Founded in Geneva in September 1996, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) aims to influence the international trade system such that it advances the goal of sustainable development. As an independent, non-profit, and non-governmental organization, ICTSD engages a broad range of actors in ongoing dialogue on trade and sustainable development policy. In advancing its mission, the Centre has become a leading broker of knowledge and information on trade policy and sustainable development.
With a global network of governmental, non-governmental, and inter-governmental partners, ICTSD plays a unique, systemic role as a provider of original, non-partisan reporting and facilitation services. ICTSD advances trade policy that supports sustainable development by structuring interaction between policy-makers and key influencers who are often excluded from policymaking processes. ICTSD helps parties better understand the technical and political contexts that underlie their interests and the interests of those with whom they interact on policy issues. In this way, ICTSD builds bridges between groups with seemingly disparate agendas, enabling them to identify and progress on issues where their interests and priorities coincide.
ICTSD empowers stakeholders in trade policy through information, networking, dialogue, well-targeted research, and capacity building. ICTSD identifies knowledge gaps in international trade rule- and policy-making from a sustainable development perspective; it mobilizes the best expertise around the world through dialogue and research to address those gaps in a solution-oriented way; it processes the knowledge generated through these processes so that it is applied and relevant for international policy making processes; and it delivers this knowledge to sustainable development constituencies in a timely manner.
To effectively fulfil these roles, ICTSD has developed a reflective, responsive, and opportunistic strategy. This three-pronged approach enables ICTSD to remain ahead of the game and to anticipate policy developments. At the same time, the Centre is responsive to external developments in its politically dynamic environment and adapts its programmes accordingly. Finally, the Centre is opportunistic in exploiting strategic windows of opportunity in order to advance its mission.
A non-partisan and value-based approach
As a leading broker of knowledge, ICTSD has pursued a long-term strategy of building strong, trusting relationships with key constituencies. This nonpartisan approach has strengthened the Centre’s credibility as an independent and influential player. Together with its focus on sustainable development, ICTSD has been able to promote specific public policy outcomes that lie at the core of sustainable development, rather than privileging short-term mercantilist interests or the vested interests of specific actors or country groupings.
Generating and processing knowledge for sustainable development outcomes
ICTSD established formal partnerships with 123 institutions in 37 different countries in 2009.
ICTSD is well-recognized as an institution that generates new knowledge with a solutions-focused approach to the sustainable development dimension of trade negotiations. The Centre generates between 70 to 90 research papers and think pieces annually in collaboration with the top organizations and research institutes in the field. The purposeful networking and strategic partnerships that undergird this research have proven to be highly effective in identifying and mobilizing the best-suited expertise to address knowledge gaps from a sustainable development perspective and in nurturing knowledge communities that continue working on the issues.
Creating space for interaction
ICTSD convened more than 99 dialogues in over 20 different countries in 2009.
ICTSD is recognized for its effectiveness in bringing new voices and perspectives to the debate and for its ability to mobilize a wide range of stakeholders at different levels of the policy making process. Over the past 14 years, ICTSD has built a distinct and trusted brand among trade policy makers and policy influencers for enabling, facilitating, and supporting constructive interaction in non-negotiating settings.
Reaching out to strategic constituencies
On weekly and monthly frequencies, ICTSD produces 13 different periodicals in five languages that reach out to roughly 20,000 policy makers and influencers in more than 180 countries.
ICTSD is a source of record on policy developments in the trade and sustainable development field and it is recognized as trusted, leading-edge provider of intelligence and analysis. The Centre’s strong presence in Geneva—close to trade negotiations, policy makers, NGOs, and academia—is complemented by regional teams in the Americas, Africa, and Asia that ensure ICTSD remains close to its audiences.
ICTSD maintains strong connections with intergovernmental and civil society networks. The Centre is accredited by the United Nations and enjoys Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); Observer Status at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Health Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Since 1996, the Centre has also been granted accreditation by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to participate in all its Ministerial Conferences and other ad hoc activities. ICTSD is further accredited to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since July 2005, ICTSD has been an accredited member of the Governing Council of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
ICTSD has been instrumental in the creation and leadership of numerous intersectoral initiatives on trade and sustainable development issues ranging from the WTO Director General’s NGO Advisory Group to the leadership of the Trade and Development Symposium: an informal consortium of international organizations, research institutes, and NGOs active around major trade and development events.