United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
Emblem of the United Nations.svg
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development logo.svg
Formation30 December 1964; 55 years ago (1964-12-30)
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersGeneva, Switzerland
Mukhisa Kituyi
Parent organization
United Nations General Assembly
United Nations Secretariat
The Headquarters of the UNCTAD are located at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

UNCTAD is the part of the United Nations Secretariat 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". UNCTAD was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964 and it reports to the UN General Assembly and United Nations Economic and Social Council.[1]

The primary objective of UNCTAD is to formulate policies relating to all aspects of development including trade, aid, transport, finance and technology. The conference ordinarily meets once in four years; the permanent secretariat is in Geneva.

One of the principal achievements of UNCTAD (1964) has been to conceive and implement the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). It was argued in UNCTAD that to promote exports of manufactured goods from developing countries, it would be necessary to offer special tariff concessions to such exports. Accepting this argument, the developed countries formulated the GSP scheme under which manufacturers' exports and import of some agricultural goods from the developing countries enter duty-free or at reduced rates in the developed countries. Since imports of such items from other developed countries are subject to the normal rates of duties, imports of the same items from developing countries would enjoy a competitive advantage.

The creation of UNCTAD in 1964 was based on concerns of developing countries over the international market, multi-national corporations, and great disparity between developed nations and developing nations. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was established to provide a forum where the developing countries could discuss the problems relating to their economic development. The organisation grew from the view that existing institutions like GATT (now replaced by the World Trade Organization, WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank were not properly organized to handle the particular problems of developing countries. Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, UNCTAD was closely associated with the idea of a New International Economic Order (NIEO).

The first UNCTAD conference took place in Geneva in 1964, the second in New Delhi in 1968, the third in Santiago in 1972, fourth in Nairobi in 1976, the fifth in Manila in 1979, the sixth in Belgrade in 1983, the seventh in Geneva in 1987, the eighth in Cartagena in 1992, the ninth at Johannesburg (South Africa) in 1996, the tenth in Bangkok (Thailand) in 2000, the eleventh in São Paulo (Brazil) in 2004, the twelfth in Accra in 2008, the thirteenth in Doha (Qatar) in 2012 and the fourteenth in Nairobi (Kenya) in 2016.

Currently, UNCTAD has 195 member states and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. UNCTAD has 400 staff members and a bi-annual (2010–2011) regular budget of $138 million in core expenditures and $72 million in extra-budgetary technical assistance funds. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group.[2] There are non-governmental organizations participating in the activities of UNCTAD.[3]


  UNCTAD Members
  UNCTAD Members at the Trade and Development Board
  Members, List A
  Members, List B
  Members, List C
  Members, List D
  Members, to be assigned

As of May 2018, 195 states are UNCTAD members:[4] all UN members plus UN observer states Palestine and the Holy See. UNCTAD members are divided into four lists, the division being based on United Nations Regional Groups[4] with six members unassigned: Armenia, Kiribati, Nauru, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Tuvalu. List A consists mostly of countries in the African and Asia-Pacific Groups of the UN. List B consists of countries of the Western European and Others Group. List C consists of countries of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC). List D consists of countries of the Eastern European Group.

The lists, originally defined in 19th General Assembly resolution 1995[5] serve to balance geographical distribution of member states' representation on the Trade Development Board and other UNCTAD structures. The lists are similar to those of UNIDO, an UN specialized agency.

the most recent member are the Palestinians[6]

The full lists are as follows:

List A (100 members): Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
List B (31 members): Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holy See, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.
List C (33 members): Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela.
List D (24 members): Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.
Not assigned countries (6 members): Armenia, Kiribati, Nauru, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Tuvalu.

Other states that do not participate are Cook Islands, Niue, and the states with limited recognition.


