What the South wants: Ricupero


Amidst the welter of speeches at Bangkok from Heads of State and Government, delegations of member states, leaders of international financial institutions, business leaders from small and medium enterprises as well as TNCs, and directors of agencies and regional commissions of the UN, there was a danger that the fundamental demands of the developing nations would be drowned in a torrent of words. UNCTAD's Secretary-General summed up their demands in the closing section of his speech, the relevant extract of which is reproduced below.

'' TODAY I want to insist that the building of an international community that will respect the aspirations of all its members for sustainable development must rest on the same moral foundation as does sustainable development itself. The fundamental idea is once again that of generalised reciprocity.

However, as Raul Prebisch declared when UNCTAD was established in 1964, the reciprocity of international economic relations must be real. It cannot be merely conventional, it cannot be formal only. It cannot be based on a nominal equality of countries that is belied in all the practices of negotiation, decision-making and dispute settlement. Precisely because, so far, global integration has affected only a dozen developing countries, the economic world is still divided. In such a world, real reciprocity means taking account of the underlying asymmetry of economic structures. Real reciprocity still has to be constructed. It will be the new international order that so many nations in this Conference have demanded. What are they asking for? Three things, above all:

1) They want the massive barriers to be dismantled in relation to trade in agriculture, textiles and clothing and in the areas where tariff peaks and escalation still prevail, even after the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements. Although greater access to industrial countries' markets will not solve the problems of the least developed countries, it is crucial to securing the benefits of an open global trading system for the more advanced developing countries.

2) They want recognition for their efforts in promoting regional economic solidarity. Provided that these are in the form of 'open regionalism', they can strengthen the move towards positive global economic integration.

3) They want existing international economic institutions to evolve so that they are capable of bridging the interests of both developed and developing countries. As the NGOs have emphasised, such institutions must be more pluralistic and participatory than they are today.

In the aftermath of the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Seattle, the prospects for progress in these three directions are at best mixed. This Conference has provided the opportunity for a wide-ranging exchange of views. In my view, it has been instrumental in creating an atmosphere of greater mutual understanding on the complexities of the globalisation process. But much remains to be done in translating this into practical moves for institutional change at the international level.

The entire international community must see this as its goal in the four years ahead of us. UNCTAD's role in assisting the emergence of more effective international economic institutions must be a constructive one. UNCTAD must deploy for this purpose all of the three instruments at its command - research, policy advocacy and technical assistance. I look forward to the challenge that this will present.''