For use of information media - Not an official record

Geneva, Switzerland, 16 June 2004

Selected universities from across the globe will meet in São Paulo, Brazil, on 17 June to launch the UNCTAD Virtual Institute on Trade and Development.

In a knowledge-based economy, the ability to access, understand, analyse and apply information is essential to economic development. Academic institutions play a key role in building this knowledge and expertise. To help them equip decision-makers in developing countries with the requisite understanding of trade, investment and development issues, UNCTAD has created the UNCTAD Virtual Institute.

The Virtual Institute is designed to facilitate the development of a global network of research and institutions of higher learning on trade and development issues. It uses an interactive website to capitalize on the potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) to generate and build capacity through the exchange of knowledge and experiences within and among institutions of higher education.

Founding members of the Virtual Institute Network from the University of Campinas, São Paulo, the University of Mauritius and Jawarharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India) will be present at the launch. These universities have a particular specialization and interest in building and enhancing teaching and research in trade, investment and development and also in collaborating with UNCTAD.

Manoj Pant of Jawarharlal Nehru University explains, "In creating a dedicated network for cooperation on trade and development issues, particularly for developing-country universities, UNCTAD will go a long way towards bridging the gap between perception and reality in trade negotiations".

More than ever, there is a demand from a wide range of people for the kinds of higher-level skills and knowledge about trade and related issues that universities can provide.

Mario Presser of the University of Campinas describes how courses developed in collaboration with other institutions can "increase awareness in civil society about globalization for a better participation by developing countries in the world trading system. Courses such as ours, developed with the support of UNCTAD, are necessary to understand clearly the wide implications of these rules".

The UNCTAD Virtual Institute also represents an innovative approach to partnerships between UNCTAD and important stakeholders from civil society. According to UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero, "We are used to hearing and speaking about our globalized world - in terms of globalized trade, financial flows, markets and production. But we tend to forget that the most important driving force of globalization is the one involving ideas and knowledge. UNCTAD has a key role to play in this regard; since it was established 40 years ago, it has been a unique thinktank on trade and development. The value of its analytical work would not be relevant if that work were not disseminated systematically among users - and in this regard the Virtual Institute can play a crucial role in relation to the academic community all over the world".