Jul 11, 1987


GENEVA, JULY 9 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – The seventh session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development began here Thursday afternoon in the assembly hall in the UN complex here – with the Conference’s sombre mood matching the grimness of the crisis stalking much of the third world.

So much has been talked and written about the facts of the crisis, and UN officials have been so long giving grim warnings that fall on deaf ears of those that matter, that in a sense the opening day’s speeches could provide little that was dramatic or new.

But all speakers – the UN Secretary-General, the President of Yugoslavia, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Zimbabwe’s Finance and Planning Minister Bernard Chidzero, and the UNCTAD Secretary-General Kenneth Dadzie – all hoped that UNCTAD-VII could mark a turning point.

Speaking at the ceremonial opening, Javier Perez de Cuellar warned that vigorous and quick action was needed if the world economy was not to be caught in a downward spiral with adverse consequences for all countries, and UNCTAD-VII offered and "excellent opportunity to change the course of events and find the most effective means for re-activating global growth and development.

The convergent actions promised at UNCTAD-VI had not been translated into reality, and sustained growth in world economy had not taken place.

In too many third world countries social progress had faltered, if not declined, and this had not only exacerbated political tensions but also affected, in a less conspicuous manner, long-term development prospects, he declared.

Adjustment without growth was not enough, just as growth without appropriate adjustment was not conceivable, and this reality must underline deliberations at the session, he said.

Underscoring the modest level of expectations of UN officials, Perez de Cuellar said even if all interest could not be reconciled for agreement on common action, and consensus was not immediately attainable, a time-table to address pending problems should be established.

"It is my hope that UNCTAD-VII will make a decisive shift in mood, emphasis and action", he declared.

The Yugoslav President, Lazar Majsov, who had chaired UNCTAD-VI, contrasted the present meeting in Geneva with the "historic" first conference, and said, "in spite of many breakthroughs, many hopes and expectations have been betrayed".

The third world in the 80’s emerged as net suppliers of resources to the industrialised world, and the world economy increasingly exposed to disruptions caused by ad hoc measures with devastating effects on the third world.

"If a new awareness of mutuality and interdependence is not created, the highly developed world will also soon be confronted with new critical challenges", Majsov warned.

Communication and technological revolution was coinciding with loss of an integral concept of paths of progress for the whole of mankind, and "there are no firm bridges between the north and the south across the ever wider economic gap between them".

The third world’s growth could no longer be postponed, and wit touts the strengthening of there all round economic potentials of these countries.

"There is no other way out of this crisis ... without growth and development there can be no solution to other economic problems of the world".

Dwelling on the debt crisis, and the various solutions being mooted, Mojsov said the only possible way out lay in "reallocation of debt to development projects, linking repayments to volume of exports and GNP, the lowering of interest rates, significant extension of repayment periods, and for least developed countries, writing-off of debts".

Understanding, confidence, mutual benefit and cooperation was the only option, and the international community must spare no effort "to restore the developmental consensus in order to encourage concerted action of all countries", and particularly those who have "the greatest influence on world economic developments", the Yugoslav President pleaded.

Many of the decisions at UNCTAD-VI had not been carrier out, "but the forum is not to be blamed ... rather the inconsistency of policies of member-countries", he added.

Addressing the Conference, which met formally after the ceremonial meeting and unanimously elected him as president, Bernard Chidzero underscored the exceptionally difficult economic problems and intractable issues in a world, which was becoming a global village, thanks to technology and communications.

The extent of the problems might suggest the Conference was meeting "at an inauspicious moment". Statistical and other data all pointed to the unfavourable external environment and increased uncertainties facing the third world.

"In sum, the situation is overwhelming, but this is the very raison d’être of the conference", Chidzero declared.

In a reference to the controversies as to whether the Conference should first reach an agreed assessment before negotiating solutions, Chidzero said there could never be complete convergence of views, "but we know the elephant when we see it".

The real challenge and imperative need lay "in finding effective policies and measures".

"We can agree on the broad strategies called for an craft the needed guidelines. We must generate the momentum for action in UNCTAD itself ... we must regain and espouse the development consensus and breathe new life into multilateralism".

UNCTAD, with its comprehensive mandate, provided the most representative forum for consideration of international trade a development issues.

Buttressed by sustained and expanding south-south cooperation, and east-west cooperation, "north-south dialogue must lead to concrete actions in macro-economic management of the world economy for increased growth and world development for the good of all nations".

UNCTAD-VII, Chidzero declared, had the historic challenge to contribute decisively for renewal and strengthening of effective dialogue between industrialised and third world nations, and revitalising principles and institutions of international economic cooperation.

On debt, Chidzero said the problem could no longer be left to short-term mechanism of a "muddling-through" strategy, and there was now "compelling reason for an improved and comprehensive international debt strategy that would include appropriate mechanisms to ensure continued flow of resources for development".