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Marina Larionova1, Elizaveta Safonkina
  • 1 RANEPA, 11 Prechistenskaya naberezhnaya, Moscow, 119034, Russia

The First Five Decades of Cooperation for Development. Actors, Achievements and Challenges

2018. Vol. 13. No. 4. P. 96–121 [issue contents]

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 by the United Nations (UN) in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development collectively serve as a universal guide for developed and developing countries in their national policies and international cooperation aimed at combating global challenges. The SDGs build on the outcomes of the Global Partnership for Development Co-operation (GPEDC), the foundations of which were laid in the 20th century. This article explores the system of international development cooperation as it evolved in the UN from 1946 until the adoption of the UN Millennium Declaration in 2000. It analyzes the resolutions and official records of the main UN bodies, with emphasis on the General Assembly (GA) and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Content analysis of the records reveals the delegations’ positions, interests, contradictions and tensions which may have been concealed by the smooth text of the resolutions.

Four development decades culminated in adoption of the Millennium Declaration. Each stage had its achievements and problems. The main principles, mechanisms and areas of cooperation were molded in early sessions of the GA and ECOSOC. The creation of development support instruments began in mid-1940s, when the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) and later the UN Special Fund were established. The dollar monopoly was entrenched. The expansion of international trade and removal of barriers to trade issues gained prominence in UN resolutions in the 1950s. In 1960 the goal of increasing flows of assistance and capital to developing countries to 1% of the combined national incomes of economically developed countries was set for the first time.

The period from 1961–1970 was marked by the adoption of the Programme for International Development Co-operation — including the First United Nations Development Decade and the World Food Programme (WFP), the establishment of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and by the elaboration of the international development strategy for the second development decade. The need for international monetary reform was debated in conjunction with the UN’s pursuit of a solution to the problems of rising debt and international liquidity.

The key milestones of the second decade include the gradual integration of development and environment issues, efforts to resolve the international monetary crisis and alleviate the rising debt burden, an increase of pledged targets for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the WFP and Special Fund, the decision on the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, efforts to implement the differential treatment principle with regard to developing countries within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), adoption of theInternational Development Strategy for the Third United Nations Development Decade, and a failed attempt to launch “global negotiations on restructuring of international economic relations on the basis of the principles of justice and equality in order to provide for steady economic development.”

In the third decade, progress was made toward strengthening the science and technology capacity as well as the industrial and resource development capacity of developing countries. The UN endorsed the Global Strategy for Health for All by the Year 2000, adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development and theInternational Development Strategy for the Fourth United Nations Development Decade. The transition to a sustainable development model was a major achievement. The economic recession,high rates of interest, inflation and mounting deficits, the problems of liquidity and balance of payments, protectionism and structural imbalances in the world economy required a comprehensive decision on the reform of the international monetary system. However, global negotiations were deadlocked due to the position taken by the Group of 7 (G7) that the independence of the specialized agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) should be guaranteed. Despite efforts by the Group of 77 (G77) to deal comprehensively with thefull range of economic issues, the G7’s insistence on the 1982 Versailles summit formula blocked global negotiations, definingthe system’srigidity for many years to come and contributing to its failure to prevent the 1998 and 2008 crises.

The Agenda for Development adopted in June 1997 and the UN Millennium Declaration adopted in September 2000 became the landmarks of the fourth decade and development cooperation history.

The international community came a long way in building and consolidating development cooperation in the second half of the 20th century. The UN became a cradle and a driver of this process and was a factor in its success. Indisputable achievements resulting from collective efforts over 55 years include a consistent consolidation of its foundational programme documents from the first development decade to the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), continuous improvement of the review and appraisal process, integration of environmental issues into the development agenda, establishment of key development cooperation institutions and a significant increase in financing for development. However, efforts to create the conditions for sustained progress and development restructuring of the international economic system taking account of the interests of developing countries failed. The 21st century inherited the systemic problems of the international monetary and trade systems.

Citation: Larionova M., Safonkina E. (2018) The First Five Decades of Cooperation for Development. Actors, Achievements and Challenges. International Organisations Research Journal , vol. 13, no 4, pp. 96-121 (in English). DOI: 10.17323/1996-7845-2018-04-05.
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