27 Mar 2015

MILE Alumni Profiles: Wase Musonge

"The MILE programme is one of the best preparations and experiences any aspiring legal trade practitioner can have."

Wase Musonge, a graduate of MILE 10, moved to Geneva from Cameroon in 2001 and has spent almost two decades focusing on trade and development issues including through her current work as a legal and economic affairs officer at the World Trade Organization. During her previous career she took a sabbatical leave to extend her knowledge of international trade by participating in the MILE programme. In this interview she talks about her professional journey and how MILE helped her to where she is now.

What is the South Centre, and what is your role there?

The South Centre is a Geneva-based intergovernmental organisation (IGO) of developing countries that helps them combine efforts and expertise to promote their common interests in the international arena. The Centre undertakes international policy research and analysis and provides intellectual and policy support in areas such as sustainable development, climate change, economic and social development, global economic conditions, intellectual property,  technology transfer, access to knowledge, health, trade agreements and food security. I have been at the South Centre since 2005 and I am currently a Programme Officer for the Trade for Development Programme. In my role, I undertake research and provide policy analysis on the WTO negotiations and their impact on the economies of developing countries. An integral part of my role is to prepare and roll out presentations for capacity building and to facilitate debates and discussions on trade issues of interest to developing countries through workshops and seminars. I also represent the South Centre at meetings and conferences in Geneva and abroad. On the administrative side, I participate in the preparation of annual work plans, write up project proposals, prepare narrative and financial reports on programme activities, and also take part in the recruitment, mentoring and supervision of programme staff and interns.

You previously worked for the South West Development Authority in Cameroon. Have development issues always been your focus?

As a developing country with enormous growth potential, development issues comprise a major part of academic and societal discourse in Cameroon. Working at the South West Development Authority (SOWEDA), which aims to raise the standards of living of the rural masses through the development of agriculture, improvement of rural infrastructure, provision of soft loans, and capacity-building of rural administrative units, I was exposed at the start of my career to the complexities of development initiatives and the impact they can have. I worked closely with the Executive Director and the Director of Finance on project design, monitoring, implementation and evaluation. My tenure at SOWEDA helped raise my interest and sharpened my focus on finance and development issues. Therefore, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland, in 2001 where I have studied and worked on development issues for more than a decade.

What brought you to the WTI?

Early in 2009, I had the privilege to lecture a batch of MILE 9 students at the South Centre during their Geneva tour on the current state of the Doha Round of WTO negotiations. The interaction I had with the students and Professor Pierre Sauvé (who later rigorously supervised my Master’s thesis), provided me more insight into the content and further sparked my interest in the WTI’s MILE programme. My role at the South Centre at that time, which included providing research and administrative support to the Trade for Development Programme, had given me tremendous exposure to WTO issues. Given that my responsibilities at the South Centre were progressively expanding, I felt the MILE programme would provide me with an opportunity not only to consolidate but also expand my knowledge, especially on legal aspects of international trade, as well as provide a strong base for professional growth. The ultimate goal of my WTI MILE journey was to empower me to better assist developing country policy-makers in formulating development policies, and articulating their priorities and positions during bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations. This perfectly fits my role in the fulfilment of the South Centre’s mandate.

When you think back to the MILE programme, what things stand out?

The MILE programme is one of the best preparations and experiences any aspiring legal trade practitioner can have. The following aspects of the programme stand out: its focus on law and economics provided a unique perspective to understanding the dynamics and complexities of trade issues, and the combined experience of the professors added a practical dimension to the programme roll-out. This was furthered by the Moot Court exercise (for which I was honoured to be a finalist). The programme brought together students and professors from all over the world, creating a truly multicultural environment, and enhancing debate and the exchange of different perspectives. Last but not least, the faculty provided tremendous support that played a central role in helping me through the rigours and exigencies of the programme. Special thanks go to Professor Sauvé, Professor Cottier, Professor Appleton, Margrit Vetter and the MILE staff.

How do you think MILE prepared you for where you are now?

The condensed nature of the MILE programme and the challenging workload helped me develop faster reading and writing skills. It indisputably sharpened my ability to better analyse the legal and economic context of trade issues and produce high-quality, evidence-based policy papers and briefs in very compressed timelines. The knowledge I gained from the MILE has also increased the scope of my interventions to deliver on consultancy projects with the European Parliament, amongst others. Most importantly, I can work on a broad range of issues currently being negotiated at the World Trade Organization and other international fora. Lastly, I am currently a PhD candidate in public policy and administration, specialising in policy analysis. This dream would certainly not have been realised without the MILE programme.