• The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is a body of the UN that aims to develop opportunities, investments and trade in developing countries.
    • The United Nations General Assembly is the parent organisation of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Moreover, UNCTAD is a permanent body of the United Nations.
  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is the United Nations’ key point for trade and development and for interlinked issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment and sustainable development.
  • Its goal is to support the developing countries, particularly the least developed countries and countries with their economies in transition, to integrate profitably into the global economy.
  • It also seeks to assist the global community to stimulate a global partnership for development, boost coherence or consistency in the global economic policy creation and guarantee development gains for all from trade.
  • UNCTAD carries out ahead-of-the-curve study and analysis on both long-standing and rising development issues.
  • It structures the consensus around efforts to foster national and international policies and approaches favorable to development and assists countries in enforcing their development strategies.
  • The specific work stream of UNCTAD comprises:
    • contributing to the global debate on globalization and the handling of its after-effects for developing countries;
    • seeking to make consensus, enhance capacity and encourage partnerships for trade policy, trade dealings, trade in goods and services, competition law and protection of consumers and managing issues occurring at the intersection of trade, environment and climate change
    • providing international expertise in research and policy scrutiny, inter-governmental consensus-structuring, providing technical assistance with regards to investment and enterprise and
    • improving economic growth and competitiveness in developing countries in the areas of science, technology and innovation, trade logistics and development of human resources.

UNCTAD Objectives

  • Framing policies in various domains such as trade, technology, finance, aid, and transport is the most important priority of UNCTAD. 
  • Geneva is the permanent secretariat of UNCTAD and the conference ordinarily meets once in four years.
  • UNCTAD collects data and conducts research and analyses policies.
  • UNCTAD, with its work in the national and global levels, aims to help countries to:
    1. Understand options to address macro-level development challenges.
    2. Acquire beneficial integration into the international trading system.
    3. Reduce the dependency on commodities by diversifying the economies.
    4. Decrease their exposure to debt and financial volatility.
    5. Increase development-friendliness by attracting more investments.
    6. Increase technologies related to the digital domain.
    7. Give more thrust to innovation and entrepreneurship.
    8. Aid local firms to move up value chains.
    9. Facilitate the flow of goods across borders.
    10. Prevent consumer abuse.
    11. Competition should not be stifled, hence any concerned regulations would be cross-checked.
    12. Effectively utilise natural resources that would help in adapting to climate change.

UNCTAD Reports

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) publishes important reports like:

  • Trade & Development Report
  • World Development Report
  • The Least Developed Countries Report
  • Information and Economy Report
  • Commodities and Development Report
  • Technology and Innovation Report

Formation of UNCTAD

  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was constituted in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body.
  • UNCTAD is a part of the United Nations Secretariat that deals with issues pertaining to trade, investment and development.
  • UNCTAD reports to the UN General Assembly and United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
  • At present, UNCTAD has 195 member states and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Functions of UNCTAD

The major functions of the UNCTAD have been listed below:

  1. To foster global trade between the developed and under-developed countries that have varied socio-economic organizations with special importance to the rapid growth of the under-developed countries.
  2. To devise the principles and policies related to international trade and problems linked to economic development.
  3. To make proposals for putting the said principles and policies into practice and to adopt measures that may be appropriate in this regard.
  4. To normally evaluate and enable the co­ordination of activities of other establishments within the fold of the United Nations in relation to international trade and economic development.
  5. To be accessible as a center for harmonized trade-related policies of governments and the regional economic groupings in execution of Article 7 of the Charter of the United Nations.
Members of UNCTAD
  • As of May 2018, 195 countries are member states of UNCTAD.
  • The members of UNCTAD are divided into four lists, the division being based on United Nations Regional Groups with six unassigned members namely Armenia, Kiribati, Nauru, South Sudan, Tajikistan and Tuvalu.
  • The List A holds mostly of countries in the African and Asia-Pacific Groups of the UN.
  • List B includes countries of the Western European and Others Group.
  • List C includes countries that belong to the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC).
  • List D includes countries from the Eastern European Group.
Achievements of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • One of the major accomplishments of UNCTAD has been to design and execute the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The developed countries drafted the GSP scheme according to which manufacturers’ exports and import of certain agricultural produce from the developing countries enter duty-free or at decreased prices in the developed countries.
  • It is also striving to lessen the burden of debts of the developing countries that have taken a large sum of loans from bilateral and multilateral financial sources.
  • The fourth conference of UNCTAD held at Belgrade in June 1983 stressed the necessity for transfer of technology to LDCs (Last Developed Countries) in order to boost their swift and self-reliant development. UNCTAD adopted a resolution in connection to the transfer of technology to LDCs on the lines of the policy paper sanctioned at the fourth conference of UNCTAD.
  • The second conference of UNCTAD held at Delhi in 1968 underlined for the first time the necessity for encouraging global co-operation and self-reliance between the LDCs.

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