Joining the World Trade Organization and its implications for a country’s agricultural sector is a topic of keen interest in Europe and Central Asia today. Positive feedback on a recent online course for government officials and others in the region is helping FAO and UNITAR as they plan a new edition of an e-learning course on WTO accession for later this year.
A total of 96 participants – from academia, NGOs, government, the private sector, from 12 Commonwealth of Independent States countries participated in the five-week FAO-UNITAR e-Learning course on “WTO accession and its implications for the agricultural sector in CIS countries.” With 90 participants finishing the course, the training had a completion rate of 94 percent.
The five-week course (24 February – 29 March 2014) was part of an FAO project aimed at improved understanding and adoption of WTO principles and rules for agriculture, and at fostering dialogue on the implications of trade policy changes made in order to fulfil WTO accession commitments. The training looked in particular at the agricultural sector in CIS countries.
“Graduates” of the online course are expected to have a better understanding of the aspects of both WTO principles and rules regulating global agricultural trade, and the accession commitments in agriculture assumed by new WTO member states among the CIS countries.
Participants in the first course included government officials from agricultural or other ministries, officials directly involved in agricultural policy and programmes, and national food safety and phyto-sanitary authorities. Agro-industry and producer associations were also represented, along with the research and academic community interested in agricultural policy and trade analysis.
Of the participants surveyed, the majority indicated high levels of satisfaction with the course, the information and skills they acquired, the technical expertise and facilitation of course mentors Ekaterina Krivonos and Vyacheslav Evseev, and the convenience of online learning. Ninety-seven percent stated that they would recommend the course to a colleague.
Participants appreciated in particular the weekly topic discussions, conducted in the course forums and facilitated by the course mentors. These discussions allowed the fruitful exchange of ideas, experiences and opinions among participants and an opportunity to engage with the mentors.
Comments from course participants:
“I would like to say that up to this day I was not very interested in online trainings, but this training has changed my opinion, I liked this training very much. I want to thank the FAO/UNITAR e-Learning Team. I would like to thank the highly qualified teachers for the information and the opportunity to pass the course. This training was very useful for me. I hope that this training will not be the last one, I would like to continue to maintain close contact with both the training team and the participants.”
“Dear tutors, coordinators and participants of the course! The course itself was very useful for me. Every module was organized professionally with its unique content, tests and discussion topics! Evidently it can be said, that 4 weeks of training have been much more interesting than my pre-course view of it. You have done a great service for us – participants. Thank You!”
FAO’s work on trade facilitation continues, as part of the Regional Initiative on Agri-Food Trade and Regional Integration – one of two major FAO initiatives in the Europe and Central Asia region for 2014-15 approved by Member Countries at the Regional Conference for Europe earlier this year. The agri-food trade initiative builds upon the successful Agrarian Structures Initiative during 2013, which focused on making agricultural and food systems more inclusive and efficient at local, national and international levels. The groundwork laid by the 2013 initiative, and the positive feedback received from Member Governments, provide the basis for scaling up FAO’s trade-related activities in the region.
A new edition of the e-Learning course on WTO accession for CIS countries is now in the planning stages, and is expected to include additional topics that were suggested by participants in the first course.
18 May 2014, Budapest, Hungary