What Does the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Do?

Global trade has helped nations across the world progress further, and continues to have an impact on growing nations today. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, established in 1964, was founded to promote trade and development in developing countries.

The UNCTAD is a part of the United Nations, and it is the organization that focuses on trade, investment, and development issues. Every member and observer state of the United Nations is a member of UNCTAD, which notably leaves out countries such as Taiwan and Kosovo – leaving UNCTAD with 195 nations that are considered to be members.

This article will go over everything there is to know about The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, from how they function to what their goals are.

The Main Purposes

The UNCTAD’s main focus is assisting developing nations in assimilating to the international trading system and economies, as well as giving them key tools to further progress their own development as a nation. Some examples are helping countries diversify their economies, and increase their access to technology. 

In addition to directly assisting developing nations, the UNCTAD publishes a good number of topical reports regarding global trade. For example, this article went over how the UNCTAD reported a drop of 40% in FDIs (foreign direct investments) in Southern Africa.

The “Conference” in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development isn’t there for no reason, as there are conferences held every four years in different countries – much like the Olympics. Each conference has a different course of dialogue, but they all pertain to global trade and development. 

The most recent UNCTAD conference was held in Barbados in October of 2021. It was originally supposed to be held in 2020, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This was also the first time the conference was held in a small island country.


Member nations of UNCTAD are divided into four groups based on the United Nations Regional Groups. Originally created in 1995 at the 19th General Assembly, they are intended to balance the geographical distribution of the various member states’ representation in the UNCTAD. 

Group A consists of the entirety of Africa and Asia – apart from Russia and a few ex-soviet states.

The most interesting list is probably Group B, as it consists of Western Europe, Greece, Turkey, The United States and Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. 

Group C is Latin America, while Group D is Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan

Interestingly, there are six members of the UNCTAD unassigned to a regional group: South Sudan, Armenia, Kiribati, Nauru, Tajikistan, and Tuvalu. 


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is an organization consisting of all UN member states that focus on providing assistance and aid to developing countries wishing to enter the global economy. 

They have been functioning for 57 years, in 195 countries, with 456 staff members employed to help global trade prosper.

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