UNCTAD at a Glance


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established almost six decades ago in 1964 with the mission of building “prosperity for all”.

UNCTAD does so by helping developing countries participate equitably in the global economy. It also supports their efforts to use trade, investment, finance, and technology as vehicles for inclusive and sustainable development.

UNCTAD’s work can be summed up in three words: think, debate, deliver.


UNCTAD carries out economic research and analysis published in several flagship reports:

  • Trade and Development Report
  • World Investment Report
  • The Least Developed Countries Report
  • Economic Development in Africa Report
  • Information Economy Report
  • Technology and Innovation Report
  • Review of Maritime Transport

Daily UNCTAD operates as a think tank, producing reports, policy reviews, insights and more.


UNCTAD is also a forum where representatives of all countries can freely engage in dialogue, share experiences, tackle critical issues affecting the global economy and build multilateral consensus.

UNCTAD holds quadrennial ministerial conferences and several board, multi-year and expert meetings throughout the year on a wide range of topics driven by an intergovernmental machinery. It also hosts high-profile events such as the World Investment Forum, eCommerce Week, and the UN Trade Forum.


The organization also provides on-the-ground technical assistance and several turnkey tools such as the ASYCUDA customs software, and programmes, such as Empretec, UNCTAD’s flagship capacity-building programme, while also making policy recommendations to support government decision-making.

12 Things UNCTAD helps nations do

UNCTAD’s analysis, consensus-building and technical assistance helps developing countries in 12 key areas to:

  1. Comprehend options to address macro-level development challenges
  2. Achieve beneficial integration into the global trading system
  3. Diversify their economies to make them less dependent on commodities
  4. Limit their exposure to financial volatility and debt
  5. Attract investment and make it more development friendly
  6. Increase access to digital technologies
  7. Promote entrepreneurship and innovation
  8. Help local firms move up value chains
  9. Speed up the flow of goods across borders
  10. Protect consumers from abuse
  11. Curb regulations that stifle competition
  12. Adapt to climate change and use natural resources more effectively

Key UNCTAD Facts


Geneva, Switzerland

Isabelle Durant (Belgium), since February 16, 2021
195 member States
480 staff members
Established in 1964 as an organ of the United Nations General Assembly
Annual regular budget of $68 million from UN Extrabudgetary from technical assistance $44 million

Important UNCTAD 15 Reports

UNCTAD 15 will see the hosting of six focused forums. The following reports are important for these forums at the UNCTAD15 conference:

More About UNCTAD

As the UN’s main body dealing with trade and development, UNCTAD holds a unique position within the United Nations family and beyond, taking to heart the needs of developing countries.

As part of the United Nations secretariat, UNCTAD reports to the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council but has its own membership, leadership, and budget.

It is also part of the UN Sustainable Development Group and supports the implementation of the Financing for Development process.

UNCTAD works with member states, international organizations, academics, non-governmental organizations, media, civil society and youth.

UNCTAD’s Quadrennial Conferences

The UN General Assembly held the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 1964.

Given the magnitude of the problems at stake and the urgent need to address them, the UN institutionalized the conference and gave it a mandate to meet every four years, with intergovernmental bodies meeting between sessions and a permanent secretariat providing the necessary substantive and logistics support.

There have been 14 quadrennial conference since 1964. The fifteenth (UNCTAD 15) is in Bridgetown, Barbados from 3-8 October 2021.