Promoting Global Trade and Development

The United Nations General Assembly founded the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964 as a permanent international organisation. It aims to provide a forum for discussions on key trade and development issues, conduct research and analysis, and offer technical assistance to developing countries.

Organization: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

Established: 1964

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland (Permanent Secretariat)

Mission: Promote international trade as an engine for economic development and poverty reduction, particularly for developing countries.

History and Objectives:

UNCTAD was founded in response to the recognition that the developing countries needed a stronger voice in global economic governance. The organization was established with the goal of addressing the development challenges faced by these countries and promoting their interests in international trade negotiations.

Over the years, UNCTAD has evolved to address a wide range of issues related to trade, finance, investment, technology, and sustainable development.


  • Promoting trade, investment, and development policies that benefit all countries, especially developing nations.
  • Strengthening the capacity of developing countries to participate effectively in international trade negotiations and trade-related decision-making processes.
  • Conducting research and analysis to generate insights into global economic trends and their implications for development.
  • Providing technical assistance and capacity-building support to help developing countries implement trade and development policies effectively.

Structure and Activities:

UNCTAD operates through a three-tiered structure:

  • The Conference: The highest decision-making body of UNCTAD, composed of all member states, which meets every four years to review the organization’s work and set its priorities.
  • The Trade and Development Board: A subsidiary body of the Conference, responsible for overseeing the implementation of UNCTAD’s work program and providing guidance on policy issues.
  • The Secretariat: The permanent administrative body of UNCTAD, responsible for conducting research, providing technical assistance, and supporting the organization’s activities.

UNCTAD’s work covers a wide range of areas, including trade policy analysis, investment promotion, debt management, technology transfer, and sustainable development. The organization produces research reports, policy briefs, and other publications to inform policymakers and the public about key trade and development issues.

India’s Role in UNCTAD:

India has been an active participant in UNCTAD since its inception and has played a significant role in shaping the organization’s agenda. As one of the largest and fastest-growing economies in the world, India has a strong interest in promoting international trade and development cooperation.

India has contributed to UNCTAD’s work in various ways, including:

  1. Advocating for the interests of developing countries in trade negotiations and policy debates.
  2. Sharing its own experiences and best practices in trade and development policies with other developing nations.
  3. Providing financial and technical support for UNCTAD’s capacity-building programs in developing countries.

India has also been actively involved in the negotiations of several key UNCTAD initiatives, such as the Doha Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The country has consistently emphasized the importance of addressing the specific needs and challenges faced by developing countries in these discussions.

Recent Developments:

In recent years, UNCTAD has focused on several priority areas to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and promote inclusive and sustainable development. Some of the key initiatives and developments include:

  • Digital Economy: UNCTAD has been working to address the opportunities and challenges posed by the digital economy for developing countries. The organization has conducted research on issues such as e-commerce, digital trade, and digital inclusion, and has provided technical assistance to help countries harness the potential of digital technologies for development.
  • Investment Promotion: UNCTAD continues to support developing countries in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and promoting sustainable investment policies. The organization’s World Investment Reports provide valuable insights into global investment trends and policy developments, while its Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development offers guidance on designing investment policies that contribute to sustainable development objectives.

Trade Facilitation: UNCTAD works to support developing countries in implementing trade facilitation measures that reduce trade costs, streamline customs procedures, and improve market access. The organization’s Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide provides practical guidance to policymakers and practitioners on how to design and implement effective trade facilitation reforms.

  • Debt Management: UNCTAD provides technical assistance and capacity-building support to help developing countries manage their external debt effectively. The organization’s Debt Management and Financial Analysis System (DMFAS) provides countries with tools and training to strengthen their debt management capacities and reduce the risk of debt distress.

UNCTAD’s Global Leaders Forum will commemorate its 60th anniversary.

Held from June 12 to 13,2023 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, UNCTAD will commemorate its 60th anniversary with a Global Leaders Forum with the subject “Charting a new development course in a changing world.”

The two-day event, which will bring together heads of state and institutions, representatives of governments and civil society, as well as eminent economists and specialists, will be opened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Participants from all over the world will join together to promote innovative approaches to development in the current “polyglobalization” period, which is characterised by increasing economic variety and decentralisation despite nations being increasingly interdependent on one another globally.

“Creating a new development course offers a framework for creating a future that is resilient, equitable, and sustainable as we adapt to changing times,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said.

The UNCTAD’s integrated approach to trade and development, as well as the interconnected problems of finance, technology, investment, and sustainable development, will be the main topics of discussion at the Forum as it looks into new development strategies. The needs of emerging countries, especially the least developed countries, small island developing states, and landlocked developing countries, will receive particular consideration.


UNCTAD plays a crucial role in promoting global trade and development cooperation, with a focus on supporting the needs and priorities of developing countries. India, as a key member and active participant in UNCTAD, has contributed significantly to the organization’s work and agenda, advocating for the interests of developing countries and sharing its own experiences and best practices. As the world continues to grapple with complex challenges such as digitalization, sustainable development, and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, UNCTAD’s role in promoting inclusive and sustainable development remains as important as ever.