*Since the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11), more than 50 civil society organizations have signed the statement. We will continue to update the list of signatories.

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 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 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. 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)
    165. Feminist Task Force
    166. General Confederation of Labor of the Argentine Republic
    167. SENTRO Labour Center – Philippines
    168. Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) – Philippines
    169. Women Environmental Programme (WEP) – Nigeria
    170. Women for Peace and Ecology – Germany
    171. Women Empowerment and Human Resource Development Center of India
    172. FOKUS – Forum or Women and Development, Norway
    173. BRICS Feminist Watch
    174. People Over Profit
    175. Savisthri National Women’s Movement – Sri Lanka
    176. Women’s Action for Social Justice – Sri Lanka
    177. Network of Rural Women Producers – Trinidad and Tobago
    178. Nga kaiawhina o Wai 262 – New Zealand
    179. Sawit Watch – Indonesia
    180. Asia Pacific Women’s Watch (APWW)
    181. Movimiento Manuela Ramos – Perú
    182. Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association (RDA)-Myanmar
    183. Community Reference Group (CRG) – Myanmar
    184. APVVU – India
    185. SAHANIVASA – India
    186. Shobujer Ovijan Foundation (SOF) – Bangladesh
    187. Gender and Development Initiative (GENDI) – India
    188. Right to Food Campaign
    189. Italian Climate Network
    190. Embun Pelangi Foundation – Indonesia
    192. Gender Centre for Research and Training – Sudan
    193. Fundación Étnica Integral (FEI) – Dominican Republic
    194. Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (MYSU) – Uruguay
    195. SILAKA – Cambodia
    196. INESC – Brazil
    197. Society for International Development (SID)
    198. Center for the Development of Civil Society – Armenia
    199. Social and Policy and Development Center – Armenia
    200. World Animal Net – USA and South Africa
    201. AMIHAN National Federation of Peasant Women Philippines
    202. War Against Rape (WAR) – Pakistan
    203. Forum International des Femmes de l’espace Francophone (FIFEF) – Congo
    204. Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
    205. Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)
    206. Women for Human Rights Single Women Group – Nepal
    207. National Indigenous Women Forum (NIWF), Nepal
    208. Forum for Women’s Rights and Development (FORWORD)- INDIA
    209. Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Research and Development (CIPRED) – Nepal
    210. National Indigenous Women’s Federation (NIWF), Nepal
    211. Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) – Nepal
    212. Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social – UNITAS, Bolivia
    213. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) – Malaysia
    214. Asia Pacific Women with Disabilities United
    215. MONFEMNET National Network – Mongolia
    216. GABRIELA Alliance of Women – Philippines
    217. Women’s Initiatives (WINS) – India
    218. Emonyo Yefwe International- Kenya
    219. Social Development Network {SODNET} Kenya
    220. Social Watch Philippines, Philippines
    221. Rural Area Development Programme, RADP