alliance of Concerned Teachers - Philippines

  16. Indian Social Action Forum - India

  17. Echoes of Women in Africa (ECOWA) - Nigeria

  18. Nijera Kori - Bangladesh

  19. African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)

  20. Adéquations - France

  21. Trade Collective

  22. South African Women in Dialogue

  23. Women for Women’s Human Rights - New Ways, Turkey

  24. Women’s Coalition - Turkey

  25. PWESCR International (Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)

  26. JANPAHAL - India

  27. Feminist Learning Partnerships - India

  28. We Women Lanka- Sri Lanka

  29. Akina Mama wa Afrika - Uganda

  30. South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)

  31. Centre d’appui aux initiatives locales de développement et d’Assistance aux personnes vulnérables (CIDEP) - BURUNDI

  32. CPDE Feminist Group (CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness)

  33. European Network of Migrant Women (ENOMW)

  34. Free the Marginalised Women Advocates (FREMWA) - Ghana

  35. Roots for Equity - Pakistan

  36. African Women’s Rights Collective

  37. Association Nigérienne des Scouts de l’Environnement (ANSEN) - Niger

  38. Alliance de Lutte contre la Faim et la Malnutrition du Niger (ACFM Niger)

  39. Centre for Research and Advocacy - India

  40. Insan Foundation - Pakistan

  41. National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN)

  42. Sathi ALl for Partnerships India

  43. Afrihealth Optonet Association [CSOs Network]

  44. Society for Conservation and Sustainability of Energy and Environment in Nigeria (SOCSEEN)

  45. Dr. Uzo Adirieje Foundation (DUZAFOUND)

  46. Coordinadora de la Mujer - Bolivia

  47. Centre for 21st Century Issues (C21st) Nigeria

  48. Women Fund Tanzania

  49. Centre for Human Rights and Development - Mongolia

  50. Development Observer - Mongolia

  51. People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty - Mongolia

  52. WIDE+ (Women In Development Europe plus) Network

  53. Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres (CEIM) - Spain

  54. Citizen News Service (CNS)

  55. National Forum of Women with Disabilities - Pakistan

  56. Haurralde Foundation

  57. Fundacion para Estudio e Investigacion de la Mujer (FEIM) - Argentina

  58. South African Women in Dialogue

  59. GDMR-Grupo Para o Desenvolvimento da Mulher e Rapariga

  60. Haus of Khameleon - Fiji/Pacific

  61. Fundación Mexicana para la Planeación Familiar AC MEXFAM

  62. TIYE International - The Netherlands

  63. ANANDI - India

  64. Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (MAKAAM)

  65. StandUp Movement Lanka (SUML) - Sri Lanka

  66. Organisation des Femmes Autochtones pour la Lutte contre la Violence (OFALV) Rwanda

  67. Alliance des Peuples Autochtones et Locales d’Afrique centrale (APALAC coalition ) Pays-Bas.

  68. Keturah Cecilia Babb - Individual

  69. Equality Bahamas

  70. Pacific Womens’ Indigenous Networks

  71. Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM)

  72. Pacific Women’s Watch - New Zealand

  73. YWCA of Solomon Islands

  74. Participatory Research Action Network (PRAN) - Bangladesh

  75. IT for Change - India

  76. EMPOWER - India

  77. Women Against Rape Inc.

  78. Gramya Resource Centre for Women

  79. Rainbow Pride Foundation Fiji (RPF)

  80. Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia - Mexico

  81. IMA Research Foundation - Bangladesh

  82. Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam (Women Workers Union) - India

  83. Independent Democratic of Informal Economic Association (IDEA) - Cambodia

  84. Fiji Trades Union Congress - Fiji

  85. Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) - Philippines

  86. KABAR BUMI (Migrant Workers Families Association) - Indonesia  

  87. Reacción Climática - Bolivia

  88. Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice - Indonesia

  89. Indonesian Migrant Workers - Hong Kong

  90. Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong (ATKI-HK)

