United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 


United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)  is that arm of the United Nations Organization dedicated to trade and development. Unlike the IMO (international Maritime Organization), which is a technical organization, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)  is more of a political organization.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) , the word development in its title implies its bias towards developing nations and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)  makes no secret of the fact that, politically, it sees its principal role as that of assisting the so-called third world countries.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) , based in Geneva, has a shipping division staffed by a highly dedicated team and their efforts have met with a mixed degree of success. Their Non-Mandatory Minimum Standards for Shipping Agents which were promulgated in March 1988 were endorsed enthusiastically by almost all nations represented.

Similarly United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) maritime training programmes, tailor-made for developing nations are very highly thought of. Less successful have been United Nations Council For Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD’s) attempts to regulate liner trading with the Code of Practice for Liner Conferences (usually remembered for one clause often referred to as the 40-40-20 rule). This international convention was overtaken by commercial evolution and attempts to modify it have been unsuccessful.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)  also launched the Hamburg Rules which seek to regulate shipowners’ liabilities on more favorable terms towards merchants than the more universally adopted Hague or Hague/Visby Rules. To date, the number of nations ratifying the Hamburg Rules are still insufficient to have any real impact. Two attempts to standardize the basic clauses in charter parties have so far failed to make progress. This, however, may not be surprising in view of the large volume of chartering which is controlled by groups who are quite happy with charter parties as they are. It would be quite unfair to judge United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)  by these few well-publicized failures; their successes often go unnoticed. That there are successes at all is often surprising when one considers that the officials have to endeavour to achieve a consensus among members with very different outlooks and objectives, aligned in groups of developed and developing states.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD’s) proceedings and other current topics can be checked at www.unctad.org

What is UNCTAD?

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is a body of the United Nations General Assembly that was established in 1964. Its purpose is to promote development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy.

UNCTAD achieves this by providing a forum where representatives of all countries can freely engage in dialogue and discuss issues related to economic development and trade. The organization’s primary goal is to support developing countries in their efforts to integrate into the international trading system and improve their trade and development prospects.

UNCTAD operates in several key areas:

  1. Trade, Investment, and Development: UNCTAD provides a platform for policymakers and business leaders from developed and developing countries to discuss and negotiate international trade and investment agreements.
  2. Technology and Logistics: UNCTAD provides support in these areas to help countries improve their competitiveness in the global marketplace. It offers advice on how to adopt and use new technologies, and how to improve logistics infrastructure and practices.
  3. Globalization and Development Strategies: UNCTAD studies and makes policy recommendations on the impact of globalization on development and poverty reduction.
  4. Commodities and Development: UNCTAD works to improve transparency and accountability in commodity markets, and helps countries to better manage and benefit from commodity production and trade.
  5. Technical Cooperation: UNCTAD delivers technical assistance to developing countries in an effort to help them better participate in and benefit from the global economy.

UNCTAD’s work is critical in helping developing nations catch up with developed ones, creating a more equitable global economy. The agency conducts research, provides policy advice, and offers technical assistance to developing countries to help them cope with the challenges and opportunities of globalization.


What are the basic principles of UNCTAD?

UNCTAD, which stands for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, was established in 1964 and is a part of the United Nations Secretariat. Its primary objective is to promote development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy. UNCTAD operates on the following key principles:

  1. Promotion of Trade: One of the fundamental principles of UNCTAD is promoting international trade as an engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction. It encourages developing countries to expand their role in global trade and supports them in integrating effectively into the international trading system.
  2. Capacity Building: UNCTAD supports capacity building in developing countries. This involves providing technical assistance, training, and information to help these nations better understand trade, investment, and development issues.
  3. Supporting Developing Economies: A significant principle of UNCTAD is to help developing countries and countries with economies in transition to use trade, investment, finance, and technology as vehicles for inclusive and sustainable development.
  4. Globalization and Development Strategies: UNCTAD also works on identifying opportunities and challenges for development that arise from globalization. It advocates policies that can shape the globalization process to benefit all nations.
  5. Policy Recommendations: UNCTAD is an authoritative knowledge-based institution that develops policy recommendations for collective action and promotes consensus building. It provides a forum where representatives of all countries can freely engage in dialogue and benefit from peer learning.
  6. Research and Analysis: UNCTAD conducts research and provides data, statistics, and analysis on various trade and development issues. This information aids policymakers in understanding the complex dynamics of the global economy and helps them to make informed decisions.
  7. Consensus Building: UNCTAD is also a platform where governments can come together to negotiate and build consensus on important trade and development issues. It’s a venue for North-South and South-South dialogue and exchange on these critical subjects.

