UNCTAD Intergovernmental Working Group on Technology Transfer

The Trade and Development board of UNCTAD decided to set up an Intergovernmental Group on the Transfer of Technology with 45 governments represented, to identify obstacles and problems in technology transfer, to consider the possibilities of international and national action. The Intergovernmental Group was not empowered to start international negotiations, only to propose areas for action. (Connors, 1973: 15)

An IDS bulletin in 1970 focused on the challenges in transfer of technology from developed to developing countries, with contributions from Charles Cooper (The Transfer of industrial Technology to the Under-developed Countries), Hans Singer (The Foreign Company as an Exporter of Technology), Constantine Vaitsos (Bargaining and the Distribution of Returns in the Purchase of Technology by Developing Countries), and Ian Hamnett (A Social Scientist among Technicians).

“It is now becoming increasingly realized that technological transfers, though obviously of vital importance to the LDC’s, are by no means always and necessarily beneficial. But much wider awareness is still needed of the circumstances in which the effects are likely to be positive for development. […] knowledge alone will not cure the problem: what is needed is government action by the LDC’s (and preferably at least regionally coordinated) to counteract the free play of economic forces and to develop a framework of constraints within which technology transfers can occur which have the greatest possible developmental impact.” (de Kadt, 1970: 2)

There were particular concerns about the power of transnational corporations, largely originating in Group B countries, to control technology and patents, and thereby holding the power to set prices. “The integrated nature of transnational corporations, with operations in many countries, also gave them disproportionate bargaining power over developing countries…”  (Jolly, 2008)



Connors, A. (1970) ‘The UNCTAD III Resolution on the Transfer of Technology’ in Bell, C. (Ed). ‘The Future of UNCTAD’ IDS Bulletin Vol 5, No 1 Jan 1973, pp. 14-20. 

UNCTAD (1997)  Note by the UNCTAD Secretariat for Consideration of Ways and Means of Commemorating in 1999 of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Vienna Conference on Science and Technology for Development.  Economic and Social Council. Commission on Science and Technology for Development.  Third Session. Geneva, 12 May 1997.  E/CN.16/1997/7.  Accessed online at: http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/ecn16_97d7.en.pdf

Emanuel de Kadt, 1970. Editorial in Transfers, Technicians, and Technology. IDS Bulletin Vol 3, No. I, October 1970, p. 2.

Jolly, R. 2008. IDS Discussion Paper 388. January, 2008.

See also:
Hamnett, Ian (1970), ‘A Social Scientist Among Technicians’, IDS Bulletin 3.1

Cooper, Charles (1970), ‘The Transfer of Industrial Technology to the Under-developed Countries’, IDS Bulletin 3.1