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Established in 1964, UNCTAD promotes the
development-friendly integration of developing
countries into the world economy. UNCTAD has
progressively evolved into an authoritative
knowledge-based institution whose work aims to
help shape current policy debates and thinking
on development, with a particular focus on
ensuring that domestic policies and international
action are mutually supportive in bringing about
sustainable development.

194 countries are members of UNCTAD.

The organization works to fulfill this mandate by carrying

out three key functions:
It functions as a forum for intergovernmental deliberations,
supported by discussions with experts and exchanges of
experience, aimed at consensus building.
It undertakes research, policy analysis and data collection for
the debates of government representatives and experts.
It provides technical assistance tailored to the specific
requirements of developing countries, with special attention to the
needs of the least developed countries and of economies in
transition. When appropriate, UNCTAD cooperates with other
organizations and donor countries in the delivery of technical

The Secretary-General of UNCTAD is the head

In performing its functions, the secretariat
works together with member Governments and
interacts with organizations of the United
Nations system and regional commissions, as
well as with governmental institutions, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector,
including trade and industry associations,
research institutes and universities worldwide.

A Brief History of UNCTAD

In the early 1960s, growing concerns about the place of
developing countries in international trade led many of these
countries to call for the convening of a full-fledged conference
specifically devoted to tackling these problems and identifying
appropriate international actions.
The first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
(UNCTAD) was held in Geneva in 1964. Given the magnitude of
the problems at stake and the need to address them, the
conference was institutionalized to meet every four years, with
intergovernmental bodies meeting between sessions and a
permanent secretariat providing the necessary substantive and
logistical support.

Simultaneously, the developing countries

established the Group of 77 to voice their
concerns. (Today, the G77 has 131 members.)

The prominent Argentinian economist

Ral Prebisch, who had headed the United
Nations Economic Commission for Latin
America and the Caribbean, became the
organization's first Secretary-General.

Phase 1: The 1960s and 1970s

In its early decades of operation, UNCTAD
gained authoritative standing:
as an intergovernmental forum for North-South
dialogue and negotiations on issues of interest to
developing countries, including debates on the New
International Economic Order.
for its analytical research and policy advice on
development issues.

Phase 2: The 1980s

In the 1980s, UNCTAD was faced with a changing economic and
political environment:
There was a significant transformation in economic thinking.
Development strategies became more market-oriented, focusing on trade
liberalization and privatization of state enterprises.
A number of developing countries were plunged into severe debt crises.
Despite structural adjustment programs by the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund, most developing countries affected were not
able to recover quickly. In many cases, they experienced negative growth
and high rates of inflation. For this reason, the 1980s become known as
the lost decade, particularly in Latin America.
Economic interdependence in the world increased greatly.

Phase 3: From the 1990s until


Key developments in the international context:

The conclusion of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations under the
GATT resulted in the establishment of the World Trade Organizationin
1995, which led to a strengthening of the legal framework governing
international trade.
A spectacular increase in international financial flows led to increasing
financial instability and volatility.
Against this background, UNCTADs analysis gave early warning
concerning the risks and the destructive impact of financial crises on
development. Consequently, UNCTAD emphasized the need for a more
development-oriented international financial architecture.

Foreign direct investment flows became a major

component of globalization.

UNCTAD highlighted the need for a differentiated

approach to the problems of developing countries. Its
tenth conference, held in Bangkok in February 2000,
adopted a political declaration The Spirit of
Bangkok as a strategy to address the
development agenda in a globalizing world.

Overview of the main activities

Trade and commodities
Commodity diversification and developmen
: Promotes the diversification of production
and trade structures. Helps Governments to
formulate and implement diversification
policies and encourages enterprises to adapt
their business strategies and become more
competitive in the world market.

Competition and consumer policies:

Provides analysis and capacity building in
competition and consumer protection laws
and policies in developing countries.
Publishes regular updates of a Model Law on
Trade Negotiations and Commercial Diplo
: Assists developing countries in all aspects of
their trade negotiations.

Trade Analysis and Information System (TRAINS) :

Comprehensive computer-based information system
on trade control measures that uses UNCTADs
database. The CD-ROM version includes 119
Trade and environment: Assesses the trade and
development impact of environmental requirements
and relevant multilateral agreements and provides
capacity-building activities to help developing
countries participate in and derive benefits from
international negotiations on these matters.

