A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


UNCTAD Virtual Institute

In today's increasingly complex world, countries at all stages of development need effective policymakers and negotiators with solid knowledge of international economic issues. They also need up-to-date analysis about how the changes in the world economy will impact their countries and which policies could best respond to both the opportunities and the challenges of globalization.

Academic institutions, such as universities and research centres, are a vital source of information and training in developing countries. They educate future policymakers and business leaders, and offer empirical research required for informed policymaking and negotiation.

Cognizant of this important role of academia, UNCTAD established a special programme of cooperation with academic institutions, the UNCTAD Virtual Institute on Trade and Development (Vi), in June 2004. While initially the Vi worked only with universities, in December 2011, its scope was enlarged to also encompass research centres, members of the UNCTAD Global Network of Development Think Tanks.

The Virtual Institute is a capacity-building and networking programme for academic institutions in developing and transition countries. Its aim is to help them strengthen their teaching and research capacity in the area of trade, investment and development, and increase the policy orientation and relevance of their work.

The Vi works with member institutions of its academic network on a long-term basis by providing services in three areas:

  1. Support to degree programmes: The Vi provides advice on the design of university courses and programmes and develops teaching materials on trade and development issues, which the universities subsequently adapt to the contexts of their countries - by adding data and analysis on the country, translating into local languages, etc. It also organizes tailored training programmes for students at Geneva-based organizations (study tours).
  2. Professional development for research and teaching: The Vi offers training and learning opportunities for groups of academics (regional and national workshops) and individuals (mentoring, especially for junior researchers who work on research projects of specific interest to their universities, either in Geneva in the framework of the Vi fellowship programme, or at a distance).
  3. Cooperation within the Vi academic network: In addition to working bilaterally with the universities, the Vi also draws on the potential of South-South and North-South cooperation in its academic network and supports exchanges of experiences and joint projects among the members in the areas of research, development of teaching materials or professional development.


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