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WTO moves towards a more open organization

On 14 May 2002 member governments took a further step towards more openness and accountability of the World Trade Organization. A long awaited decision has been taken to accelerate derestriction of official WTO documents.

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Although in 2001, 65 % of the more than 21000 WTO documents were available to the public, the derestriction procedure was often criticized as taking too long. Thanks to efforts of member governments, under the leadership of General Council Chairman Sergio Marchi of Canada, the majority of WTO documents will be publicly available far sooner than in the past. The time-period for derestriction has been reduced to an average of 6 to 12 weeks from the previous 8 to 9 months. The decision as well as an accompanying explanatory note can be found at:

- Document WT/L/452
- Explanatory note

The recent decision, resulting from constructive government cooperation, is indicative of WTO's continuous and progressive efforts to improve our outreach to stakeholders, parliamentarians, civil society, the private sector and media. Certainly since the Seattle Ministerial Conference in 1999, the WTO has undergone a substantial shift in the way it deals with the wider world. 2002 has already been exemplary of this.

During the end of April, the WTO hosted over 800 government and NGO officials, academics and other stakeholders to a symposium on the Doha Development Agenda. It provided a timely opportunity to discuss and scrutinize some of the global critical issues facing today's multilateral trading system. A detailed account of the programme can be found by clicking here, but generally the quality of the dialogue was impressive and many of those who attended walked away with fresh perspectives and ideas. This was the result of a multi-faceted programme, run and organized by both WTO and non-governmental organizations.

Such seminars are regular features at the WTO, but are not the only measures taken. Since the beginning of 2001, NGO briefings are held frequently. NGOs are invited to come to WTO and do presentations to member and observer governments or participate in technical seminars we run both in Geneva and around the world each year.

The WTO website is another important source of information and outreach. Over the last 2 years, its use has been growing substantially and by now the website receives around 600 000 visitor sessions a month from users who download nearly 25 million pages of data. Through our contact data-base (which is designed for the public) world-wide roughly 35.000 individuals receive information daily on WTO activities. The top 3 users (over 30 %) come from the US, China and India.

NGOs and the general public are only part of the story. For an intergovernmental organization, efficient functioning stands with the full involvement of its direct stakeholders. One of the tools to ensure that all WTO members are kept up-to-date with WTO meetings and ongoing negotiations is the Geneva Week. Launched in 1999, Geneva weeks provide WTO member governments without a permanent representation in Geneva a week of intensive briefings and presentations as well as the possibility to attend several WTO meetings. The fourth Geneva Week, financed from WTO's core budget for the first time, was held from 21 to 26 April. Click here for more details on programme and participants. The second meeting this year will be in October.

Finally, contacts with Parliamentarians have been greatly enhanced through regular visits to capital by Director-General Mike Moore and various seminars and briefings with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the European Parliament and the US Congress. While more needs to be done to inform and involve legislators around the world, multilateral decision-making has already benefitted from stronger Parliamentary involvement.




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