Remember that the exact policies and principles may evolve and be updated over time as the global economic landscape changes and new challenges and opportunities emerge. It’s always a good idea to check the latest from UNCTAD’s official resources for the most recent and detailed information. We kindly suggest that you visit the web page of UNCTAD’s web page to learn more. www.unctad.org


What is the difference between the WTO and the UNCTAD?

The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are both international organizations, but they serve different purposes and functions.

  1. World Trade Organization (WTO):The WTO, established in 1995, is a global international organization that deals with the rules of trade between nations. Its primary goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible. The WTO provides a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements and settle trade disputes, and it operates a system of trade rules. Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments go to sort out the trade problems they face with each other.
  2. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD):UNCTAD, established in 1964, is a part of the United Nations Secretariat. It is responsible for dealing with development issues, particularly international trade – the main driver of development. Its work can be summed up in three words: think, debate, deliver. UNCTAD carries out economic research, produces innovative analyses, makes policy recommendations, and provides technical assistance to developing countries. It aims to help these countries to integrate into the world economy and improve their trade potential.

Differences between the WTO and UNCTAD:

  • Purpose and Function: The WTO is primarily a trade body that oversees and facilitates global trade rules and negotiations, while UNCTAD is a development agency focused on helping developing countries integrate into the world economy and improve their trade capabilities.
  • Authority: The WTO has a broader and more enforceable authority because its agreements are ratified by member countries’ parliaments, giving it a legal standing. UNCTAD, on the other hand, acts more as an advisory body, providing analyses, policy recommendations, and technical assistance, without the same level of enforcement.
  • Scope: The WTO’s main focus is trade, while UNCTAD has a broader scope, dealing with a range of issues such as investment, technology, finance, and sustainable development, in addition to trade.
  • Membership: While both organizations have a global membership, the WTO’s membership is broader, including many more of the world’s economies.
  • Approach: The WTO operates on the basis of consensus among member countries, while UNCTAD provides a platform for a broader range of voices, including non-governmental organizations, and focuses more on dialogue and persuasion.

Both the WTO and UNCTAD play important roles in global trade and development. They often work together and complement each other’s efforts to achieve common goals. However, they have distinct mandates, roles, and methods of operation.


How has UNCTAD contributed to international trade?

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has played a pivotal role in international trade, especially with respect to helping developing countries. Here are a few key ways in which UNCTAD has contributed:

  1. Policy Advice: UNCTAD provides research and policy advice to governments on the formulation of trade, investment, and development strategies. Its recommendations aim to assist developing countries in integrating into the global economy and negotiating trade agreements beneficial to them.
  2. Capacity Building: It provides technical assistance and capacity-building activities to developing countries. This includes training officials on trade negotiations, trade policy development, and management of trade-related issues. The assistance has helped these countries to better understand and participate in international trade.
  3. Research and Analysis: UNCTAD carries out extensive economic research and analysis. This research is used to inform the international community about trends in globalization, trade, development, and related issues. This has helped to shape global perspectives and policies on international trade.
  4. Trade Facilitation: UNCTAD has made significant contributions to simplifying and harmonizing international trade procedures. Its Trade Facilitation Programme, for instance, has helped many countries to reduce transaction costs, making it easier for them to trade internationally.
  5. Promotion of South-South Cooperation: UNCTAD has been instrumental in promoting cooperation among developing nations, also known as South-South Cooperation. This helps these countries leverage shared experiences and best practices in managing trade and development challenges.
  6. Advocacy for Equitable Trade Practices: UNCTAD advocates for the creation of a more balanced and equitable global trade system. It brings attention to issues such as unfair trade practices, trade barriers, and the challenges faced by Least Developed Countries (LDCs), thus promoting more inclusive growth.
  7. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): UNCTAD contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by offering analytical inputs, assisting with the implementation of the SDGs, and monitoring progress, especially in the context of trade and development.
  8. Commodities and Development: UNCTAD assists developing countries in maximizing the benefits from their commodities sectors, and helps to address the challenges of commodity dependence. This work includes everything from policy advice and technical assistance to innovative financing solutions.

UNCTAD’s contributions to international trade have been varied and significant, focusing largely on aiding the growth and development of emerging and developing economies.


