United Nation Conference on Trade and Development


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is part of the most important organ of the United Nation and that is United Nations Secretariat. This organization was formed in the year 1964 and it was given the position of the permanent intergovernmental body of the United Nation. This organization mostly deals with trade, investment, and development issues. Its main goal was to provide development opportunities to the developing countries and also to assist to integrate them into the world economy. And while integrating them into the world economy, it made sure that it should be done on an equitable basis. This organization was established by the United Nations General Assembly in the year 1964. The report of United Nations Conference reports was made by the United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Economic and Social Council.

The primary objective of UNCTAD was to formulate all the policies which were related to development, trade, aid, transport, finance, and technology. The conferences of UNCTAD were usually was done every four years. The headquarters of UNCTAD is located in Geneva, Switzerland. The current number of member of members of UNCTAD has 195 states.

As the conferences of the UNCTAD happens after every four years, the first conference was held in the year 1964 at headquarter itself. The first conference of UNCTAD was held in Geneva and it had to implement the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), and it was to promote exports and imports of the manufactured goods from the developing countries so that there remain the special tariff concessions on exports. Therefore, the main idea of the beginning of UNCTAD was to focus on the development of the trade and development of the developing countries. UNCTAD has worked with many other international organizations like GATT, NIEO, and so on. The latest conference is the fourteenth conference which was held in the year 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. This research paper will cover the significance of the seventh conference of UNCTAD, which was held in the year 1987 in Geneva, Netherlands.

The seventh conference of United Nation Conference of Trade and Development was held in the year 1987 at Geneva and it was an unusual conference as the conferences used to be held in developing countries and this time it was not the same. The reason behind this was that the United States didn’t agree with the conference location as it was to be held in Cuba.

The conference was headed by the secretary-general of UNCTAD, Kenneth K.S. Dadzie. The opening address of this conference was addressed by the Honourable Bernard T.G. Chidzero, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development of Zimbabwe. The main agenda of the conference was to revive the multilateral co-operation for growth and development. other agendas were the development and change and step towards the global interdependence, resources for development, including financial, and related monetary issues, commodities for export and import for the world economy, issues related to international trade and the last one is to focus on the trade and development of the least developed countries.

UNCTAD also came up with the concept of a new idea of north and south relations’. The president and the head of the conference said the above words as the conference was less contentious and more cooperative than the other UNCTAD conference which has been held. This led to changes in the procedure of the conference. The first change to the procedure was that the four-session of the committee was conducted in informal sessions and was not done through the use of the traditional method of negotiation. The second thing that was different in this conference was that the outcome of the conference was embodied in one consolidated text. And this was done with a whole consensus. There was also the increasing convergence of policy perspectives of North and South relations.

UNCTAD: its emergence and agenda of UNCTAD VII

In 1945, United Nation was founded, and then Anglo- American planned for having reconstruction of the international economy and which led to the formation of three new global institutions. These three institutions were IMF, IRBD, and ITO. International Trade organization duty was to regulate the trade in order internationally and avoid the crisis like great depression which happened in the year 193o.[1] So, after the war, there were many conferences that used to look over it and its form of regulation and peace matter and these were Havana conferences[2]. But when the draft was drafted from this conference, there led biasness towards the USA. But many developing countries had argued against the same and they managed to win some concessions. They were given technological assistance, the establishment of new industries, and so on. This conference also agreed to work upon setting up the commodity agreement internationally, which deals with commodity consumers and commodity producers. The convention was signed by 53 of the 56 nations.

In 1947, 23 countries were ready for setting up a separate interim organization so that there could be tariff reduction negotiation. And this conference was known as GATT[3]. When the ITO didn’t work and it got collapsed, GATT remained the sole international institution that dealt with international trade. But the problem was that GATT didn’t consider the problem of the developing countries in those times. There was a need to have successive tariffs among the countries around 195os. It was also noted that the developing countries started negotiating down the tariff and getting new industries to be started. Therefore, GATT has considered a problem s it was against them.

