Bridges was created in 1996 to address the long-standing gulf between the world of trade negotiations and institutions and the broader sustainable development community. It was conceived of as a tool with three principal purposes: to improve transparency in multilateral trade negotiations, to build capacity among non-traditional civil society actors, and to provide a platform for underrepresented voices. Over the years, Bridges has grown to become the world’s leading source of accurate, objective, and timely information on trade and sustainable development issues.

The first Bridges publications were daily briefings during the Singapore Ministerial Conference in December 1996. This effort was followed in February 1997 with the release of Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest. In May of the same year, the first issue of a separate publication, Bridges Review, was published. In contrast to the news updates offered by Bridges Weekly, the Review featured opinion pieces by outside authors, framing the series as a forum for the public exchange of ideas on trade and sustainable development.

Bridges Weekly began as a digest of articles drawn from WTO press updates and ICTSD’s own searches through developing country news sources. The amount of original reporting by ICTSD was modest at the beginning, but increased rapidly as the Bridges team’s network of sources grew, and now makes up the bulk of the writing.

In the years since 1997, the number of news outlets that cover international trade negotiations in accurate detail has grown significantly, including in the developing world. Bridges, meanwhile, has broadened its own focus to address a range of trade negotiating forums beyond just the WTO – be they bilateral, regional, or plurilateral – that nevertheless have considerable sustainable development implications of their own.

While the look and delivery method of Bridges reporting may have changed over the years, the fundamental goal remains the same: explain, analyse, and provide context in a rapidly changing trade landscape. Bridges is known widely for its ability to not just to help readers find out what was said, and what governments and other stakeholders thought, but to help make sense of it.

Bridges ultimately aims to help its audience generate new and improved policy ideas, better understand the perspectives of other policy actors, negotiate or advocate positions more effectively, and improve communication with colleagues in complementary fields.

Bridges is disseminated every Thursday to over ten thousand subscribers via email. Thousands more access Bridges stories via web searches, thorough social media, and other networks.