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I am committed to strengthening WTO, achieving gender balance, says Okonjo-Iweala

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DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has announced the appointment of four deputy directors-general (DDGs), saying that she is committed to strengthening the organisation with talented leaders while achieving gender balance.

The newly-appointed DDGs include: Angela Ellard of the United States; Anabel González of Costa Rica; Jean-Marie Paugam of France, and Xiangchen Zhang of China.

According to Okonjo-Iweala, “It is the first time in the history of our Organization that half of the DDGs are women. This underscores my commitment to strengthening our Organization with talented leaders whilst at the same time achieving gender balance in senior positions.”

WTO DDGs 2021
WTO DDGs 2021

The women DDGs in Okonjo-Iweala’s list of appointees were Angela Paolini Ellard and Anabel González.

Ellard is an American trade expert, law teacher and a lawyer specialising in trade litigation and policy. She served as the Ways & Means Committee chief trade counsel and Trade Subcommittee staff director of the US House of Representatives.

González is a Costa-Rican global trade expert and politician, a non-resident senior fellow at The Peterson Institute for International Economics (TPIIE). She was a former director at the World Bank.

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She also served as minister of foreign trade of Costa Rica; director-general for International Trade Negotiations; director-general of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE); and special ambassador and chief negotiator of the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.

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Breaking the glass ceiling

The appointment of these women have been received positively, as a Twitter user Mary Lovely, with the handle @melovely_max!, expressed her excitement while referencing the gender balance.

According to Mary Lovely, “The first woman appointed deputy director-general @wto was Valentine Rugwabiza of Rwanda. That happened in 2005. Today, a woman sits as DG and 2 of 4 DDGs are women. Progress is slow but today we celebrate!”

Also reacting to the news of the appointment,  a professor emerita Debra Steger, through her handle @DebraPS, said: “The glass ceiling has been shattered! Congratulations on your impressive, experienced, diverse leadership team, @NOIweala! Excited to see the amazing @_AnabelG as a DDG. About time! Great things ahead for @wto.”

The other two DDGs were Ambassador Jean-Marie Paugam of France and Ambassador Xiangchen Zhang of China. They both served as their countries’ permanent representatives to the WTO.

During the tenure of the immediate past WTO DG Roberto Azevêdo, the four DDGs were Yonov Frederick Agah of Nigeria; Karl Brauner of Germany; Alan Wolff of the United States, and Yi Xiaozhun of China.  They were all of the male gender.

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the 7th DG of the WTO. She took office on March 1, 2021, becoming the first woman and the first African to serve as director-general.

She emphasised the issues surrounding gender and leadership in the book, ‘Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons’ which she co-authored with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

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