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

  • The UNCTAD Conference – held every four years:
UNCTAD XIV Nairobi   Kenya 17–22 July 2016[7]
UNCTAD XIII Doha   Qatar 21–26 April 2012[8]
UNCTAD XII Accra   Ghana 21–25 April 2008[9]
UNCTAD XI São Paulo   Brazil 13–18 June 2004[10]
UNCTAD X Bangkok   Thailand 12–19 February 2000[11]
UNCTAD IX Midrand   South Africa 27 April – 11 May 1996
UNCTAD VIII Cartagena   Colombia 8–25 February 1992
UNCTAD VII Geneva    Switzerland 8 Jul-3 Aug 1987
UNCTAD VI Belgrade   Yugoslavia 6–30 Jun 1983
UNCTAD V Manila   Philippines 7 May-3 Jun 1979
UNCTAD IV Nairobi   Kenya 5–31 May 1976
UNCTAD III Santiago   Chile 13 Apr-21 May 1972
UNCTAD II New Delhi   India 31 Jan-29 Mar 1968
UNCTAD I Geneva    Switzerland 23 Mar-16 Jun 1964
  • The UNCTAD Trade and Development Board – the board manages the work of UNCTAD between two conferences and meets up to three times every year;
  • Four UNCTAD Commissions and one Working Party – these meet more often than the board to take up policy, programme and budgetary issues;
  • Expert Meetings – the commissions will convene expert meetings on selected topics to provide substantive and expert input for Commission policy discussions.

Geneva, 1964Edit

In response to developing country (Least Developed Country, LDC) anxiety at their worsening position in world trade, the United Nations General Assembly voted for a 'one off' conference. These early discussions paved the way for new IMF facilities to provide finance for shortfalls in commodity earnings and for the Generalised Preference Schemes which increased access to Northern markets for manufactured imports from the South. At Geneva, the LDCs were successful in their proposal for the conference with its secretariat to become a permanent organ of the UN, with meetings every four years.[12] At the Geneva meeting, Raul Prebisch—a prominent Argentinian economist from the United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLA)--became the organization's first secretary-general.[13]

New Delhi, 1968Edit

The New Delhi Conference, held in February and March 1968, was a forum that allowed developing countries to reach agreement on basic principles of their development policies. The conference in New Delhi was an opportunity for schemes to be finally approved. The conference provided a major impetus in persuading the North to follow up UNCTAD I resolutions, in establishing generalised preferences. The target for private and official flows to LDCs was raised to 1% of the North's GNP, but the developed countries failed to commit themselves to achieving the target by a specific date. This has proven a continuing point of debate at UNCTAD conferences.

The conference led to the International Sugar Agreement, which seeks to stabilize world sugar prices.[12][14]

Santiago, 1972Edit

The Santiago Conference, 15 April 1972, was the third occasion on which the developing countries have confronted the rich with the need to use trade and aid measures more effectively to improve living standards in the developing world. Discussion centred on the international monetary system and specifically on the South's proposal that a higher proportion of new special drawing rights (SDRs) should be allocated to LDCs as a form of aid (the so-called 'link'). In Santiago, substantial disagreements arose within the Group of 77 (G77) despite preconference meetings. There was disagreement over the SDR proposal and between those in the G77 who wanted fundamental changes such as a change in the voting allocations in the South's favour at the IMF and those (mainly the Latin American countries) who wanted much milder reforms. This internal dissent seriously weakened the group's negotiating position and led to a final agreed motion which recommended that the IMF should examine the link and that further research be conducted into general reforms. This avoided firm commitments to act on the 'link' or general reform, and the motion was passed by conference.[12][15]

Nairobi, 1976 and Manila, 1979Edit

UNCTAD IV held in Nairobi May 1976, showed relative success compared to its predecessors. An Overseas Development Institute briefing paper of April 1979 highlights one reason for success as being down to the 1973 Oil Crisis and the encouragement of LDCs to make gains through producers of other commodities. The principal result of the conference was the adoption of the Integrated Programme for Commodities. The programme covered the principal commodity exports and its objectives aside from the stabilisation of commodity prices were: 'Just and remunerative pricing, taking into account world inflation', the expansion of processing, distribution and control of technology by LDCs and improved access to markets.[16][17]

