Geneva Trade & Development Forum

Other Projects


Timeline: 2006 – 2012

Donors: Denmark (MFA), Switzerland (SECO), France (AFD, MFA), Germany (BMZ, Inwent), The Netherlands (MFA), Syngenta Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Association des Communes du Haut Plateau Valais, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, SGS, Sweden

 Beneficiaries: Mozambique, Mali, Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Senegal, Benin, Uganda, Kenya, Sri-Lanka, Laos, Bangladesh


Globalisation and international trade are considered to be powerful tools that can be harnessed to fight poverty. Yet, trade and development practitioners are increasingly realising that the current approach towards integrating poorer countries into the world economy works only partially. Despite the efforts of policy makers, negotiators and donors, poverty is increasing in some regions and the gap between North and South as well as between rich and poor is turning into a chasm in many places (see illustration). The global recession of 2009 has further revealed the shortcomings of the present system and has renewed the calls for more effective and representative forms of global governance. A world village in which a sizeable number of its inhabitants are left behind is simply not sustainable. If major upheavals are to be avoided in the future, the ongoing globalisation process has to become much more inclusive, integrating both pro-poor and pro-development strategies.

Graph GTDF

From: World Development Report 2008

The Geneva Trade and Development Forum (GTDF) sought to provide an enduring platform for reflection, innovation, debate and dialogue. It addressed the specific challenges and opportunities of developing countries trying to reap the benefits and heal the wounds from globalisation and trade liberalisation. The Forum offered a much needed neutral environment away from the negotiating table for all stakeholders, where the needs and interests of the poorer countries and the use of trade as a development tool could be at the centre of discussions. In doing so, the Forum drew its participants toward a deeper understanding of how to make globalisation more inclusive and of new ways to take full advantage of integrating into the world economy.

“The Geneva Trade and Development Forum (GTDF) sought to provide an enduring platform for reflection, innovation, debate and dialogue.”


The key question is not whether to bring about changes. It is what are the changes needed to make the multilateral trade system more inclusive, effective and coherent, thereby creating a more legitimate and representative mechanism. We have a historic opportunity to act comprehensively and collectively for the long-term – rather than selectively and separately for the short run – so as to find a sustainable way out of this multilateral crisis.

The GTDF called for a recalibration of the multilateral trade regime so that all countries can equally participate in negotiations and benefit from its outcome. In particular, the GTDF advocated for a better representation of developing countries needs and true priorities by:

  • Improving the understanding of the nexus between trade and development by the developing countries themselves;
  • Introducing development countries’ concerns in the multilateral decision-shaping process rather than in the decision-making process.

To establish this transformation process, the GTDF organised a high-level conference in September 2008 and worked on selected initiatives after the conference with small groups of actors dedicated to trade and development.