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United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

INTRODUCTION Established in 1964 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been the nucleus of the United Nations' programs on trade and development. Since its founding UNCTAD has evolved into one of the world's most authoritative institutions with regard to integrating less-developed countries into the global economy through international trade. It helps to form and inform current policy discussions by providing a forum for debate, by collecting data and analyzing alternative policies, and by providing technical assistance to individual countries. It interacts with all the member countries and with other U.N. organizations, especially those concerned with regional economic development. UNCTAD first met in Geneva from March to June 1964. The excerpts below are from the preamble of the "Final Act" of that first conference (section I, "Background," and section III, "Findings"). ∎


Section I

  1. The States participating in the Conference are determined to achieve the high purposes embodied in the United Nations Charter "to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom"; to seek a better and more effective system of international economic cooperation, whereby the division of the world into areas of poverty and plenty may be banished and prosperity achieved by all; and to find ways by which the human and material resources of the world may be harnessed for the abolition of poverty everywhere. In an age when scientific progress has put unprecedented abundance within man's reach, it is essential that the flows of world trade should help to eliminate the wide economic disparities among nations. The international community must combine its efforts to ensure that all countries—regardless of size, of wealth, of economic and social system—enjoy the benefits of international trade for their economic development and social progress.
  2. Recognizing that universal peace and prosperity are closely linked and that the economic growth of the developing countries will also contribute to the economic growth of the developed countries, realizing the dangers of a widening gulf in living standards between peoples, and convinced of the benefits of international cooperation with a view to helping the developing countries to reach a higher standard of life, the States signatories of this Final Act are resolved, in a sense of human solidarity, "to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples".
  3. In endorsing the decision to convene the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the General Assembly of the United Nations was motivated by certain basic considerations. Economic and social progress throughout the world depends in large measure on a steady expansion in international trade. The extensive development of equitable and mutually advantageous international trade creates a good basis for the establishment of neighbourly relations between States, helps to strengthen peace and an atmosphere of mutual confidence and understanding among nations, and promotes higher living standards and more rapid economic progress in all countries of the world. Finally, the accelerated economic development of the developing countries depends largely on a substantial increase in their share in international trade. . . .

Section III

The Conference has been guided by the following findings:

16. World trade has expanded substantially in recent years: the value of world exports has more than doubled since 1950. The principal impulse for this growth has been provided by the over-all expansion of the world economy, aided by national and international action as well as enormous scientific and technical progress and the social and economic changes in the world.

17. The countries of the world did not share proportionately in this expansion of international trade. While exports of developing countries rose from $19,200 million to $28,900 million between 1950 and 1962, that is by 50 per cent, the expansion of exports from these countries proceeded at an appreciably lower rate than that of the developed countries. As a result, the share of the developing countries in world exports declined steadily from nearly one-third in 1950 to only slightly more than one-fifths to two-thirds, and the centrally planned economies from 8 per cent to 13 per cent. One of the reasons for the decline in the rate of expansion of world exports from 8.4 per cent per annum in the early fifties to rather less than 5 per cent in the early sixties is the inability of the developing countries to attain a higher rate of export expansion.

18. The difficulties experienced by developing countries in increasing the sale of their products at remunerative prices in the markets of most of the highly industrialized countries have placed a limit on the extent to which they can purchase capital goods and machinery from the developed countries, which in turn has contributed to a slower rate of expansion of world trade than would have been the case if the developing countries had been enabled to increase their exports at a faster rate. Further, measures having discriminatory or protectionist effects applied by certain developed countries have hampered the development of the trade of developing countries and of world trade in general.

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