Legal and Regulatory Framework > United Nations Conference
on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

The BioTrade initiative

This initiative is aimed at stimulating trade and investment in biodiversity-based products in developing countries to promote sustainable development in line with the three objectives of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD):

  • Conservation of biological diversity;
  • Sustainable use of its components;
  • Fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.

The initiative collaborates closely with various actors, including government, the private sector, NGOs, local and indigenous communities, and academia, to set up programmes that enhance the capability of developing countries to produce value-added products and services derived from biodiversity for both domestic and international markets.

The BioTrade Initiative comprises three complementary components:

  • Country and regional programmes (through national focal points and regional partners);
  • Policy development and trade facilitation;
  • Internet services.

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UNCTAD/ICC Investment Advisory Council

The Investment Advisory Council (IAC) is a joint initiative of UNCTAD and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to provide an informal and flexible framework within which senior business executives and senior government officials responsible for investment matters can interact on questions related to attracting and benefiting from FDI.

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FORINVEST (Policy framework for attracting foreign investment)

FORINVEST provides assistance to developing countries in strengthening their capacity to create and manage the policy and operating climate in which foreign investment and international business can thrive. It provides advisory services and training packages related to investment policy, investment legislation, investment codes, technology transfer and mechanisms for attracting investment, such as export processing zones and build-operate-transfer arrangements.

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STAMP (Strengthening and/or Streamlining FDI Agencies)

The aim of STAMP is to provide assistance to developing countries and economies in transition in strengthening their investment institutions, especially investment promotion agencies (IPAs); streamlining their modes of operation and approval processes; monitoring the quantity, quality and impact of inflows; and promoting host countries as attractive locations.

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Capacity building in FDI statistics

This project aims at enhancing the capacity of government agencies in developing countries to compile, disseminate and analyze data on FDI and TNC activities through implementing internationally recommended methodological standards, and at enabling national authorities to maintain high-quality and up-to-date databases. The project also intends to strengthen networking among national authorities involved in FDI data compilation and reporting, and in FDI policy issues and investment promotion activities, so as to facilitate the exchange of experiences.

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FDI in Tourism and Development

This programme aims at providing information and analyses that will assist policy-makers to design policies that best support their development objectives and strategies in the tourism sector.

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International Investment Agreements (IIAs)

UNCTAD supports developing countries to better understand key and emerging issues related to IIAs and their development dimension, and enhance their capacity in negotiating and implementing investment treaties and managing investor-states disputes. This is achieved through:

  • Publications: The series on Issues in IIAs is a learning and reference tool for negotiators and lawmakers from both developed and developing countries. The series, International Investment Policies for Development, provides analysis of technical issues that arise in the context of international investment rulemaking and their impact on development. Four databases provide information on bilateral investment treaties, double taxation treaties, other agreements with investment provisions and investor-state dispute settlement cases.
  • Technical assistance: regional training courses on the negotiation of IIAs, and on the management of investor-state dispute settlement, capacity-building seminars, advisory services for requesting countries on the review of concluded IIAs and formulation and/or modernization of investment legal frameworks, distance-learning courses on key issues in IIAs, and contributions to specific conferences and seminars.

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Contact: E-mail:

Investment facilitation

UNCTAD provides advisory services and training and prepares publications related to investment policies, investment legislation and regulations, institutional arrangements and good governance to attract and facilitate foreign investment, investment promotion strategies and techniques, and investment facilitation practices and procedures.

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Other investment-related programmes:

The Investment Gateway

The Investment Gateway is an electronic tool in support of investment promotion and facilitation. It is a web-based content management system, which works as an engine to collect, organize and display information. Investment promotion agencies, or other entities in charge of investment promotion and facilitation, can use it to provide content for their website and offer online services. It can be configured to individual countries’ needs and installed at a fraction of the cost of similar systems. The system is composed of four modules offering online information on investment opportunities, regulations, investors, and the country’s business environment.

Investment guides for LDCs prepared by UNCTAD with the International Chamber of Commerce are designed to serve as:

  • Objective descriptions of opportunities and conditions for potential investors;
  • Credible and attractive marketing tools for governments.

The project also incorporates a capacity building element through:

  • The training of local consultants engaged to gather information and produce partial drafts;
  • The close involvement of the investment agency in the entire process;
  • Project workshops that strengthen dialogue between investors and the government, and create a greater awareness of the importance of promoting the country as a location for FDI.

Guides published so far can be viewed either on the UNCTAD web page ASIT: or at or on the ICCWBO website:

Investment guides and i-portals

These are jointly produced by UNCTAD and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The investment guides provide a promotional tool for countries and include reliable and comprehensive information on investment opportunities, the regulatory framework and the general business environment. I-portal is an online facility that provides investors with pertinent information and data on a country’s investment climate and its investment opportunities.

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Enterprise development:

UNCTAD aims at enhancing the understanding and capacity of developing countries to develop policies aiming at stimulating enterprise development and business facilitation, including on e-tourism. The Enterprise Development Programme answers the need to formulate new enterprise development strategies by providing policy advice to governments and by working with local institutions to spur the creation and healthy growth of enterprises in developing countries. The programme assists Member States in creating a conducive and enabling policy and regulatory environment, and helps them support the outstanding role SMEs play in the economy in general and, more particularly, in job creation.

