United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

From New World Encyclopedia

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body. UNCTAD is the principal organ of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with trade, investment and development issues.

The organization's goals are to "maximize the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to integrate into the world economy on an equitable basis."[1] The creation of the conference was based on concerns of developing countries over the international market, multi-national corporations, and great disparity between developed nations and developing nations.

In the 1970s and 1980s UNCTAD was closely associated with the idea of a New International Economic Order (NIEO).

Currently, UNCTAD has 191 member States and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. UNCTAD has 400 staff members and an annual regular budget of approximately US $50 million and US $25 million of extrabudgetary technical assistance funds.

Main Functions of the UNCTAD

UNCTAD has slowly come to be known as an authoritative think tank whose aim is guiding policy formation that ensures sustainable and inclusive development.

The institution serves as a forum for intergovernmental dialog that includes discussions with experts about best practices. The intergovernmental deliberations work to build consensus.

UNCTAD also conducts research, collects data and analyzes policy for use by government representatives during deliberations.

Needs and requirements of developing nations, particularly the least developed nations and economies in transition are the highest priority of UNCTAD. Technical assistance is provided to these nations that has been tailored to their specific situations and requirements. At times, UNCTAD partners with other organizations and donor countries in this process.

The secretariat of UNCTAD partners with member states, and other organizations in the UN system as well as nongovernmental organizations, civil society, trade and industry associations and academic research institutions in its work. The secretariat goes to the extent of attending civil society conferences and meetings that are relevant, reviewing civil society publications and organizing both formal and informal consultations with its civil society counterparts.

Strengthening Ties With Civil Society

Since UNCTAD was established in 1964, the member states have understood the increasingly strong role of civil society in achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication. Beginning in 2004, UNCTAD member States determined to work even more closely with civil society organizations including nongovernmental organizations, academia and the private sector. Partnerships with these groups are proving beneficial for achievement of development goals.

The Civil Society Outreach (CSO) Unit of UNCTAD is charged with the liaison role between UNCTAD and civil society. This unit is responsible for advocating and arranging for civil society actors to be involved in the work of UNCTAD. This includes facilitating participation of civil society in UNCTAD conferences, hearings, consultations and briefings, providing information and documentation. The CSO unit is also responsible for handling and processing requests for accreditation of civil society organizations with UNCTAD.

In September 2006, UNCTAD held discussions with affiliated civil society organizations just prior to the UNCTAD annual board meeting. It was acknowledged that, although barriers to development are well known and documented, because civil society is in direct contact with its population, it can act as the eyes in the field and more readily identify potential solutions to development barriers. Also, civil society organizations are the human face of development and aid efforts. The private sector has a key role and responsibility in working with policy makers to ensure that business interests are considered in policy making decisions.

Participants in these deliberations identified that the key role of UNCTAD should be to "contribute to a fairer world economic system." Civil society participants expressed concern that businesses in developing countries, most likely small farmers and microenterprises do not have the capacity to meet standards for accessing international markets. Questions were raised about the effectiveness of aid. Issues of corruption and the need for good governance arose. Concern about aid recipients becoming dependent on the more powerful aid sources was also expressed.

These deliberations between civil society and UNCTAD provided the opportunity for light to be shed on many issues about development. Getting these issues articulated is a first step for all development partners in the process of uncovering and creating solutions.


The inter-governmental work is done at four levels of meetings:

  • The UNCTAD Conference - held every four years;
    • UNCTAD XII will be held in Ghana in 2008
    • UNCTAD XI was held in São Paulo in June 2004
    • UNCTAD X was held in Bangkok in 12-19 February 2000
    • UNCTAD IX was held in Midrand, South Africa) from April 27 – May 11, 1996
    • UNCTAD 8 was held in Colombia in 1992
  • The UNCTAD Trade and Development Board — the Board manages the work of UNCTAD in between two Conferences and meets up to three times every year;
  • Four UNCTAD Commissions (Commission on Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities; Commission on Investment, Technology and Related Financial Issues; Commission on Enterprise, Business Facilitation and Development; secretariat for the ECOSOC Commission on Science and Technology for Development) and one Working Party — these meet more often than the Board in order to take up policy, programme and budgetary issues;
  • Expert Meetings — the Commissions will convene expert meetings on selected topics in order to provide substantive and expert input for Commission policy discussions.

Reports and Resources

UNCTAD produces a number of topical reports, including:

There is an extensive digital library on the UNCTAD website. This digital library makes research documents, statistical databases and much more, available to all those who have internet access. There are also briefs available about topics related to the UNCTAD work programme.

Technical Cooperation

UNCTAD conducts various technical cooperation programmes. The focus of these programs is institutional and human capacity building in developing nations which improves the environment for sustainable development. These programs are the practical and actual application of the organization's commitment to sustainable development. The programs marry the results of policy analysis and intergovernmental dialog which then guide the operations.

The technical operations include transport logistics, trade facilitation, and enhancement of scientific and technological capacity through training and dissemination of best practices, stimulation of entrepreneurial potential and more. They are carried out in partnership with outside agencies that specialize in trade related technical assistance. Using partnerships minimizes duplication of services and maximizes continuity of services.

One of the agencies UNCTAD conducts technical operations is in collaboration with the World Trade Organization through the joint International Trade Centre (ITC), a technical cooperation agency targeting operational and enterprise-oriented aspects of trade development.

Complete List of Secretaries-General and Officers-in-Charge

# Photo Secretary-General Dates in office Country of origin Remarks References
1 Dr. Raúl Prebisch 1963 – 1969 Argentina
2 Mr. Manuel Pérez-Guerrero 1969 – 1974 Venezuela
3 Dr. Gamani Corea 1974 – 1984 Sri Lanka
4 Mr. Alister McIntyre 1985 Grenada Officer-in-Charge
5 Mr. Kenneth K.S. Dadzie 1986 – 1994 Ghana
6 Mr. Carlos Fortin 1994 – 1995 Chile Officer-in-Charge
7 Mr. Rubens Ricupero 1995 – 2004 Brazil
8 Mr. Carlos Fortin 2004 – 2005 Chile Officer-in-Charge
9 Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi September 1, 2005 – Present Thailand


  1. UNCTAD website Retrieved February 10, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Taylor, Ian and Karen Smith. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Global Institutions). NY: Routledge, 2007. ISBN 978-0415370196
  • United Nations. Beyond Conventional Wisdom in Development Policy: An Intellectual History of UNCTAD 1964-2004 (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development). NY: The United Nations, 2005. ISBN 978-9211126501
  • United Nations. UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Geneva. The United Nations, 2006. ISBN 978-9210120609

External links

All links retrieved May 3, 2023.

The United Nations UN Flag

UN System
General Assembly | Security Council | Economic and Social Council |
Trusteeship Council | Secretariat | International Court of Justice

United Nations Resolutions
General Assembly Resolutions | Security Council Resolutions


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.