The twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) constituted a good vantage point from which to assess the past and to look at the future prospects of conducting international economic negotiations within the United Nations (UN) system, which itself marked its fortieth anniversary in 1985. Pitting groups against each other, the developing countries of the South versus the developed countries of the North from the free-market and planned systems of the West and East, has become a seemingly permanent feature of international relations. Yet stocktaking has become imperative in light of the apathy or anti-internationalism within industrialized countries — most evident in the United States and the United Kingdom, but with other western countries also showing similar signs of disenchantment. A breakdown in multilateral approaches and an almost universal dissatisfaction with the so-called North-South ‘dialogue’ has resulted. ‘Fiasco’, ‘stalemate’, ‘paralysis’ and ‘immobility’ are applied by both northern and southern observers to international negotiations to such an extent that discussions might more appropriately be labelled a dialogue de sourds.1 While disgruntlement is not confined to UNCTAD,2 it has been a target of criticism and has not defended itself very articulately.3


United Nations Group System International Negotiation Bargaining Process Leaky Bucket 
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  1. 1.
    Robert L. Rothstein, ‘Is the North-South Dialogue Worth Saving?’, Third World Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 4, January 1984, pp. 155–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Lance Taylor, ‘Back to Basics: Theory for the Rhetoric in the North-South Round’, World Development, vol. 10, no. 4, April 1982, pp. 327–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. John W. Sewell and I. William Zartman, ‘Global Negotiations: Path to the Future or Dead-End Street?’, Third World Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 2, April 1984, pp. 374–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 2.
    Otto G. Mayer, ‘The World Bank After Forty Years’, pp. 167–72Google Scholar
  5. Wilfried Lütkenhorst, ‘GATT Caught Between Self-Destruction and Reform’, pp. 178–86.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Christopher P. Brown, The Political and Social Economy of Commodity Control ( London, Macmillan, 1980 );Google Scholar
  7. Thomas G. Weiss and Anthony Jennings, More for the Least? Prospects for Poorest Countries in the Eighties ( Lexington, Mass., Heath, 1983 ).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    For these discussions, see: Jagdish N. Bhagwati and John Gerard Ruggie (eds), Power, Passions, and Purpose: Prospects for North—South Negotiations ( Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1984 );Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For an example of each type, see: Gamani Corea, Need for Change: Towards the New International Economic Order ( Oxford, Pergamon, 1980 );Google Scholar
  10. Stanley J. Michalak, Jr., The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: An Organization Betraying Its Mission ( Washington, DC, The Heritage Foundation, 1983 )Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    UNCTAD: Tenth Anniversary Journal (New York, United Nations sales no. TAD/INF/74, 1974), p. 1.Google Scholar
  12. See: Robert E. Asher, ‘International Agencies and Economic Development: An Overview’, in R. N. Gardner and M. F. Millikan (eds), The Global Partnership ( New York, Praeger, 1968 ), p. 433.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Thomas G. Weiss 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas G. Weiss
    • 1
  1. 1.International Peace AcademyNew YorkUSA

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