Multi-Lateral Summaries > United Nations Conference
on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

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.

As the focal point within the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development and the inter-related issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment, and sustainable development, UNCTAD´s technical cooperation activities address these issues in a mutually complementary fashion.

The thrust of UNCTAD´s technical cooperation is capacity development in the four main areas of its work:

  • International finance, globalization and development strategies;
  • International trade in goods and services and commodities;
  • Investment and enterprise development;
  • Technology and trade logistics

TCB Related Programme

The overall objective of UNCTAD´s work on International Trade is to promote development. To this end, UNCTAD offers comprehensive multidisciplinary support for putting in place development-oriented trade policies and implementing related strategies and programmes, for developing countries and countries in transition to a market economy.


Mr. Guillermo Valles
Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities (DITC), UNCTAD
Palais des Nations,
1211 Geneva 10

Tel: +41 22 917 51 76


Thus UNCTAD provides tools for the analysis of tariffs and non-tariff measures for achieving better market access; support for countries’ beneficial participation in international trade negotiations; the strengthening of their service-sector capacities; the promotion of the integration of trade, environment and development; the promotion of effective pro-development structures related to competition law and policy.

UNCTAD’s technical cooperation is delivered at the national, sub-regional, regional and international levels.

Key focus areas are:

  • Improving the understanding of relevant and emerging issues in international trade, international trading system in general, and of Global and Regional Trade Policies in particular;
  • Making available trade information and trade policy analyses, particularly on tariffs and non-tariff measures;
  • Assistance in setting up and developing trade information databases and providing training in this area;
  • Assistance with the understanding of international trade rules and disciplines;
  • Strengthening of human, institutional and policy-making capacities and formulation and implementing national trade policy frameworks conducive to economic, human and social development and poverty alleviation, and to effectively and beneficially participate in multilateral, regional and sub-regional trade negotiations including South-South;
  • Assistance with services sector development and trade including strengthening coherent policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks and effective participation in regional and multilateral trade negotiations on services;
  • Support in preparation of services policy reviews;
  • Support developing countries and countries with economies in transition for accession to WTO;
  • Capacity building on market access, GSP and other preferential arrangements including GSTP;
  • Assistance with the understanding of rules of international institutions dealing with the settlement of international trade, investment and intellectual property disputes, in order to avoid disputes, and, alternatively, effectively manage and handle disputes;
  • Making available analytical toolkits for analyzing the impact of trade policy reforms and providing related training for its effective use;
  • Helping developing countries master the trade and development implications of climate change on the one hand, and on the other hand, for taking advantage of related emerging trade and investment opportunities. Main areas touched upon are competitiveness, market access, eco-labelling, supportive and enabling measures, trade liberalization and sustainable development;
  • Supporting the effective participation of developing countries in deliberations of trade-related international forums;
  • Training of public and private sector professionals in developing countries to enhance to ensure obtaining economic benefits from the full use of the Convention on Biological Diversity;
  • Capacity-building and technical assistance to developing countries and economies in transition, seeking to formulate and implement competition law and policy related to:
    • Establishing new or strengthening existing competition institutions;
    • Capacity-building for better enforcement of competition law;
    • Promoting a competition culture through competition advocacy activities;
    • Conducting Voluntary Peer Reviews of Competition Law and Policy;
    • Providing capacity-building and technical assistance related to Consumer Protection.

Activities are regional, Competition Policies for Latin America (COMPAL) and Africa (AFRICOMP), or related to Competition in Selected Sectors.


UNCTAD is the lead-organization of the United Nations Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity. The UN Inter-Agency Cluster is an interagency mechanism dedicated to the coordination of trade and development operations at the national and regional levels within the UN system. It makes concrete and direct contribution to the UN system-wide coherence reform by coordinating its operations in the Delivering as One Pilots and UNDAF processes and by participating to the United Nations Development Group machinery in view of the formulation of new UN rules and standards mechanisms for inter-agency operations. The Cluster aims at ensuring that the interface between the issues related to trade and productive sectors and the United Nations Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) are adequately taken into account in the UN system wide coherence processes.

The Cluster is coordinated by UNCTAD and includes UNIDO, UNDP, ITC, FAO, WTO, UNEP, ILO, UNCITRAL, UNOPS and the five UN Regional Commissions.

For more information on the Cluster please refer to:

As the focal point for the integrated treatment of trade and development, UNCTAD also interacts and cooperates with a variety of other organizations within and outside the United Nations system. These include the following:

World Trade Organization

UNCTAD and the WTO have joined forces to ensure a better functioning of the multilateral trading system. In April 2003, the organizations signed an MoU providing for cooperation and consultations on their technical assistance activities, and for the conduct of joint studies on selected issues. The two organizations interact frequently, and the intergovernmental processes in both organizations are often attended by the same government representatives.

International Trade Centre

The International Trade Centre (ITC) is jointly sponsored by UNCTAD and the 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 the WTO are represented in the Joint Advisory Group supervising ITC’s work, and UNCTAD has a number of joint technical assistance activities with ITC.