Investment, technology and enterprise development

International investment and technology arrangements: Helps
developing countries to participate more actively in international
investment rule making at the bilateral, regional and multilateral
levels. These arrangements include the organization of capacitybuilding seminars and regional symposia and the preparation of a
series of issues papers.
Investment Policy Reviews: Intended to familiarize Governments
and the private sector with the investment environment and policies
of a given country. Reviews have been carried out in a number of
countries, including Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Peru,
Uganda and Uzbekistan

Investment guides and capacity building for the LDCs: Some of the
countries involved are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique and
Technology: Services the UN Commission on Science and Technology
for Development and administers the Science and Technology for
Development Network; carries out case studies on best practices in
transfer of technology; undertakes Science, Technology and Innovation
Policy Reviews for interested countries, as well as capacity-building
Empretec: Promotes entrepreneurship and the development of small
and medium-sized enterprises. Empretec programmes have been
initiated in 27 countries, assisting more than 70,000 entrepreneurs
through local market-driven business support centres.

Macroeconomic policies, debt and

development financing
Policy analysis and research on issues concerning
global economic interdependence, the international
monetary and financial system, and macroeconomic
and development policy challenges.
Technical and advisory support to the G24 group of
developing countries (the Intergovernmental Group of
24) in the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund; advisory services to developing countries for
debt rescheduling negotiations under the Paris Club.

Transport, customs and information technology

ASYCUDA programme: Integrated customs system that speeds up
customs clearance procedures and helps Governments to reform and
modernize their customs procedures and management. Installed in over
80 countries, ASYCUDA has become the internationally accepted
standard for customs automation.
ACIS programme: Computerized cargo tracking system installed in 20
developing countries of Africa and Asia.
E-Tourism Initiative: Linking sustainable tourism and Information and
communication technologies (ICTs) for development, UNCTAD has
developed this Initiative to help developing countries' destinations to
become more autonomous by taking charge of their own tourism
promotion by using ICT tools.

Global Trade Point Network (GTPNet): 150 centres

around the world provide traders with trade-related
information and services and assist in the introduction
of e-business practices.

TrainForTrade programme: Builds training networks

and organizes training in all areas of international
trade to enable developing countries to increase their
competitiveness. Currently developing distance
learning programmes focusing on the LDCs.

Africa, least developed countries, landlocked developing

countries & small island developing States
Africa: Provides analytical work aimed at increasing the understanding
of problems faced by African countries in their development efforts, and
facilitating a better integration of Africa into the world economy.
Particular emphasis is placed on supporting the New Partnership for
Africa's Development (NEPAD).
Least developed countries (LDCs): Provides analytical work and
technical assistance aimed at enabling relevant States to make the best
possible use of LDC status in the framework of the Programme of Action
for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, and to
better understand the policy-related issues that are specially relevant to
LDCs, notably with a view to developing productive capacities and
reducing poverty in these countries.

Landlocked developing countries (LLDCs): Provides analytical

work and technical assistance to LLDCs in support of the
implementation of the 2003 Almaty Programme of Action, which
deals with the special needs of LLDCs within a new global
framework for transit transport cooperation for landlocked and
transit developing countries.

Small island developing States (SIDS): Provides analytical work

and technical assistance to SIDS in support of the implementation of
the 2005 Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the
Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small
Island Developing States, with particular emphasis on issues of
economic vulnerability and specialization.

UNCTAD Conferences
The highest decision-making body of UNCTAD is the
quadrennial conference, at which member States make
assessments of current trade and development issues,
discuss policy options and formulate global policy
responses. The conference also sets the organizations
mandate and work priorities.
The conference is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations
General Assembly.
The conferences serve an important political function: they allow
intergovernmental consensus building regarding the state of the
world economy and development policies, and they play a key
role in identifying the role of the United Nations and UNCTAD in
addressing economic development problems.

Generalized System of

The U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a

program designed to promote economic growth in the
developing world, provides preferential duty-free entry
for more than 4,650 products from 143 designated
beneficiary countries and territories.
The GSP program was instituted on Jan. 1, 1976, and
authorized under the Trade Act of 1974 for a 10-year
It has been renewed periodically since then, most
recently in 2006, when President George Bush signed
legislation that reauthorized the GSP program through

The following Guidebook and other

information sources are provided to
encourage the use of GSP duty-free
treatment for fostering economic growth
through the expansion of trade between
the United States and the developing GSP

Congress created the U.S. GSP program in 1974, with

broad bipartisan support, to expand the choices of
American industry and consumers while creating
economic opportunities in developing countries.
The GSP program provides preferential duty-free
treatment for 3,400 products from 134 designated
beneficiary developing countries (BDCs) and territories.
In 1996, an additional 1,450 articles from leastdeveloped beneficiary developing countries (LDBDCs)
were made eligible for duty-free treatment.
There are currently 43 least-developed GSP
beneficiaries. U.S. imports under GSP in 2006 from all
beneficiaries totaled $32.6 billion, an increase of 22
percent over 2005.