A Brief History of UNCTAD | World Trade Organization | United Nations Conference On Trade And Development

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNCTAD. Foundation y In the early 1960s, growing concerns about the place of developing countries in international trade led many of these countries to call for the convening of a fullfledged conference specifically devoted to tackling these problems and identifying appropriate international actions. The first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was held in Geneva in 1964. Given the magnitude of the problems at stake and the need to address them, the c
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    A   B RIEF H ISTORY OF UNCTAD. Foundation y   In the early 1960s, growing concerns about the place of developing countries ininternational trade led many of these countries to call for the convening of a full-fledged conference specifically devoted to tackling these problems and identifyingappropriate international actions. y   T he first United Nations Conference on T rade and Development (UNC TA D) washeld in Geneva in 1964. Given the magnitude of the problems at stake and the need toaddress them, the conference was institutionalized to meet every four years, withintergovernmental bodies meeting between sessions and a permanent secretariat providing the necessary substantive and logistical support. y   S imultaneously, the developing countries established the Group of 77 to voice their concerns. ( T oday, the G77 has 131 members.) y   T he prominent A rgentinian economist Raul Prebisch, who had headed the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin A merica and the Caribbean, became theorganization&apo;s first S ecretary-General. Ph ase 1: T h e 1960s and 1970s y   In its early decades of operation, UNC TA D gained authoritative standing: o   as an intergovernmental forum for Nort h- Sout h dialogue andnegotiations on issues of interest to developing countries, including debateson the ³New International Economic Order´ . o   for its analytical researc h and p olicy advice on develo p ment issues . y   A greements launched by UNC TA D during this time include: o   the G eneralized System of  P references (1968) , whereby developedeconomies grant improved market access to exports from developingcountries. o   a number of  International Commodities Agreements , which aimed atstabilizing the prices of export products crucial for developing countries. o   the Convention on a Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences , whichstrengthened the ability of developing countries to maintain national merchantfleets. o   the adoption of a Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable P rinci p les andRules for t h e Control of Restrictive Business P ractices . T his work later evolved into what is today known as ³ T rade and Competition Policies´. y   F urthermore, UNC TA D was a key contributor to:  o   the definition of the target of 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) to begiven as official development aid by developed countries to the poorestcountries, as adopted by the United Nations General A ssembly in 1970. o   the identification of the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as earlyas 1971, which drew attention to the particular needs of these poorestcountries. UNC TA D became the focal point within the UN system for tacklingLDC-related economic development issues. Ph ase 2: T h e 1980s y   In the 1980s, UNC TA D was faced with a changing economic and politicalenvironment: o   T here was a significant transformation in economic t h inking . Developmentstrategies became more market-oriented, focusing on trade liberalization and privatization of state enterprises. o   A number of developing countries were plunged into severe debt crises .Despite structural adjustment programs by the World Bank and theInternational Monetary F und, most developing countries affected were notable to recover quickly. In many cases, they experienced negative growth andhigh rates of inflation. F or this reason, the 1980s become known as the ³lostdecade´, particularly in Latin A merica. o   Economic interde p endence in the world increased greatly. y   In the light of these developments, UNC TA D multiplied efforts aimed at: o   strengt h ening t h e analytical content of its intergovernmental debate, particularly regarding macroeconomic management and internationalfinancial and monetary issues. o    broadening the scope of its activities to assist develo p ing countries in t h eirefforts to integrate into t h e world trading system . In this context,    the tec h nical assistance provided by UNC TA D to developingcountries was particularly important in the Uruguay Round of tradenegotiations, which had begun under the General A greement on T ariffsand T rade (G ATT ) in 1986. UNC TA D played a key role in supportingthe negotiations for the General A greement on T rade in S ervices(G AT S ).    UNC TA D¶s work on trade efficiency (customs facilitation,multimodal transport) made an important contribution to enablingdeveloping economies to reap greater gains from trade.    