Jul 14, 1987
UNCTAD-VII: JOINT EXERCISE OF POLITICAL SOVEREIGNTY AS COUNTERVAILS.GENEVA, JULY 10 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – The only countervailing force the Third World now has against the systematic efforts to accentuate the inequity and asymmetry in the world economic systems "lies in the strategic exercise of political sovereignty through cooperative mechanism of the Group of 77", Indian Commerce Minister, P. Shiv Shankar told UNCTAD-VII Friday. Shiv Shankar was the first speaker in the plenary as it began a general debate on the world economy, form the perspective of revitalising development, growth and international trade. Earlier, the Cuban Foreign Trade Minister, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, had presented the conference with the "Havana declaration" of the G77, to be distributed as a conference document. The declaration, Cabrisas said was an expression of "the unity of objectives and close cohesion of the underdeveloped countries in their just aspirations and demands". The problems faced by the third world since UNCTAD-I were in essence the same, though considerably worse, and solutions had been scarce and effects minimal. Focussing on the third world’s one trillion-dollar astronomical debt, which had become "a permanent drain" on third world economies and an insurmountable obstacle to development, the G77 spokesman said: "Without its elimination, it is not possible even to think about true alternatives of well-being for our peoples. It is in short, a development crisis which is unprecedented in scope and depth". Apart from the Havana declaration, Cabrisas also presented a draft resolution on the situation of Palestinian peoples. Adopted by the Asian Regional ministers, the Havana G77 meeting had agreed to present it to the conference. The Indian Minister fully endorsed the Havana declaration and proposals of the G77, and said the crisis in the world economy and its parts, and the disarray in the systems had been principally responsible for stagnation in most third world countries, and even negative growth in many of them. The 1980’s had become a lost decade for development, and the coordinates of the post-war system no longer seemed to hold, even as market structures were becoming more and more oligopolistic and there was a "relentless drive" by TNCS for "greater economic space". UNCTAD now was under attack, and its institutional and permanent machinery faced a continuing stalemate. This tendency to marginalise UNCTAD was proceeding parallel with efforts to enhance the role of GATT in areas far beyond its scope, and international financial and monetary institutions were pursuing a joint strategy of adjustment by the third world – contractionary measures, liberalisation of imports, devaluation of currencies, diminution of public sector role, and imposition of inequitable socio-economic relations. In the face of all these, the only countervailing force left to the third world lay in the "strategic exercise of their political sovereignty through mechanisms such as G77, progressive pursuit of collective self-reliance and cooperative and mutually beneficial relations with rest of the world". The challenge faced by UNCTAD was essentially a challenge to the evolution of the countervailing force, and the Havana declaration of the G77 was based on its assessment of this challenge. The G77 was not seeking "a niche of special and differential treatment within the coordinates of the existing economic order with marginal modifications", the Indian Minister declared. The G77 was seeking more enduring solutions based on fundamental principles, such as right of third world countries to pursue their own social and economic policies, multilateralism based on cooperative interaction of sovereign states, and recognition of development and employment as universal and prime objectives. Rejecting the idea of prior agreement on convergent assessment, the Indian Minister called for negotiations based on recognition of common interest, and underscored the Havana declaration view that the results of UNCTAD-VII would have "an important influence on the attitude of developing countries towards piecemeal or sectoral negotiating venture undertaken elsewhere".