You are here

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)


UNCTAD’s mandate in the area of trade facilitation dates back to the Final Act of its very first ministerial-level Conference in 1964. The Final Act of the Conference recommended that UNCTAD “should promote, within the United Nations family, arrangements for intergovernmental action for the simplification of formalities relating to customs procedures, commercial travel, etc.” Over the following years, UNCTAD’s continued work on trade facilitation led to the United Nations International Symposium on Trade Efficiency, organized in 1994 in Columbus, Ohio (United States of America) and the Columbus Ministerial Declaration on Trade Efficiency. The latter was instrumental for the inclusion of trade facilitation in the agenda at the first WTO Ministerial Conference in Singapore in 1996.

UNCTAD possesses long-standing expertise and experience in trade facilitation on which basis it provides technical assistance and capacity-building support to developing countries, including in the establishment of national trade and transport facilitation committees, needs assessments, trade facilitation implementation plans, transit agreements and customs automation through its Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) programme. It also undertakes a number of activities in the framework of its port management training programme and its e-regulation and eregistration systems. Through their impact on trade facilitation stakeholders (such as port authorities and small and medium-sized enterprises in particular), these programmes also contribute to enhancing trade facilitation in beneficiary countries. UNCTAD assistance and expertise encompass many aspects of trade facilitation that can be addressed by several programmes, to be articulated and tailored according to each country’s needs.



UNCTAD works globally based on requests from Governments or regional organizations providing technical assistance and capacity building.  We have worked on Trade Facilitation in Africa (Central, East, Southern and West and Africa), Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Pacific Islands countries.



UNCTAD assists developing countries in identifying their particular trade and transport facilitation needs and priorities and helps them program the implementation of specific trade and transport facilitation reforms and measures. See

The following are the programs UNCTAD offers:

  •  General Trade Facilitation Assistance

UNCTAD Trade Facilitation Programme assists developing and least developed  countries and economies in transition as well as regional organizations with the implementation of trade facilitation reforms and measures, such as: elaboration of needs assessments and assistance with the ratification, categorization and notification of national trade facilitation implementation plans; development of project plans; advisory services to national trade facilitation committees; monitoring and evaluation of trade facilitation initiatives; establishing a legal framework for trade-related single windows; undertaking simplification of trade-related procedures; and training national transit coordinators or supporting regional trade facilitation initiatives.


  1. Empowerment Programme for National Trade Facilitation Committees []

In particular, UNCTAD provides an intensive professional program for the Secretariat and the members of National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs). The main objective is to help them implement, in a coordinated manner, trade facilitation reforms, including the provisions of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation of the World Trade Organization. This programme, depending on specific needs of the countries, also provides technical assistance on various areas including but not limited to assistance in drafting proposals for financial assistance to donor countries, developing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for implementing trade facilitation reforms, drafting trade facilitation policy and legislation, and others.


This programme is directed at automating the customs clearance process and building trade Single Windows . ASYCUDA is a computerised customs management system which enables the automated Customs clearance process of most foreign trade procedures. The system handles manifests and customs declarations, accounting procedures, transit and suspense procedures. It generates trade data that can be used for statistical economic analysis. The ASYCUDA software is developed in Geneva by UNCTAD and is implemented in more than 100 countries worldwide. The ASYCUDA Single Window solution is providing an automated solution for all stakeholders in the trade transaction process to enable to national clearance process electronically.


UNCTAD Trade Portal solution facilitates countries to publish foreign trade procedures, forms, documents and contact data on a centralized internet portal. Each procedure is presented step-by-step. For each step, the portal shows the institution/office/civil servant in charge, the expected result, the forms and other requirements, the cost, the duration, the legal basis and ways to complain (online or in person).

Already installed in 25 countries, eRegulations has proved to be an excellent tool for transparency and for simplifying procedures. Regional eRegulations portals can be built to compare country procedures, thus contributing to regional harmonization and integration. These Tools and ongoing systems development and research are funded by governments and donors.