UNCTAD V in the wake of the Nairobi Conference, held in Manila 1979 focused on the key issues of: protectionism in developing countries and the need for structural change, trade in commodities and manufactures aid and international monetary reform, technology, shipping, and economic co-operation among developing countries. An Overseas Development Institute briefing paper written in 1979 focuses its attention on the key issues regarding the LDCs` role as the Group of 77 in the international community.[18]

Belgrade, 1983Edit

The sixth UN conference on trade and development in Belgrade, 6–30 June 1983 was held against the background of earlier UNCTADs which have substantially failed to resolve many of the disagreements between the developed and developing countries and of a world economy in its worst recession since the early 1930s. The key issues of the time were finance and adjustment, commodity price stabilisation and trade.[12]


UNCTAD produces a number of topical reports, including:

  • The Trade and Development Report[19]
  • The Trade and Environment Review[20]
  • The World Investment Report[21]
  • The Economic Development in Africa Report[22]
  • The Least Developed Countries Report[23]
  • UNCTAD Statistics[24]
  • The Information Economy Report[25]
  • The Review of Maritime Transport[26]
  • The International Accounting and Reporting Issues Annual Review[27]
  • The Technology and Innovation Report[28]


UNCTAD conducts technical cooperation programmes[29] such as ASYCUDA, DMFAS, EMPRETEC[30] and WAIPA.

In addition, UNCTAD conducts certain technical cooperation 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.

UNCTAD hosts the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR).[27]

Partnership InitiativesEdit

UNCTAD is a founding member of the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative along with the Principles for Responsible Investment, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI), and the UN Global Compact.

List of Secretaries-General and Officers-in-ChargeEdit

Nr Secretary-General Dates in office Country of origin Remarks
1 Raúl Prebisch 1963–1969   Argentina
2 Manuel Pérez-Guerrero 1969–1974   Venezuela
3 Gamani Corea 1974–1984   Sri Lanka
4 Alister McIntyre 1985   Grenada Officer-in-Charge
5 Kenneth K.S. Dadzie 1986–1994   Ghana
6 Carlos Fortin 1994–1995   Chile Officer-in-Charge
7 Rubens Ricupero 1995–2004   Brazil
8 Carlos Fortin 2004–2005   Chile Officer-in-Charge
9 Supachai Panitchpakdi 1 September 2005 – 30 August 2013   Thailand
10 Mukhisa Kituyi 1 September 2013 – present   Kenya

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ http://unctad.org/en/Pages/aboutus.aspx
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ http://unctad.org/en/docs/tdngolistd12_en.pdf
  4. ^ a b "Membership of UNCTAD and membership of the Trade and Development Board" (PDF). unctad.org.
  5. ^ https://undocs.org/A/RES/1995(XIX)
  6. ^ Palestinians join 2 UN agencies, chemical weapons pact
  7. ^ UNCTAD 14 Home Page
  8. ^ Page has moved
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 August 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 March 2004. Retrieved 26 March 2004.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ a b c d "UNCTAD VI: background and issues". ODI Briefing Paper. Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  13. ^ "History". United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
  14. ^ "The UN Conference on Trade and Development". ODI Briefing Paper 1. Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  15. ^ "ODI Briefing Paper". UNCTAD III, problems and prospects. Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  16. ^ "UNCTAD 5: A preview of the issues". ODI briefing paper No.2 1979. Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  17. ^ "UNCTAd VI: background and issues". ODI Briefing Paper. Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  18. ^ "UNCTAD: A preview of the issues". ODI briefing paper 1979. Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  19. ^ http://unctad.org/tdr
  20. ^ http://unctad.org/ter
  21. ^ "unctad.org – Home". unctad.org.
  22. ^ http://unctad.org/africa/series
  23. ^ http://unctad.org/ldcr
  24. ^ http://unctad.org/stats
  25. ^ http://unctad.org/ier/series
  26. ^ http://unctad.org/rmt/series
  27. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 7 January 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "unctad.org – Technology and Innovation Report (Series)". unctad.org.
  29. ^ http://unctad.org/tc
  30. ^ "Empretec Women in Business Awards 2018 – World Investment Forum – UNCTAD". worldinvestmentforum.unctad.org. Retrieved 29 November 2018.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit