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From the Drawing Board

In response to:

The Struggle for the Third World from the November 9, 1978 issue

To the Editors:

Geoffrey Barraclough’s articles (NYR, October 26 and November 9) provided an excellent overview of the status of the “North-South” dialogue, but shortchanged, I think, the efforts that developing countries are making among themselves to increase their economic growth in spite of the “North-South” stalemate.

Pointing out the South’s disillusionment with progress in negotiations for a New International Economic Order (NIEO), Mr. Barraclough stated that “sooner, probably, than later the developing countries will revert to a policy of ‘self-reliance’ which was put in cold storage in 1975,” with the consensus efforts at the United Nation’s 7th Special Session.

But the record shows that rather than putting efforts at self-reliance and development cooperation on ice, the developing countries have since the early 1970s evolved a practical program of both economic and technical cooperation.

The ministers of foreign affairs of the non-aligned and other developing countries devised a blueprint for such cooperation at Georgetown, Guyana, in 1972, and have action programs ongoing in trade, monetary cooperation, industry, raw materials, science, fisheries, employment, sports, and so on. These programs are reviewed yearly and have been reaffirmed at a series of developing country summits in Lima, Manila, Colombo, Mexico City, Cairo, and Belgrade.

Then last September, meeting in Buenos Aires, the developing countries took further steps to strengthen themselves for NIEO. For two weeks their top development planners took part in a United Nations world conference on “Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries” and devised new ways to make use of the development experience and capabilities that they had acquired over the past decades.

The most comprehensive grouping of development ministers and planners from the “South” ever to meet together scrutinized ongoing systems of development assistance and came up with a sixty-five-paragraph plan of action to change the nature of such assistance to promote their “collective self-reliance.”

This plan of action in the first instance urges developing countries to remove administrative and attitudinal barriers that have hindered their fuller cooperation and outlines information programs to make developing countries aware of each other’s capacities.

Then the plan asks developed countries to untie their aid monies so that developing countries can use such resources to evolve more cooperative programs among themselves.

When it comes to the UN system where the plan can mandate, not just encourage, decisions were taken that needed high-level “North-South” negotiations.

On the negotiating table were two main issues: using more of the $500 million spent each year by the UN on development programs for technical cooperation among developing countries and creating some means within the UN to oversee that such a thing does happen.

By the end of the conference the 138 countries participating were able to achieve the first modest consensus in the “North-South” dialogue that allows developing countries to use more UN financial resources for mutual cooperation. Developing countries will also participate in a new forum open to all of them which will review progress in the evolution of the UN development system to encourage such cooperation.

Moreover, as a result of the Buenos Aires meeting the developing countries have raised the profile of the importance of technical cooperation among developing countries, both to themselves and to the industrialized world.

Donald J. Casey

Information Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean

Division of Information

UN Development Program

New York City

Geoffrey Barraclough replies:

Mr. Casey does well to draw attention to the so-called “Buenos Aires Plan of Action.” It had not been issued when I wrote, and I have only seen the documentation subsequently, though I was, of course, aware of the Kuwait Declaration on Technical Cooperation of June 5, 1977. There is no doubt that the Buenos Aires Plan provides (as the Secretary-General of the United Nations said in his opening address) an “historic opportunity to chart a new course of hope and cooperation among two billion people who have hitherto had only limited contact with each other.” To that extent it is surely a step in the right direction. Now we have to see whether the promise will be translated into practice, or whether, like so many initiatives, it will remain a blueprint on the drawing board. I should be the last to wish to make either a pessimistic or an optimistic forecast at this early stage.

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