The main objectives are:

  • Improving SMEs’ growth and international competitiveness;
  • Stimulating entrepreneurial potential


Empretec promotes entrepreneurial skills and helps promising entrepreneurs to put their ideas into action and foster businesses. The programme contributes to SMEs growth and promotes their business linkages with larger enterprises, which ultimately leads to job creation, increased investment and, more generally, regional economic development.

Empretec’s proven entrepreneurial development methodology identifies 10 key areas of competences related to entrepreneurial development that are linked to a series of behavioural aspects. Through behavioural change, Empretec has nurtured over 150,000 entrepreneurs in 27 developing countries with the help of more than 600 local certified trainers. Together with methodology, Empretec provides enterprise support centres that offer advisory services and entrepreneurship training workshops within the public and private sector. Last but not least, Empretec promotes entrepreneurship among women.

In all, the Empretec programme aims to:

  • Improve the beneficiary country’s development and job creation prospects;
  • Mobilize entrepreneurial resources;
  • Help SMEs to compete in liberalized and globalized markets by fostering entrepreneurship, innovation and partnering;
  • Offer SMEs the skills, technology, opportunities, training and information they need to realize their objectives, expand their activities, and establish productive, stable linkages with foreign companies.

The programme creates the institutional capacity to stimulate employment-creating investment, technology transfer and exports, and promotes the creation and growth of SMEs through a business support selfsustaining network and an active coalition of public officials, entrepreneurs, corporate managers, bankers and executives of transnational corporations.

Empretec’s main beneficiaries are SMEs, entrepreneurs with potential, women entrepreneurs, key country institutions and governments. It transfers its methodologies to the counterpart institutions in all the countries where the programme becomes operational.

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Business linkages

The UNCTAD Business Linkages Programme is a multi-stakeholder initiative that transforms linkages between SMEs and TNCs into sustainable business relationships to improve the performance, productivity and efficiency of the entire supply chain through training, mentoring, information exchange, quality improvements, innovation and technology transfer. The Business Linkages Programme helps TNCs reduce costs through local sourcing and specialization; at the same time, it offers SMEs access to markets, training opportunities, international business practices, business information and financial resources. Business Linkages covers policy advice designed to facilitate sustainable business linkages, but also helps to identify business linkage opportunities,the upgrading of SMEs to meet foreign affiliates’ requirements, and to provide ways of accessing credit, and has programmes designed for supply chain management and entrepreneurship training.

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Information and communication technologies and e-business

UNCTAD supports interested developing countries in the establishment and implementation of policies and actions aimed at realizing the opportunities for economic development generated by ICT, and their application to business and government operations, emphasizing efforts in sectors and industries of particular interest to developing countries. Policy advice and capacity building activities carried out by UNCTAD in the area of ICT and e-business include:

  • Support for the formulation of national e-strategies for development;
  • Reinforcement of the policy-making capacity of developing countries in the field of ICT, with a special focus on the statistical measurement of access to, and use and impact of, ICT;
  • Strengthening the capacity of developing countries to be active participants in international discussions on ICT, e-business, e-commerce and related matters, including through policy analysis dissemination and awareness creation among policy-makers in developing countries;
  • Analysis of legal and regulatory frameworks for e-business and e-commerce;
  • Discussion of the implications of free and open source software;
  • Use of ICT and e-business to maximize the development potential of sustainable tourism in developing countries;
  • General capacity building for the adoption of e-business and e-commerce practices by SMEs.

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Business facilitation

UNCTAD has conceived a web-based e-government system to help developing countries work towards business facilitation through the transparency, simplification and automation of rules and procedures relating to enterprise creation and operation. The objective of the system is four-fold: (i) provide full transparency on rules and procedures; (ii) help governments to simplify procedures; (iii) promote good governance; and (iv) set a basis for regional/international harmonization of rules.

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Capacity development and e-applications

UNCTAD also aims to build up and strengthen local capacities in member countries by using information and communication technologies. As part of the partnerships launched at UNCTAD XI, UNCTAD has designed a technical assistance package (the e-Tourism Initiative) aimed at promoting the application of ICT in the tourism sector so as to enable developing countries themselves to exploit their tourism resources and benefit from greater autonomy in creating and promoting their own brand. The package builds on the experience accumulated by UNCTAD in the application of information technologies in economic development projects.

It comprises three elements: (i) an electronic platform and a business model that help countries to identify, standardize, coordinate and propose tourism services offered by local enterprises online; (ii) a method: collecting information about the tourism and craft sectors, standardizing it and distributing it on the Internet; and (iii) a partnership approach: enabling all stakeholders to coordinate their resources and objectives.

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The e-Tourism Programme aims at rebalancing the international tourism system by boosting tourism in developing countries. It seeks to put more power in the hands of their SMEs and help these destinations become autonomous in their search for business. The Programme aims at enabling public and private tourism stakeholders to implement participative e-strategies through relevant public and private partnerships. It provides a comprehensive ICT-centric assistance package aiming at boosting exposure for tourism SMEs by equipping local stakeholders with the behavioural, organizational and technological tools required for the implementation of localized e-business models.

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See also in Global Advocacy:

  • STIP Reviews
  • ICT Policy Reviews.
  • Investment Policy Reviews;
  • Trade and Environment Review.