ISSN (Print) 1996-7845

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

The Soviet Union in the United Nations Development System

2019. Vol. 14. No. 1. P. 145–163 [issue contents]

The study of the evolution of international cooperation for development in the United Nations (UN) system from 1946 to 2000 reveals that political and ideological contradictions and priorities exerted significant influence on the system’s construction, creating barriers to negotiating resolutions and forging decisions and constraining progress in development cooperation.

This article reviews the USSR’s initiatives and positions on concrete areas of cooperation, drawing on an analysis of the resolutions and records of the meetings of the UN General Assembly (GA) and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It highlights the main trends and cases reflecting the Soviet Union’s priorities and its role in the evolution of cooperation for development under UN auspices.

Content analysis of meeting records helps to trace the official positions of delegations, problems in advancing cooperation, opportunities for building coalitions, difficulties forging compromises and constraints stemming from the failure to pursue an integrated and comprehensive approach to the resolution of development and international financial/economic problems.

The USSR actively contributed to deliberations and decision-making on a wide range of cooperation for development issues, promoting the primacy of the principles of national policy, developing countries’ sovereignty over their natural resources and the right of their exploitation, development of countries’ economic potential through support for industrialization, technology transfer, agricultural and national cadre development, and the creation of the necessary external conditions for the mobilization of developing countries’ own resources.

These principles, the pursuit of change in the international balance of economic power and the drive for an expansion of influence defined the Soviet Union’s initiatives and its support for developing countries on such issues as global negotiations aimed at the establishment of a new international economic order as proposed by the Group of 77 (G77) — this call was blocked by the Group of 7 (G7) using the Versailles formula to safeguard the independence of the specialized agencies. 

Inability to allocate substantial amounts of funding significantly weakened the USSR’s influence on decisions defining the parameters of development support mechanisms. Telling examples include the failure to promote the establishment of the UN capital development fund or to counter the assertion of the dollar monopoly in the UN cooperation for development system.

The solidarity of the USSR and the U.S. with their respective allies frequently led to opposition on issues which did not contradict either of the opponents’ interests. A case in point is the struggle around the participation of the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany in the UN conference on human environment in Stockholm.

Distrust and tough opposition caused multiple lost opportunities, including a chance to generate additional resources for development through the conversion of resources released by disarmament to peaceful needs.

At the end of the 1990s, following the economic crises of the previous decades, a series of external debt crises and assessment of accumulated data on aid effectiveness and donor fatigue, the principles promoted by the USSR in the first decades of cooperation for development were reflected in the Agenda for Development and the Millennium Declaration.


Larionova M. (2019) The Soviet Union in the United Nations Development System.  International Organisations Research Journal, vol. 14, no 1, pp. 145-163 (in English). DOI: 10.17323/1996-7845-2019-01-09.


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