There were many other demands of the developing countries like they were interested in regulating trade in agricultural commodities, for extensive protection, for the economic welfare of the countries, and so on. In respect of this, GATT welcomed the establishment of the European Economic Community, which ignored the fact of the GATT and focused on easy market access of countries outside the community. GATT started growing and it started being profitable for the developing countries and poor countries. There was the emergence of two pillar organisation namely; the IMF and World Bank and they both were under the United State. 

So in 1964, there was the emergence of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)[4] was established as the permanent intergovernmental body which looks at the trade and development among the countries internationally. UNCTAD is one of the parts of the United Nations Secretariat, which is also the main branch of the United Nation, deals with trade, development issues, and investment.  It shall also be noted that the goal of UNCTAD is to maximize the trading system, increase the investment and development opportunities of developing countries, and also assist the countries to develop the economy based upon an equitable basis. UNCTAD was emerged from the UN general assembly reports and also the report of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.    

There are many objectives of UNCTAD and the primary objective of it is to formulate policies regarding all the aspects of the development of trade, aid, transport, finance, and technology of the countries, whether developed or developing or undeveloped countries. When the UNCTAD studied, it has a meeting every four years and its permanent secretariat is in Geneva.

Generalized System of Preferences has been conceived and implemented by the UNCTAD in 1964, which were one of the main achievement of it. It was also argued and resulted that the UNCTAD will promote the manufacturing goods from the developing countries and also discussed the necessary offer for the special tariff concession and also dealt regarding the export system. Through this Generalised System of Preferences scheme, the manufacture can easily import and export agricultural goods from developing countries. These developing countries can also have duty-free taxes and also they have reduced rates for the developed countries.  These import items should always be in the normal rates of duties, import of the same time and they will also enjoy a competitive advantage.

In 1964, Geneva held the first conference of the UNCTAD and in this, the seventh conference is studied and it was again held in Geneva, in the year 1987. The first conference gave the magnitude for the problem-solving at stake. It also introduced the need of UNCTAD to every member state. It was also decided that the UNCTAD meet will always be held every four years. This conference will be held with intergovernmental bodies meeting which can be held in between sessions and a permanent secretariat which also provides for the substantive and logistic support. It should also be noted that the prominent Argentinian economist Raul Prebisch who headed the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, became the organization of the first secretary-general.

As the seventh UNCTAD was held in 1987, there is a need to study the scenario of UNCTAD in its 198os. During this period, UNCTAD was facing many challenges regarding the economic and political environment. In those times, there was a significant transformation of economic thinking. Those developments became more market-oriented and it started focusing on trade liberalization and also deals with the privatization of the state enterprise. There were many problems related to the developing countries and regarding the severe debt crisis. Most of the developing countries were affected by the IMF and started experiencing negative growth and high rates of inflation. Therefore, 1980 was called the lost decade mainly for Latin America. There was also a great increase in economic interdependence.

There were also many aims which were also listed in UNCTAD like strengthening the analytical content for the intergovernmental debate which mostly cover macroeconomic management and for the international financial and monetary issues. It also started broadening the scope of the activities which can assist developing countries in the efforts to integrating the world trade system. This decade also studies for South-South cooperation and promotion regarding the same. This conference also focused on the development of the least developing country. Currently, there are 195 member states in UNCTAD.

[1] Great Depression: Black Thursday, Facts & Effects – HISTORY, , https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/great-depression-history (last visited Feb 29, 2020).

[2] The Havana Conference: Held On This Day in 1946 | The NCS, , https://www.nationalcrimesyndicate.com/on-this-day-in-1946-the-havana-conference-was-held/ (last visited Feb 29, 2020).

[3] WTO | GATT and the Goods Council – gateway, , https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/gatt_e/gatt_e.htm (last visited Feb 29, 2020).

[4] UNCTAD | History, , https://unctad.org/en/Pages/About%20UNCTAD/A-Brief-History-of-UNCTAD.aspx (last visited Feb 29, 2020).

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