United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

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United Nations Conference On Trade And Development (UNCTAD)

Introduction to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, permanent arm of the United Nations General Assembly. The conference, established in December 1964, followed an earlier meeting in which 120 nations participated in discussions of problems relating to international commodity markets and to trade as a primary instrument for economic development. The three-month deliberations were so useful that the General Assembly voted to continue them on a permanent basis.

The responsibilities of UNCTAD include promoting world trade among countries at different stages of development and with different social and economic systems; initiating action for negotiating and adopting multilateral trade agreements; and providing a center for harmonizing trade and development policies of governments and economic groupings such as the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA).

Membership in UNCTAD includes all members of the UN, plus several others holding membership in UN-affiliated agencies. Plenary sessions are held every few years, with interim activities directed by a 130-member Trade and Development Board that meets semiannually. The board has six main subsidiary committees: on commodities, on manufactures, on shipping, on invisibles (such as insurance and tourism) and financing related to trade, on transfer of technology, and on economic cooperation and integration among developing countries. UNCTAD headquarters is in Geneva.” (1)

Summary of United Nations Conference On Trade And Development

An agency of the United Nations General Assembly formed in 1964 to stimulate the economies of less developed countries through trade. UNCTAD has tried to reduce or abolish the tariff and nontariff barriers of developed nations on the manufactured exports to developing countries. Unctad serves as a forum for developed and developing countries on trade matters. In recent years UNCTAD has addressed the creation of nonreciprocal concessions to products of developing countries; the principle of such concessions is embraced in the Generalized System Of Preferences (read this and related legal terms for further details), which emerged from the Tokyo Round of multilateral trade negotiations. UNCTAD has proposed establishment of a so-called Common Fund of $470 million as the financial vehicle behind a commodities program; the fund would be used to build buffer stocks of certain commodities. It has discussed debt restructuring and relief, and the adoption of a Code Of Conduct For Liner Conferences (read this and related legal terms for further details) that would guarantee the merchant fleets of Third World nations a higher portion of their import and export cargoes.

Membership in UNCTAD is open to all members of the United Nations; the agency includes several nonmembers of the UN as well. UNCTAD headquarters are located in Geneva.(2)

Legal Materials

The “United Nations Conference on Trade and Development” is generally known as UNCTAD. The Organization’s “main goals are to maximize the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries, and to help them face challenges arising from globalization and integrate into the world economy, on an equitable basis.”

The UNCTAD Web site (www.unctad.org) further explains the organization’s operations, lists UNCTAD’s reports, studies and other publications, and links to related Web sites. The Main Publications section includes reports, issue summaries, newsletters “Basic Documents,” etc.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Outline

UNCTAD is an agency of the UN with its Secretariat situated in Geneva, and its members are UN members. UNCTAD has a general conference of the members every three or four years. The Trade and Development Board of UNCTAD, which consists of 55 members, supervises the operation of the organization. UNCTAD has four major committees carrying out the main functions of the organization. These are: the Committee on Commodities; the Committee on Manufacturers; the Committee on Invisibles and Trade Financing; and the Committee on Shipping. Since UNCTAD is an organization of the UN, its contribution to the development of international trade and commerce concentrates on policy matters. The so-called New International Economic Order (NIEO) was initiated by the so-called Group 77 (G 77), a group of 77 countries (there are now about 100 countries in the group) with similar views on the NIEO, within the forum of UNCTAD. Although it is mainly a forum for political discussions, a number of international agreements initiated by UNCTAD, such as the International Commodity Agreements, are an important part of international commercial law. UNCTAD’s functional committees, for example, the Committee on Shipping, have been active in developing rules affecting international trade and commerce. In 1988 the Group 77 countries passed the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: Group 77 Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP) Among Developing Countries. See 27 ILM 1204 (1988). The agreement was signed by 46 countries in April 1988. This agreementrepresents part of the so-called NIEO movement. (3)

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, abbreviated as UNCTAD, was established in 1964. As the main organ of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly dealing with trade, investment and development, its mission is to integrate developing countries into the world economy, with a particular focus on ensuring that domestic policies and international action are mutually supportive in bringing about sustainable development

UNCTAD fulfils its mandate by carrying out three key functions:

acting as a forum for intergovernmental deliberations, with a view towards consensus building;

undertaking research, policy analysis and data collection for databases of government representatives and experts;

providing technical assistance tailored to the specific requirements of developing countries, cooperating where appropriate with other organizations and donor countries.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Embracing mainstream international law, this section on united nations conference on trade and development explores the context, history and effect of the area of the law covered here.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

This section provides an overview of united nations conference on trade and development (unctad) within the legal context of General, Trade and Investment Related Institutions in international economic law, with coverage of Architecture.


Further Reading

  • Kendra Magraw, “United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD),” Elgar Encyclopedia of International Economic Law, Cheltenham Glos (United Kingdom), Northampton, MA (United States)


Further Reading

  • The entry “united nations conference on trade and development” in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (currently, the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law, 2009), Oxford University Press


Further Information

UNCTAD website

See Also

United Nations (UN)



  1. Information about United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia
  2. Main Author: William J. Miller
  3. John Mo, International Commercial Law

See Also

Foreign Laws
International Law
United Nations
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)

Further Reading

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