A newly created UN task force on gender and trade has held its first meeting, looking at the impact of trade and trade policies on women and men.
The gender dimension of trade has taken on increasing importance in international policy forums as part of the larger process of reassessing the economic and social impact of globalization and the distribution of its benefits - and costs. Comparisons are being made within and between nations and also between various income groups and between the sexes.
Women´s contribution to the export competitiveness of newly industrializing and other countries has been clearly demonstrated; they are an important source of cheap, low-skilled labour in export processing zones and in labour-intensive export sectors, such as clothing, footwear, electronics assembly and non-traditional agricultural exports. At the same time, labour market liberalization and "flexibilization", leading to high job insecurity and reliance on part-time jobs, has affected women most particularly and has tended to reinforce the gender division of labour. The challenge now is to promote and empower women, and make trade supportive of gender equality in income earning, quality of employment, and resource management and access.
UNCTAD heads the inter-agency task force, which also brings together the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), UN regional commissions, World Bank and WTO. Other agencies and non-UN organizations will join the task force in the future.
At its first meeting (Geneva, 17-18 July), the task force defined its main objective as that of sensitizing policy makers at the national and international level to issues and policies it identifies as important for achieving gender equality and development. Other objectives include the promotion of gender perspectives in national and international policies, global economic processes and trade agreements.
Task force members will undertake a wide range of activities, including impact analysis of international trade and investment agreements, socioeconomic analysis of the linkages between trade and gender, analysis of institutional issues, capacity-building and advocacy. Studies will be published and advocacy activities conducted, such as training workshops for policy makers and economic actors, including women and NGOs.
The task force was created in February 2003 by the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, under the auspices of the Secretary-General´s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women. A website will be announced shortly.