United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)


Technical Cooperation Service, UNCTAD

E-Mail: tcs [at] unctad.org

Web: www.unctad.org

tcs [at] unctad.org
Technical Cooperation Service, UNCTAD
Palais des Nations, 8-14 avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Established in 1964, UNCTAD promotes the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy. UNCTAD has progressively evolved into an authoritative, knowledge-based institution whose work aims to help shape current policy debates and thinking on development, with a particular focus on ensuring that domestic policies and international action are mutually supportive in bringing about sustainable development.

As the focal point within the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development and the interrelated issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment, and sustainable development, UNCTAD´s technical cooperation activities address these issues in a mutually complementary fashion.

The thrust of UNCTAD´s technical cooperation is capacity development in the four main areas of its work:

  • International finance, globalization and development strategies;

  • International trade in goods and services and commodities;

  • Investment and enterprise development;

  • Technology and trade logistics


Selected TCB programmes and initiatives in this guide

Policy advice on commodities
Assistance to WTO accession
The BioTrade initiative
Statistical Capacity Building
Trade analysis and research
UNCTAD's work on ICT policies for development
Trade, Gender and Development Programme

UNCTAD is the lead organization of the CEB Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity. It consists of an interagency mechanism dedicated to the coordination of trade and development operations at the national and regional levels within the UN system. The UN Inter-Agency Cluster makes a concrete and direct contribution to the UN system-wide coherence reform by coordinating its operations in the Delivering as One' countries and by participating in the United Nations Development Group machinery in view of the formulation of new UN rules and practices for inter-agency operations. The Cluster aims at ensuring that the interface between the issues related to trade and productive sectors and the United Nations Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) are adequately taken into account in the UN system-wide coherence processes.

The UN Inter-Agency Cluster is coordinated by UNCTAD and includes UNIDO, UNDP, ITC, FAO, WTO, UNEP, ILO, UNCITRAL, UNOPS and the five UN Regional Commissions.

For more information on the Cluster please refer to:



Within or in addition to the UN Inter-Agency Cluster, UNCTAD, as the focal point for the integrated treatment of trade and development, also interacts and cooperates with a variety of organizations within and outside the United Nations system. These include the following:

World Trade Organization

UNCTAD and the WTO have joined forces to ensure a better functioning of the multilateral trading system. In April 2003, the organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) providing for cooperation and consultations on their technical assistance activities, and for the conduct of joint studies on selected issues. The WTO is an active member of the UN Inter-Agency Cluster. It also interacts frequently with UNCTAD in the intergovernmental processes as the same government representatives often attend both organizations.

International Trade Centre

The International Trade Centre (ITC) is jointly sponsored by UNCTAD and the WTO for operational, enterprise-oriented aspects of trade development, with an emphasis on trade promotion. In contrast to UNCTAD, whose technical assistance is primarily tailored to governments, ITC’s technical assistance focuses on assisting businesses in developing countries. Both UNCTAD and the WTO are represented in the Joint Advisory Group supervising ITC’s work. UNCTAD has a number of joint technical assistance activities with ITC. In the recent years, the cooperation between UNCTAD and ITC constantly increased within the UN Inter-Agency Cluster with the participation of both agencies in joint programmes implemented at the country level in the context the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs). 

International Labour Organization

UNCTAD and the International Labour Organization (ILO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in December 2014 to support the development of common research' work and related inter-agency operations for more coherence and impact at the country level. In the area of research, UNCTAD and the ILO are working together on macroeconomic challenges, providing in the recent years valuable contributions to the G20 and other relevant fora. The ILO joined the UN Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity in 2010 contributing to initiatives developed both at the global and country levels; At the global level, UNCTAD-ILO joint analysis and joint policy recommendations are aimed at meeting the pressing needs of governments on priority themes - such as trade and employment - which require comprehensive solutions; At the country level, the MoU supports the materialization of UNCTAD-ILO policy orientations in joint programmes carried out by the UN Inter-Agency Cluster. The MoU includes a Steering Committee chaired by the ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy and UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General overseeing the operationalization of joint work carried out flexibly with the relevant experts from both organizations.

United Nations Development Programme

A new Memorandum of Understanding between UNCTAD and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was signed in March 2009. The two organizations share similar development objectives in providing assistance to countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to cooperate in areas of mutual concern. The MoU which is laying out substantive areas and modalities of collaboration is of particular importance in the context of the UN System-wide coherence reforms as it is based on the General Assembly´s mandates regarding the UN development operations and coherence process. These mechanisms refer to both headquarters and country levels and take into account the field presence of UNDP and its capacity to host administrative, financial and logistical support services at the country level. The MoU seeks to enhance effectiveness and collaboration between the two agencies notably with the development of appropriate joint-programmes carried out in the context of the UNDAFs. In this regard, the mandate and expertise of UNCTAD as the focal point of the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development are fully recognized.

UN regional commissions

UNCTAD cooperates with the regional entities on a project-by-project basis, whether in relation to research, joint workshops, and seminars, or technical assistance. Within the UN Inter-Agency Cluster, UNCTAD and the regional commissions participate in the development of joint operations tailored to the specific needs of the different regions as well as in regional initiatives for more coherence and impact at the regional level. 


UNOPS is the trust fund manager of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) which includes the participation of UNCTAD together with the IMF, ITC, UNDP, WB, WTO, UNIDO and the UNWTO. UNOPS is also a main partner from the UN Inter-Agency Cluster and the trust fund Manager of a number of joint country operations financed by bilateral donors such as the UN Trade Cluster operations developed in Lao PDR and Tanzania supported by the Switzerland' State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. 

Bretton Woods Institutions (International Monetary Fund and World Bank)

The World Bank and UNCTAD cooperate in the delivery of some technical assistance and capacity building programmes. The UNCTAD Secretariat, through the Debt Management and Financial Analysis System (DMFAS) programme, is also an active member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics, which is chaired by the IMF. The three agencies also cooperate in organizing seminars. UNCTAD attends the biannual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, and both institutions participate in UNCTAD’s intergovernmental meetings.

Other intergovernmental bodies

In addition to the organizations of the UN System, a total of 111 other intergovernmental bodies have gained accreditation as observers to UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Board.

Partnerships per area of intervention:

1. Macroeconomic policies (IMF, WB, WTO, UNCTAD) involving:

  • Strong links with trade policy; and
  • Fiscal and monetary policies.

2. Agriculture and industrial domestic policies to determine trade policy, investment (FAO, UNIDO, WB, UNDP) and technology policy (UNCTAD, WB, UNIDO) involving:

  • Investment  regimes;
  • Investment/  technology  agreements;
  • Investment  promotion; and
  • Dispute settlement on investments, etc.

3. Intellectual property (WIPO, WTO) involving:

  • Domestic laws and institutions; and
  • Regional /international rules on intellectual property rights.

4. E-Commerce and Digital Economy involving:

5. Competition policy (UNCTAD, WB, OECD) involving:

  • Domestic laws and institutions;
  • Regional/international rules on competition;
  • Peer reviews on Competition law and policy; and
  • Joint events in developing countries.

6. Consumer protection law and policy (UNCTAD, OECD) involving:

  • Guidance instruments; and
  •  Joint initiatives.

7. Transport and Trade Facilitation (ITC, Regional Commissions, UNIDO, UNCTAD, WBG, WTO) involving:

  • Important impact on trade efficiency; and
  • Direct impact on human and institutional development.

8. Environment policy (UNEP, WB, WTO, UNCTAD) involving:

  • Domestic laws and institutions;
  • Regional/international rules on the environment.
  • Impact of the international economic environment; and
  • Coherence issues.