The UNCTAD TrainForTrade Port Management Programme supports port communities in developing countries in delivering more efficient and competitive port management in the future. In order to increase trade flows and foster economic development, the programme creates port networks bringing together public, private and international entities. The aim is to share knowledge and expertise between port operators and strengthen talent management and human resources development in port communities.


  • Transit and corridor solutions

UNCTAD provides solutions for transit, especially to Land-Locked Developing countries, transit countries and at bilateral, multilateral and regional basis, advising on the set-up of transit systems and legislation. UNCTAD provides a course for Transit Coordinators, to train such coordinators on their role and in accordance to the requirements in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement provisions on transit and to have better knowledge of the international regimes guiding the concept of transit in international trade. Additionally, this course also encourages countries to notify their contact points and to foster freedom of transit.

UNCTAD also carries out various activities to assist developing countries in promoting efficient transport corridors and network systems. These include UNCTAD-led corridor- and cluster-based trade and transport facilitation approach. A cluster methodology developed by UNCTAD using a collaborative structure/mechanism which brings together public and private stakeholders involved in transit corridor transport in landlocked and transit developing countries to discuss, share information, identify challenges and coordinate their facilitation measures (physical, organizational, and administrative).


UNCTAD provides NTM policy support for negotiation of trade agreements, domestic policy reform and increased transparency. Building on UNCTAD’s extensive and tailor-made analysis such as the Regional NTM Integration Review, policymakers gain a better understanding of how to address NTMs. NTMs are policy measures other than tariffs that can potentially have an economic effect on international trade in goods. They are increasingly shaping trade, influencing who trades what and how much. Understanding the uses and implications of NTMs is essential for policymakers, trade negotiators and researchers to strike the delicate balance between the reduction of trade costs and the preservation of public objectives.



UNCTAD offers Technical Assistance and Capacity Building.



A member State of UNCTAD or a regional institution wishing to obtain technical assistance can make the request.


5. WHAT INFORMATION IS NEEDED (E.g. Project Proposal)

A formal request for UNCTAD technical cooperation usually includes the following key information:

  • Requesting country;
  • Requesting authority and contact details;
  • Requesting date;
  • Main areas where UNCTAD technical cooperation is requested or main Toolbox product(s) requested;
  • Reasons for which the UNCTAD technical cooperation is requested;
  • How can UNCTAD technical cooperation contribute to the national development strategy?
  • Source of funding

Member States and regional organizations are kindly requested to provide complete information with respect to the above-mentioned elements.



  • After the receipt of a request, the UNCTAD secretariat will clear it to ensure that all the key information in a formal request has been provided, the responsible Division(s) designated, the scope of UNCTAD technical cooperation clearly defined, and the budget information and funding status clarified. In consultation with the requesting country or organization, the UNCTAD secretariat could consider organizing additional meetings and/or sending a fact-finding mission (if funding is available) in order to better define its technical cooperation activities.
  • After the clearance by the UNCTAD secretariat, the request will be uploaded to the online request database ( For those requests that funds are not totally secured, UNCTAD will seek to support beneficiary countries in their efforts to mobilize funds, which are necessary for the implementation of the project.




As UNCTAD is  providing technical assistance and capacity building. The time scale will for assistance will depend on whether the funds have been totally secured or not.

For more information regarding formal requests for UNCTAD assistance please contact



Mr. Jan Hoffmann

Chief, Trade Logistics Branch

Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva

Telephone: +41 22 917 32 58

Fax: +41 22 917 00 50

Mr. Poul Hansen

Chief, Trade Facilitation Section

Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva

Telephone: +41 22 917 32 58

Fax: +41 22 917 00 50

Mr. Fabrice Millet


Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva

Telephone: +41 22 917 20 59

Fax: +41 22 917 04 32

Mr. Renaud Massenet


Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva

Telephone: +41 22 917 31 90

Fax: +41 22 917 04 32