The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. During four decades, the organization has been the focal point within the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development and related issues in the areas of investment, finance, technology, enterprise development and sustainable development. 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. 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 assistance. 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.
Nowadays UNCTAD has continued to play a crucial role in emphasizing the development dimension of issues in the fields of international trade and investment and related areas. In particular, UNCTAD has been addressing the imbalances of globalization and the need to overcome the supply constraints of developing countries, so as to ensure development gains and poverty reduction. This is captured in the theme of the UNCTAD XI Ministerial Conference, Enhancing coherence between national development strategies and global economic processes towards economic growth and development, particularly of developing countries. Main activities
* Trade and commodities: 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.
* Investment, technology and enterprise development: 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 capacity-building seminars and regional symposia and the preparation of a series of issues papers.
* 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.
* Transport, customs and information technology: 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.
* Special Programme for Least Developed, Landlocked Developing and Small Island Developing Countries : Identifies the specific needs of these particularly vulnerable countries and tailors technical assistance to these needs.
Relationship with other international organizations World Trade Organization UNCTAD and WTO have been joining forces to ensure a better functioning of the multilateral trading system. In April 2003, the organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding providing for cooperation and consultations on their technical assistance activities and for the conduct of joint studies on selected issues. UNCTAD and WTO interact frequently, and the intergovernmental processes in both organizations are often attended by the same Government representatives. International Trade Centre
The ITC is jointly sponsored by UNCTAD and WTO for operational, enterprise-oriented aspects of trade development, with an emphasis on trade promotion. In contrast to UNCTAD, whose technical assistance is primarily tailored to Governments, ITC’s technical assistance focuses on assisting businesses in developing countries. Both UNCTAD and WTO are represented in the Joint Advisory Group supervising ITC’s work, and UNCTAD has a number of joint technical assistance activities with ITC.