History was made by WTO members today (15 February), when the General Council agreed by consensus to select Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the organization’s seventh Director-General.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala upon assuming office 1st of March, will become the first woman and the first African to be confirmed WTO’s Director-General. Her term, though renewable, will expire on 31 August 2025.
General Council Chair, New Zealand’s David Walker who, together with co-facilitators Amb. Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Amb. Harald Aspelund (Iceland), stated that “It is no doubt and important moment for the WTO. On behalf of the General Council, I extend our warmest congratulations to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment as the WTO’s next Director-General and with that, formally welcome her to this General Council meeting.
“On behalf of all members I wish to commend Dr. Ngozi for her overall graciousness and patience shown in these significant months. We look forward to collaborating closely with you, Dr Ngozi, as I am sure that all members would work with you in a constructive and assiduous manner during your tenure as Director-General to shape the future of this organization,” he said.
Meanwhile, on her part, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said an important priority for her would be to work with the members to solve the economic and health effects brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her words, “I am honoured and delighted to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General,” continuing, she said “A strong WTO is needed if we are to recover fully and efficiently from the damage brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses that is required to get the global economy going again. Our organization no doubt faces a great many challenges. However, together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more efficient and better adapted to the realities presented by today’s economy.