  91. Centre for Community Economics & Development Consultant Society (CECODECON) - India

  92. Public Advocacy Initiative for Rights & Values in India (PAIRVI) - India

  93. Mahila Dakshata Samiti/Women2030 - India

  94. National Alliance for Women (NAWO) - India

  95. NGO Federation of Nepal - Nepal

  96. Nepal SDGs Forum - Nepal

  97. Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS) - Bangladesh

  98. International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific

  99. Federation of Women Farmers Rights -Tamil Nadu (makkam) - India

  100. Rural Women’s Liberation Movement -Tamil Nadu - India

  101. Women’s Coalition For Change-Tamil Nadu - India

  102. Tamil Nadu Dalit Women’s Movement - India

  103. Govind Kelkar - Individual

  104. Dristi Nepal (Rights to Existence) - Nepal

  105. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) - Thailand

  106. Maati, Uttarakhand- India

  107. National Alliance of Women Human Right Defenders - Nepal

  108. Agricultural Missions - USA

  109. Servicios Ecumenicos para la Reconciliacion y Reconstruccion (SERR) - USA

  110. ENLACES por la Sustentabilidad - El Salvador

  111. Solidaritas Perempuan - Indonesia

  112. Women Forum for Women - Nepal

  113. Naga Indigenous Women Network (NIWN)

  114. Women Rising - India

  115. Asociacion Ciudadana por los Derechos Humanos - Argentina

  116. DEWA Project (Development and Empowerment for Women’s Advancement)

  117. Women for Peace and Gender Equality Initiative (WOPEGEE) - Nigeria

  118. Peoples Development Community (PDC) - Bangladesh

  119. AwazCDS - Pakistan

  120. LDC Watch

  121. IBON International

  122. WAVE (Women in Adult & Vocational Education Inc.) - Australia

  123. Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment (SAWERA) - Pakistan

  124. Youth Association for Development - Pakistan

  125. Human Rights Focus Pakistan

  126. Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) - Bangladesh

  127. AWAJ Foundation - Bangladesh

  128. Rural Reconstruction Nepal

  129. Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

  130. Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand (IWNT)

  131. PROGRESS (Palangkaraya Ecological and Human Rights Studies) - Indonesia

  132. NEthing - India

  133. Worker’s Information Center (WIC) - Cambodia

  134. Women Network for Unity (WNU) - Cambodia

  135. Social Action for Change (SAC) - Cambodia

  136. The BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) - Philippines

  137. Unified Employees of Alorica - Philippines

  138. Cambodian Food and Service Workers' Federation (CFSWF) - Cambodia

  139. Association pour le Développement Global des Batwa au Rwanda (ADBR) - Rwanda

  140. Women’s Centre - Sri Lanka

  141. Journalists for Human Rights - Macedonia

  142. Mothers & Daughters of Lanka - Sri Lanka

  143. Women Workers for Justice Group

  144. Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)

  145. African Women's Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF)

  146. Institute for Gender Studies, Unisa - South Africa

  147. West African Young Women Leaders Network (ROAJELF) - Senegal

  148. Le Conseil Senegalais des Femmes (COSEF)

  149. Health Poverty Action - UK

  150. Asia Dalit Rights Forum

  151. National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights - India

  152. Young Associates for Integral Development (JADI) - Democratic Republic of Congo

  153. Adivasi Women's Network - India

  154. India HIV/AIDS Alliance

  155. Koperazzjoni Internazzjonali (Kopin) - Malta

  156. Instituto del Tercer Mundo of Montevideo - Uruguay

  157. Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

  158. Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies - Jordan

  159. Trade Justice Movement - United Kingdom

  160. Ruth Kruger (individual) - South Africa

  161. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

  162. Right to Food campaign - India

  163. Fundación Vía Libre - Argentina

  164. Public Services International (PSI)

  165. Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation

  166. Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)

  167. Feminist Task Force

  168. General Confederation of Labor of the Argentine Republic

  169. SENTRO Labour Center - Philippines

  170. Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) - Philippines

  171. Women Environmental Programme - Nigeria

  172. Women for Peace and Ecology - Germany

  173. Women Empowerment and Human Resource Development Center of India

  174. FOKUS – Forum or Women and Development, Norway

  175. BRICS Feminist Watch

  176. People Over Profit

  177. Savisthri National Women’s Movement - Sri Lanka

  178. Women’s Action for Social Justice - Sri Lanka

  179. Network of Rural Women Producers - Trinidad and Tobago

  180. Nga kaiawhina o Wai 262 - New Zealand

  181. Sawit Watch - Indonesia

  182. Asia Pacific Women’s Watch (APWW)

  183. Movimiento Manuela Ramos - Perú

  184. Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association (RDA)-Myanmar

  185. Community Reference Group-CRG (Myanmaar)

  186. APVVU - India

  187. SAHANIVASA - India

  188. Shobujer Ovijan Foundation-SOF-Bangladesh

  189. Gender and Development Initiative (GENDI), India

  190. Right to Food Campaign

  191. Italian Climate Network (ICN)

  192. Embun Pelangi Foundation, Batam, Riau Island Province, Indonesia


  194. Gender Centre for Research and Training, Kharoum - Sudan

  195. Fundación Étnica Integral (FEI), Dominican Republic

  196. MYSU - Mujer y Salud en Uruguay

  197. SILAKA, Cambodia

  198. INESC, Brazil

  199. Society for International Development (SID)

  200. Center for the Development of Civil Society, Armenia

  201. Social and Policy and Development Center, Armenia