UNC TA D assisted developing countries in the rescheduling of officialdebt in the Paris Club negotiations.  o   p romoting Sout h- Sout h coo p eration . In 1989, the A greement on the G lobalSystem of Trade P references among Develo p ing Countries ( G ST P ) cameinto force. It provided for the granting of tariff as well as non-tariff  preferences among its members. T o date, the A greement has been ratified by44 countries. o   addressing the concerns of the poorest nations by organizing the first UNConference on Least Develo p ed Countries in 1981 . S ince then, two other international conferences have been held at 10-year intervals. Ph ase 3: From t h e 1990s until today y   K  ey developments in the international context: o   T he conclusion of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations under the G ATT  resulted in the establishment of the W orld Trade Organization in 1995,which led to a strengthening of the legal framework governing internationaltrade. o   A spectacular  increase in international financial flows led to increasingfinancial instability and volatility. o   A gainst this background, UNC TA D¶s analysis gave earlywarning concerning the risks and the destructive im p act of financialcrises on development. Consequently, UNC TA D emphasized the need for amore development-oriented ³international financial architecture´. o   F oreign direct investment flows became a major component of globalization. o   UNC TA D highlighted the need for a differentiated approach to the problemsof developing countries. Its tenth conference, held in Bangkok in F ebruary2000, adopted a political declaration ± ³ T h e S p irit of Bangkok  ´ ± as astrategy to address the development agenda in a globalizing world. y   In recent years, UNC TA D has o   further focused its analytical research on the linkages between trade,investment, tec h nology and enter p rise develo p ment . o    put forward a ³ p ositive agenda ´ for developing countries in internationaltrade negotiations, designed to assist developing countries in better understanding the complexity of the multilateral trade negotiations and informulating their positions. o   Expanded work on international investment issues , following the merger into UNC TA D of the New York±based United Nations Centre on T ransnational Corporations in 1993. o   ex p anded and diversified its tec h nical assistance , which today covers awide range of areas, including training trade negotiators and addressing trade-related issues; debt management, investment policy reviews and the promotion  of entrepreneurship; commodities; competition law and policy; and trade andenvironment. Towards UNCTAD XI y   UNC TA D has continued to play a crucial role in em ph asizing t h e develo p mentdimension of issues in the fields of international trade and investment and relatedareas. y   In particular, UNC TA D has been addressing the imbalances of globalization and theneed to overcome the supply constraints of developing countries, so as to ensuredevelo p ment gains and p overty reduction . T his is captured in the theme of theUNC TA D XI Ministerial Conference, Enhancing coherence between nationaldevelopment strategies and global economic processes towards economic growth anddevelopment, particularly of developing countries. Establis h ed in 1964, UNCTAD p romotes t h e develo p ment - friendly integration of develo p ing countries into t h e world economy. UNCTAD h as p rogressively evolved intoan aut h oritative knowledge - based institution w h ose work aims to h el p s h a p e current p olicy debates and t h inking on develo p ment, wit h a p articular focus on ensuring t h atdomestic p olicies and international action are mutually su pp ortive in bringing aboutsustainable develo p ment.T h e organization works to fulfil t h is mandate by carrying out t h ree key functions: y   It functions as a forum for intergovernmental deliberations, su pp orted bydiscussions wit h ex p erts and exc h anges of ex p erience, aimed at consensusbuilding. y   It undertakes researc h , p olicy analysis and data collection for t h e debates of government re p resentatives and ex p erts. y   It p rovides tec h nical assistance tailored to t h e s p ecific requirements of develo p ing countries, wit h s p ecial attention to t h e needs of t h e least develo p edcountries and of economies in transition. W h en a pp ro p riate, UNCTADcoo p erates wit h ot h er organizations and donor countries in t h e delivery of tec h nical assistance.T h e Secretary - G eneral of UNCTAD isDr. Su p ac h ai P anitc hp akdi(T h ailand), w h o took office on 1 Se p tember 2005.In p erforming its functions, t h e secretariat works toget h er wit h member G overnments and interacts wit h organizations of t h e United Nations system andregional commissions, as well as wit h governmental institutions, non - governmentalorganizations, t h e p rivate sector, including trade and industry associations, researc h  institutes and universities worldwide.
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