United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (also known as UNCTAD according to abbreviationfinder) is a permanent intergovernmental body. Principal body of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with trade, investment and development. As the central UN focal point for least developed countries, he has played a leading role in organizing UN conferences on least developed countries. It provides a forum for intergovernmental consensus building where Member States interact on policy issues related to trade and development. He conducts policy analysis and research on the challenges of globalization and the integration of developing countries into the international trading system.
In the early 1960s, there was growing concern on the part of developing countries related to international trade, so many of these countries convened a conference specifically dedicated to solving these problems and identifying international actions for their solution..
The first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was held in Geneva in 1964. Given the magnitude of the problems and the need to address them, the conference was institutionalized to meet every four years, with inter-sessional intergovernmental bodies meeting and a permanent secretariat to provide the necessary substantive and logistical support.
At the same time, developing countries established the Group of 77 to express their concerns.
Prominent Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch, who had headed the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, became the organization’s first Secretary General.
1960 and 1970
In its first decades of operation, it gained authority 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” and for its analytical research and policy advice. on development issues.
During this period, the following agreements were reached:
- The Generalized System of Preferences (1968), in which developed economies would grant market access for exports from developing countries.
- A series of international commodity agreements, the objective of which was to stabilize the prices of export products important to developing countries.
- The Convention on a Code of Conduct for Shipping Conferences, which strengthened the capacity of developing countries to maintain national merchant fleets.
- The adoption of a set of equitable multilateral rules and regulations for the control of restrictive business practices. This work was later developed into what is now known as “Trade and Competition Policies”.
In addition, UNCTAD was a key element in:
- The definition of the goal of 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), which is given as official development aid by developed countries to the poorest countries, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1970.
- The identification of the Group of Least Developed Countries(LDCs), as early as 1971, which drew attention to the particular needs of these poorer countries. UNCTAD became the focal point within the United Nations system for addressing economic development issues related to LDCs.
In the 1980s, UNCTAD faced a changing economic and political environment:
- There was a major transformation in economic thought. Development strategies were market-oriented, focusing on trade liberalization and privatization of state-owned enterprises.
- Several developing countries sank into serious debt crises. Despite the structural adjustment programs of the World Bankand the International Monetary Fund, most of the affected developing countries were not able to recover quickly. In many cases, they experienced negative growth and high rates of inflation. For this reason, the 1980s became known as the “lost decade”, particularly in Latin America.
- There was a growing increase in economic interdependence in the world.
Taking these developments into account, UNCTAD stepped up efforts to:
- Strengthen the analytical content of its intergovernmental debate, particularly with respect to macroeconomic management and international financial and monetary issues.
- Expand the scope of its activities to assist developing countries in their efforts to integrate into the world trading system. In this context,
- The technical assistance provided by UNCTAD to developing countries was particularly important in the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, which had begun in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade(GATT) in 1986. UNCTAD played a key role in supporting the negotiations for the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
- UNCTAD’s work related to trade efficiency (customs facilitation, multimodal transport) was an important contribution to developing economies that enabled greater gains from trade.
- UNCTAD assisted developing countries in rescheduling official debt in the Paris Clubnegotiations.
- Promote South-South cooperation. In 1989, the Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP) entered into force. The granting of tariffs was foreseen, as well as non-tariff preferences among its members. To date, the Convention has been ratified by 44 countries.
- Address the concerns of the poorest countries by organizing the first United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in 1981.
1990 to present
The main events in the international context have been:
- The conclusion of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations under the GATT, which led to the creation in 1995 of the World Trade Organization, which led to a strengthening of the legal framework governing international trade.
- An increase in international financial flows led to growing financial instability and volatility.
- In this context, UNCTAD’s analysis warned of the risks and destructive impact of financial crises on development. Consequently, UNCTAD emphasized the need for a more development-oriented “international financial architecture”.
- The flow of foreign direct investment became an important 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, approved a political declaration – ” The Spirit of Bangkok ” – as a strategy to address the development agenda in a globalized world.
In recent years, UNCTAD:
- He has focused his research on the links between trade, investment, technology and business development.
- It has presented an agenda for developing countries in international trade negotiations, designed to help developing countries better understand the complexities of multilateral trade negotiations and in formulating their positions.
- He works on international investment, following the 1993 merger of UNCTAD in New York with the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations.
- It has expanded and diversified its technical assistance, covering a wide range of areas, including training trade negotiators and addressing issues related to trade, debt management, investment policies and the promotion of entrepreneurship, commodities; law and politics, and trade and environment.