United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

UNCTAD, which is governed by its 194 member States, is the United Nations body responsible for dealing with development issues, particularly international trade – the main driver of development.

Its work can be summed up in three words: think, debate, and deliver.

Reflection on development is at the heart of UNCTAD’s work. It produces often-innovative analyses that form the basis for recommendations to economic policymakers. The aim is to help them take informed decisions and promote the macroeconomic policies best suited to ending global economic inequalities and to generating people-centred sustainable development.

UNCTAD is also a forum where representatives of all countries can freely engage in dialogue and discuss ways to establish a better balance in the global economy.

In addition, UNCTAD offers direct technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, helping them to build the capacities they need to become equitably integrated into the global economy and improve the well-being of their populations.

UNCTAD holds a ministerial-level meeting every four years to discuss major global economic issues and to decide on its programme of work.

It also holds discussions with civil society, including at an annual symposium where members of the public can express their views and interact with country representatives.

Every two years, UNCTAD organizes the World Investment Forum, which brings together major players from the international investment community to discuss challenges and opportunities and to promote investment policies and partnerships for sustainable development and equitable growth.

Globalization and development

On the basis of recent statistics – often yet to be published -- UNCTAD’s analyses contribute to international debate on the consequences of globalization for developing countries.

  • The organization examines global economic trends and the outlook for developing countries;
  • Undertakes studies on development strategies;
    Analyzes debt issues;
  • Provides developing countries with technical assistance on the management of public debt; and
  • Provides assistance to the Palestinian people in support of their economic development.

Trade and commodities

UNCTAD promotes development through international trade.

  • Produces analyses and collects data to improve understanding of current and future problems in this area;
  • Supports the participation of developing countries in international trade and international trade negotiations on an equitable basis;
  • Seeks to strengthen international trade in services and promotes an integrated approach to trade, the environment, and sustainable development;
  • Analyzes issues related to competition policy and consumer protection; and
  • Focuses on the contribution of the commodity sector to development, advocating diversification and risk management.

Investment and enterprise

UNCTAD offers member States expertise on all issues related to investment and enterprise development.

  • Conducts cutting-edge research and analysis in the field of investment for sustainable development;
  • Informs policymakers about the structure and evolution of foreign direct investment in the world, and outlines the main trends in investment;
  • Provides technical assistance to enable beneficiary countries to attract more investment for sustainable development, including through investment policy reviews;
  • Focal point for issues related to international investment agreements;
  • Promotes entrepreneurship and enterprise creation and expansion;
  • Participates in the setting of international accounting standards; and
  • Encourages responsible investment through initiatives such as the establishment of principles for sustainable development in agriculture.

Categories of countries that receive special attention

UNCTAD helps more than 90 countries in their efforts to reach the targets they have set for economic progress. These countries belong to categories that receive special attention from the United Nations, and, in many cases, special treatment to compensate for the disadvantages they face in the global economy.

UNCTAD helps least developed countries – 49 States were recognized as such in 2013 – to achieve the socioeconomic progress that will allow them to graduate from this category;
Supports landlocked developing countries which refuse to consider their landlocked nature as an obstacle to development; and
Supports small island developing States in their continuing efforts to become less economically vulnerable, despite the many challenges they face.

Technology and logistics

In a globalized, knowledge-based economy, it is essential to stimulate innovation in developing countries to improve their competitiveness.

UNCTAD conducts research in science, technology (including information and communication technology) and innovation for development;
Helps developing countries design and implement technology and innovation policies for economic growth and sustainable development; and
Carries out a broad programme of work to establish efficient services in transport, trade facilitation, and customs.
Read More


UNCTAD in India