UNCTAD and Shipping

UNCTAD, or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Its mission is to maximize the trade, investment, and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to integrate into the world economy on an equitable basis.

In terms of shipping, UNCTAD plays a significant role. One of the main areas where UNCTAD contributes is in the field of shipping policy and legislation. It helps developing countries improve their capacity to participate in the global shipping industry by developing their maritime sectors, promoting their shipping services, and training their maritime personnel.

UNCTAD also conducts research and analysis on transport and trade logistics, including maritime transport. Their regular “Review of Maritime Transport” report provides valuable statistics and insights into the global shipping industry. This includes information on the world fleet, freight rates, seaborne trade, port traffic, and relevant legislation and policy developments.

Furthermore, UNCTAD developed the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), a computerized system used by customs authorities in about 90 countries for data management related to trade and transport, including shipping. This helps improve the efficiency and effectiveness of customs administration, leading to more efficient trade and shipping processes.

So, overall, UNCTAD contributes to shipping and maritime transport in a number of ways, including policy and legislative advice, research and analysis, capacity building, and technological support.


How UNCTAD contributes to Shipping and Maritime Transport?

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) plays a vital role in the global shipping and maritime transport industry. Here’s how:

  1. Policy Advice and Capacity Building: UNCTAD offers guidance on policy and legislative frameworks to encourage the growth and efficiency of shipping and maritime transport in developing countries. It helps nations build capacity by training local personnel, improving regulatory structures, and helping them to integrate into global shipping networks.
  2. Research and Analysis: UNCTAD conducts extensive research and analysis on trends in global shipping, maritime transport, and logistics. They publish their findings in an annual review known as the Review of Maritime Transport, which is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative sources on the subject. This aids governments, companies, and other stakeholders in decision-making and strategic planning.
  3. Promotion of Sustainable Transport: UNCTAD advocates for sustainable, climate-friendly maritime transport. They assist in the transition towards a more carbon-neutral shipping industry by promoting the adoption of cleaner fuels, energy-efficient technologies, and environmentally sound management practices.
  4. Technical Assistance: They offer technical assistance to countries, particularly those with least developed and transitioning economies, to enhance their maritime and port infrastructure. This ranges from optimizing port operations to improving maritime transport logistics, which ultimately aids in facilitating trade.
  5. Negotiations and Regulations: UNCTAD assists developing nations in negotiations related to shipping and maritime transport at a global level, such as at the World Trade Organization (WTO). They help establish regulations and guidelines that ensure fair and free access to shipping markets and maritime services.
  6. Shipping Statistics and Data: UNCTAD maintains extensive databases of shipping and maritime transport statistics. This information is invaluable for governments, policy-makers, researchers, and businesses involved in maritime transport, facilitating informed decision-making.

UNCTAD contributes to shipping and maritime transport by offering policy advice, conducting research, promoting sustainable practices, providing technical assistance, aiding in negotiations and regulations, and maintaining comprehensive databases of shipping statistics.

What is the role of UNCTAD in the development of trade?

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Its role in the development of trade is multi-faceted and mainly involves helping developing countries navigate the global trading system. Here are some of the key roles UNCTAD plays:

  1. Research and Analysis: UNCTAD conducts research and policy analysis on global trade and development issues. Its annual reports provide comprehensive insights into the current state of the world’s economy and trade, often with a focus on developing economies.
  2. Policy Advocacy: UNCTAD advocates for equitable international trade policies that would benefit developing nations. It uses its research to highlight structural issues in the global trade system and advocate for reforms.
  3. Technical Assistance: UNCTAD offers technical assistance to developing nations. This could include help in drafting trade policies, providing advice on complying with trade agreements, or building capacity to negotiate trade deals. This assistance is intended to help these countries become more competitive in the global marketplace.
  4. Consensus Building: UNCTAD also serves as a forum for dialogue and negotiation among its member states. It encourages consensus building on contentious trade issues, facilitating discussion between developed and developing nations.
  5. Promotion of Sustainable Development: With its focus on trade and development, UNCTAD promotes sustainable economic growth. It encourages the integration of economic, social, and environmental aspects in development strategies.
  6. Capacity Building: UNCTAD works to enhance the capabilities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to participate effectively in international trade and investment.

UNCTAD is central to the development of trade, particularly for developing countries, by offering a platform for dialogue, providing technical assistance, conducting research, and advocating for policies that are more favorable to these nations.