A “grandmother” at the head of the WTO: the controversy that embarrasses Switzerland

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An article in the German-speaking press on the nomination of Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) never ceases to make waves. At issue: the title chosen by the editors for this article published on February 9 in several regional newspapers overseas. Judge instead: “A grandmother will become the head of the WTO”. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has many grandchildren but it is certainly not for this reason that she will be the first woman, moreover from the African continent, to lead the institution responsible for regulating international trade.

Outrage, which spread like wildfire via social media, prompted the offending newspapers to quickly change the title of the article and apologize for it. The content of the article was not in question. But the damage had been done and the formula of the “grandmother” continues to be talked about. Latest reaction to date, several African personalities, among the highest placed in the United Nations system, were moved in an open letter of congratulations addressed to their Nigerian colleague.