Executive Director and Founder

Dr. Carolyn Deere Birkbeck is the Founder and Executive Director of the Forum on Trade, Environment & the SDGs (TESS), housed at the Geneva Graduate Institute. TESS is dedicated to supporting the multilateral dialogue, inclusive international cooperation, and policy action necessary to align trade and trade policies with the urgent need for environmental action, sustainable development, and just transitions. Carolyn has been active for over 25 years in providing thought leadership on ways to foster inclusive dialogue on a more sustainable and equitable global economy, engaging with a broad diversity of governments, stakeholders, and experts on different policy challenges relevant to this goal.

In 2022, Carolyn played a leading role in the creation of the Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate, which brings together a diverse group of over 50 trade ministers, co-led by the trade ministers of Ecuador, the European Union, Kenya, and New Zealand. Carolyn is also an advisor to the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastics Pollution, which brings together over 50 ministers of environment, for which TESS has been engaged by the co-chairs Rwanda and Norway to support the Secretariat. In addition, Carolyn participates in the Advisory Group of the Business Coalition for an Ambitious Plastics Treaty.

Carolyn is the Founder and Board Chair of Global Policy Reporting, a Geneva-based non-profit organization dedicated to open access, independent, and professional news reporting, which houses Health Policy Watch (launched in 2019) and Intellectual Property Watch (active from 2004–2019). She previously worked at the University of Oxford’s Global Economic Governance Programme, based at the Blavatnik School of Government, conducting research on developing countries and development issues in global economic governance. She has also been an Assistant Director at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York where she was responsible for grantmaking in the “Global Inclusion” theme on topics ranging from trade and intellectual property to sustainability, health, and development. In Washington, D.C., she worked as the Manager of the Congressional Staff Forum on International Development at the Overseas Development Council.

Carolyn has been a consultant to a range of non-governmental and international organizations, including UNEP, UNCTAD, UNDP's Office of the Human Development Report, the South Centre, the Open Society Institute, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Chatham House, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. She has served on a number of advisory groups and boards, and has led or participated in collaborative research projects on issues ranging from public health and trade; the climate crisis and global economic governance; human rights and trade; plastic pollution and the transformation of the plastics economy; and remaking the global trading system for a sustainable future.

Alongside a range of short policy-related publications, Carolyn is the author of number of reports and books published by leading academic publishers, including Greening International Trade: Pathways Forward (TESS and partners, 2021), The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): A Reference Guide (Edward Elgar Press, 2016), and The Implementation Game: The TRIPS Agreement and the Global Politics of Intellectual Property Reform in Developing Countries (Oxford University Press 2009, paperback 2011). She is also the editor of Making Global Trade Governance Work for Development: Perspectives and Priorities from Developing Countries (Cambridge University Press 2011) and the co-editor (with Dan Esty) of Greening the Americas: NAFTA’s Lessons for Hemispheric Trade (MIT Press 2002).

Dr. Carolyn Deere Birkbeck holds a DPhil in International Relations (University College, Oxford), an MA in International Relations (Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies) and an undergraduate degree in Political Economy from the University of Sydney.

Selected Publications


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