Research and Publications


Our Research Topics


Our vision of development presumes mobilization of finance for development for structural transformation of developing countries in order to achieve the SDGs and long-term debt sustainability. The complexity and interrelatedness of this vision, and the systemic issues that crowd it out, mean that much good quality and thoughtful research must be undertaken to identify possible policy actions at national, regional and international levels. Aligned with UNCTAD mandate, our research aims at policy recommendations that enable these countries to achieve sustainable development through multilateral processes and national strategies.

Debt and Debt Sustainability

​Debt has always been associated with development and structural transformation. In the era of hyper globalization, however, instead of delivering a strong surge in productive investment and unleashing developing countries’ structural transformation, an increasing share of these countries’ debt has become a high-risk financial asset subject to the vagaries of international financial markets.

We carry out policy-oriented research on the determinants and features of developing countries’ external and domestic indebtedness and the challenges they face to achieve external and sovereign debt sustainability. More recently, we have also focused on designing analytical tools to assess developing country long-term debt sustainability, including the estimation of the impact of meeting the 2030 Agenda and of external shocks, as the COVID-19 pandemic (link to COVID-19 platform).

Selected publications:

Development finance

​Historically, developing countries have struggled with the scarcity of domestic financing for development. A key focus of our work is the mobilization of domestic public and private financial resources for development, which is a broad topic embracing finance for the SDGs, stemming the tide of illicit financial flows - especially as they relate to tax evasion and avoidance -, financial inclusion and the role of financialization in undermining policy space.

Selected publications


Financing a Global Green New Deal

​The “Geneva Principles for a Global Green New Deal” advances an urgent research and policy agenda for a New Multilateralism that rebuilds the rules of the global economy and enables the achievement of the SDGs.

​The starting point of this endeavor is a serious discussion of public financing options, as part of a wider process of repairing the social contract on which inclusive and sustainable outcomes can emerge and from which private finance can be engaged in green investments on more socially productive terms.

Selected publications

Systemic issues and reform of the International Monetary System

​Many determinants of developing countries’ debt vulnerabilities stem from the current features of the international monetary system and the global financial architecture, such as the role of the US dollar as the de facto international currency and the volatility of capital flows.

We research how these systemic issues affect developing countries with the aim of drawing policy recommendations either to overcome them or to curb their adverse fallout on these countries.

Selected publications

Sovereign Debt Restructuring Process

From its inception in 1964, UNCTAD Ministerial Conferences has placed core emphasis on developing country debt and debt service problems (e.g. resolution A.IV.5 (1964) and advocated for a multilateral legal framework to facilitate effective and fair sovereign debt restructurings.

In 1975, resolution 132 (XV) of UNCTAD’s Governing Body, the Trade and Development Board (TDB), authorized its Secretary-General to provide appropriate assistance to debtor countries in relation to the holding of ad hoc meetings to examine debtor country requirements prior to debt re-negotiations, as well as its Secretariat to participate in debt renegotiation meetings organized by the Paris Club on the same basis as other international organizations.

In 1977, the Trade and Development Board of UNCTAD agreed "Detailed Features for Future Operations Relating to the Debt Problems of Interested Developing Countries". Subsequent core documents – including regular analyses in UNCTAD’s flagship annual report, the Trade and Development Report (TDR), and Reports by the United Nations Secretary-General on external debt sustainability in developing countries to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), prepared by UNCTAD since the early 1990s – continued to engage with in-depth policy-oriented research and analysis of evolving sovereign debt crisis in developing countries.

In 2015, the UNCTAD Secretariat was called upon to provide support to the Ad Hoc Committee, set up by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/69/247, with a mandate to elaborate through a process of intergovernmental negotiations a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring processes. The work of the Ad Hoc Committee resulted in resolution A/RES/69/319 on Basic Principles of Sovereign Debt Restructuring Processes, adopted by the UN National Assembly in September 2015.

Selected publications

Principles on Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing

Soft law initiatives geared towards responsible sovereign lending and borrowing can play an important role in preventing sovereign debt crisis in developing countries. Determinants of sovereign insolvencies include systemic factors and extraordinary shocks, but are also influenced by the behavior of lenders and borrowers. Given the devastating effects of sovereign debt crisis on citizens, and the vulnerability of developing countries to default, as well as contagion effects, encouraging responsible sovereign borrowing and lending practices is a matter of international concern. Sovereign lending and borrowing conducted in a prudent and disciplined manner can promote growth and development.

The causes and widespread negative effects of the global financial and economic crisis prompted UNCTAD to launch an initiative in 2009 to promote responsible sovereign lending and borrowing practices. An expert group was established to contribute to the process of drafting these Principles. The group was composed of world-renowned experts in law and economics, private investors and NGOs. Senior representatives from the IMF, the World Bank and Paris Club also participated as observers of this group. After several formal meetings and exchanges of ideas, these Principles emerged.

The UNCTAD Principles on Promoting Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing, published in 2012, set out the essential responsibilities of both lenders and borrowers of sovereign debt. They identify fundamental soft law concepts or norms of international law and their applicability to realm of sovereign debt crisis prevention.

Our research in this area is ongoing work, as we locate these principles within the current international debate to ensure that they remain pertinent.

Selected Publications

Financial Condition Indicators

UNCTAD's Financial Conditions Indicators (FCIs) aim at measuring and tracking financial conditions in developing countries, helping to fill the gap between the growing complexity of the mechanisms underpinning financial instability in these countries and the scarcity of reliable measurement tools.

By building on recently designed econometric tools, mostly used otherwise in developed countries with much superior data availability, the UNCTAD FCIs have a number of advantages over other available early warning monitoring indicators for developing countries, including systematic addressing of lacking data, automatized close-to-real time signaling of stress situations, and country-specific modeling of reliable financial stress indicators.

The UNCTAD FCIs, developed initially for 35 developing countries, and subsequently updated for a number of these countries, have performed highly reliably in providing early warning of financial stress.

Selected Publications


Our Publications