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United Nations Conference on Trade and Developmement

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development


Acronyms Head UNCTAD Supachai Panitchpakdi

Status Established

Active 1964

Headquarters

Geneva, Switzerland

Website

www.unctad.org

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body. It is the principal organ of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with trade, investment, and development issues. The organization's goals are to "maximize the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to into the world economy on an equitable basis." (from official website). The creation of the conference was based on concerns of developing countries over the international market, multi-national corporations, and great disparity between developed nations and developing nations. In the 1970s and 1980s, UNCTAD was closely associated with the idea of a New International Economic Order (NIEO).

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was established in 1964 in order to provide a forum where the developing countries could discuss the problems relating to their economic development. UNCTAD grew from the view that existing institutions like GATT (now replaced by the World Trade Organization, WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank were not properly organized to handle the particular problems of developing countries. The primary objective of the UNCTAD is to formulate policies relating to all aspects of development including trade, aid, transport, finance and technology. The Conference ordinarily meets once in four years. The first conference took place in Geneva in 1964, second in New Delhi in 1968, the third in Santiago in 1972, fourth in Nairobi in 1976, the fifth in Manila in 1979, the sixth in Belgrade in 1983, the seventh in Geneva in 1987, the eighth in Cartagena in 1992 and the ninth at Johannesburg (South Africa)in 1996. The Conference has its permanent secretariat in Geneva. One of the principal achievements of UNCTAD has been to conceive and implement the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). It was argued in UNCTAD, that in order to promote exports of manufactured goods from developing countries, it would be necessary to offer special tariff concessions to such exports. Accepting this argument, the developed countries formulated the GSP Scheme under which manufacturers' exports and some agricultural goods from the developing countries enter duty-free or at reduced rates in the developed countries. Since imports of such items from other developed countries are subject to the normal rates of duties, imports of the same items from developing countries would enjoy a competitive advantage. Currently, UNCTAD has 194 member States and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. UNCTAD has 400 staff members and an bi-annual (20102011) regular budget of $138 million in core budget expenditures and $72 million in extra-budgetary technical assistance funds. It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.] There is a list of non-governmental organizations participating in the activities of UNCTAD

A Brief History of UNCTAD

Foundation
In the early 1960s, growing concerns about the place of developing countries in international trade led many of these countries to call for the convening of a full-fledged conference specifically devoted to tackling these problems and identifying appropriate international actions. 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. Simultaneously, the developing countries established the Group of 77 to voice their concerns. (Today, the G77 has 131 members.) The prominent Argentinian economist Ral Prebisch, who had headed the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, became the organization's first Secretary-General.

Phase 1: The 1960s and 1970s


o o o o o o the Generalized System of Preferences (1968), whereby developed economies grant improved market access to exports from developing countries. a number of International Commodities Agreements, which aimed at stabilizing the prices of export products crucial for developing countries. the Convention on a Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences, which strengthened the ability of developing countries to maintain national merchant fleets. the adoption of a Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices. This work later evolved into what is today known as "Trade and Competition Policies". In its early decades of operation, UNCTAD gained authoritative standing: as an intergovernmental forum for North-South dialogue and negotiations on issues of interest to developing countries, including debates on the "New International Economic Order". for its analytical research and policy advice on development issues. Agreements launched by UNCTAD during this time include

Furthermore, UNCTAD was a key contributor to: the definition of the target of 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) to be given as official development aid by developed

Phase 2: From the 1990s until today


o Key developments in the international context: The conclusion of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations under the GATT resulted in the establishment of the World Trade Organizationin 1995, which led to a strengthening of the legal framework governing international trade. o o A spectacular increase in international financial flows led to increasing financial instability and volatility. Against this background, UNCTAD's analysis gave early warning concerning the risks and the destructive impact of financial crises on development. Consequently, UNCTAD emphasized the need for a more development-oriented "international financial architecture". o o Foreign direct investment flows became a major component of globalization. UNCTAD highlighted the need for a differentiated approach to the problems of developing countries. Its tenth conference, held in Bangkok in February 2000, adopted a political declaration "The Spirit of Bangkok" as a strategy to address the development agenda in a globalizing world. o o In recent years, UNCTAD has further focused its analytical research on the linkages between trade, investment, technology and enterprise development. put forward a "positive agenda" for developing countries in international trade negotiations, designed to assist developing countries in better understanding the complexity of the multilateral trade negotiations and in formulating their positions. o o Expanded work on international investment issues, following the merger into UNCTAD of the New Yorkbased United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations in 1993. expanded and diversified its technical assistance, which today covers a wide range of areas, including training trade negotiators and addressing trade-related issues; debt management, investment policy reviews and the promotion of entrepreneurship; commodities; competition law and policy; and trade and environment.