A new Memorandum of Understanding between UNCTAD and the United Nations Development Porgramme (UNDP) was signed on 31st March 2009. The two organizations have a long and fruitful history of collaboration. They share similar development objectives in providing assistance to countries to meet the MDGs and cooperate in areas of mutual concern. The new MoU, which replaces the previous one signed in 1998, lays out substantive areas and modalities of collaboration. This agreement bears particular importance in the context of the UN System-wide coherence reforms. It is based on the General Assembly´s mandates regarding the UN development operations and coherence process. It also refers to the UNDP Strategic Framework for 2008-2011 and the Accra Ministerial Declaration adopted at UNCTAD XII. For the first time, specific mechanisms for broad and deep cooperative arrangements and joint operations between the two organizations are provided in the agreement. These mechanisms refer to both headquarters and country levels, and take into account the field presence of UNDP and its capacity to host administrative, financial and logistical support services at the country level. The MoU seeks to enhance effectiveness, collaboration, coordination and the avoidance of duplication between the two agencies. In this regard, the mandate and expertise of UNCTAD as the focal point of the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development are fully recognized.

UN regional commissions

UNCTAD cooperates with these international entities on a project-by-project basis, whether in relation to research projects, joint workshops and seminars, or technical assistance. Since UNCTAD has no representatives in the field, the UNDP country offices are also used to support UNCTAD’s field activities.

Bretton Woods Institutions (International Monetary Fund and World Bank)

The World Bank and UNCTAD cooperate in the delivery of some technical assistance and capacity building programmes. The UNCTAD Secretariat, through the Debt Management and Financial Analysis System (DMFAS) programme, is also an active member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics, which is chaired by the IMF. The three agencies also cooperate in organizing seminars. UNCTAD attends the biannual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, and both institutions participate in UNCTAD’s intergovernmental meetings.


Since the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) was officially launched on 31 May 2008, a number of institutional arrangements have been put in place to make it fully operational. These include the establishment of an EIF Secretariat and the appointment of an executive director. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has been appointed as the trust fund manager, and up to US$64.5 million has been deposited with it. The current level of funding commitments stands at US$240 million. (The EIF guidelines require that an agency wishing to implement EIF projects in LDCs has to sign a partnership agreement with UNOPS as the trust fund manager.)

Potential implementing agencies are UNCTAD, ITC, the UNDP, the World Bank and UNIDO, approved as a new partner agency to the Integrated Framework on 14 May 2009. As of June 2009, agreements have been finalized and signed with UNCTAD and ITC (TDB 14-25 September 2009).

Other intergovernmental bodies

In addition to the organizations of the UN System, a total of 111 other intergovernmental bodies have gained accreditation as observers to UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Board.

Partnerships per area of intervention:

  1. Agriculture and industrial domestic policies to determine trade policy, investment (FAO, UNIDO, WB, UNDP) and technology policy (UNCTAD, WB, UNIDO) involving:
    • Investment regimes;
    • Investment/ technology agreements;
    • Investment promotion;
    • Dispute settlement on investments, etc.
  2. Competition policy (UNCTAD, WB) involving:
    • Domestic laws and institutions;
    • Regional/international rules on competition.
  3. Intellectual property (WIPO, WTO) involving:
    • Domestic laws and institutions;
    • Regional /international rules on intellectual property rights.
  4. Environment policy (UNEP, WB, WTO, UNCTAD) involving:
    • Domestic laws and institutions;
    • Regional/international rules on the environment.
  5. Macroeconomic policies (IMF, WB, WTO, UNCTAD) involving:
    • Strong links with trade policy;
    • Fiscal and monetary policies;
    • Impact of the international economic environment;
    • Coherence issues.

TCB activities in this guide


  • The World Investment Report
  • Trade and Development Report
  • Economic Development in Africa Report
  • Least Developed Countries Report (LDC)
  • The Technology and Innovation Report (TIR)
  • The Creative Economy Report 2008
  • Investment Policy Reviews (IPRs)
  • Trade and Environment Review (TER)
  • Commodity Policy Reviews
  • Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures (DGFF)
  • Best Practices in Investment for Development
  • The Creative Economy Programme
  • Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Reviews - STIP Reviews
  • ICT Policy Reviews (ICTPRs)
  • Current Studies on science and technology for development


  • Policy advice on commodities
  • Trade, environment and development
  • Trade negotiations and commercial diplomacy


  • Assistance to WTO accession
  • Implementation and administration of the Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP)
  • Technical cooperation in the area of competition and consumers’ law and policy
  • TrainForTrade
  • UNCTAD Virtual Institute on Trade and Development
  • Regional training course: Key Issues on the International Economic Agenda
  • Short courses on key international economic issues for Geneva-based diplomats
  • Assistance on trade policy making and negotiations
  • Assistance on the utilization of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)
  • Investment policies and investment promotion
  • International Investment Agreements (IIAs)
  • Intellectual property and development


  • The BioTrade Initiative
  • UNCTAD/ICC Investment Advisory Council
  • FORINVEST (Policy framework for attracting foreign investment)
  • STAMP (Strengthening and/or streamlining FDI agencies)
  • Information and communication technologies and e-business
  • Capacity building in FDI statistics
  • FDI in Tourism and Development
  • International Investment Agreements (IIAs)
  • Investment facilitation
  • The Investment Gateway
  • Investment guides and i-portals
  • Enterprise development
  • Empretec
  • Business linkages
  • Business facilitation
  • Capacity development and e-applications
  • e-Tourism


  • Trade analysis and research
  • Trade analysis and information system (TRAINS)
  • The World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS)
  • A pilot project on the collection and quantification of Non-tariff Measures (NTMs)


  • Training on transport and trade facilitation
  • Support for trade facilitation negotiations
  • Trade Logistics
  • Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) programme
  • Review of Maritime Transport (RMT)


  • Transport and trade facilitation
  • Review of Maritime transport


  • Insurance
  • Corporate transparency and accounting
  • Commodity risk management and finance tools
  • Debt management programme – DMFAS


  • Aid for Trade projects related to South-South cooperation


  • Climate change programme