Jul 16, 1987


GENEVA, JULY 14 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – Without acceleration of global economic growth, the present downturn in north and the south would continue unabated, and "the north deceives itself if it things it will be immune from negative impulses from a bankrupt south", Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe told the seventh session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development Tuesday.

Addressing the Conference as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Mugabe pledged the continued full support of the NAM to UNCTAD and its secretariat in implementing its mandate to correct north-south asymmetries, and defend and promote "development process as seen by the developing countries themselves".

The plenary hall was full, and delegates in their places to hear Mugabe. But the chief U.S. delegate, deputy assistant secretary, Denis Goodman, came slowly sauntering into the hall, with a casual air, to take his seat almost towards the end of Mugabe’s speech.

Underscoring the "pervasive global economic malaise" that delegates had gathered to address, Mugabe said the mood of the conference should not be "business as usual".

They were in the midst of the worst ever economic crisis in post-war era, and it was a crisis of confidence in facing the challenge through multilateral economic cooperation.

The 8th NAM summit had underscored the imperative of multilateralism, and he was pleased to note the same sentiments in the recent summits of the Warsaw pact countries and the OECD.

The Conference was thus an opportunity for nations of the world to assume the obligations imposed by the integration of the world economy, albeit on unequal terms.

NAM countries had long been warning that the post-war Bretton Woods Institutions were not equipped to deal with economic problems, and multilateral institutions should be transformed to become effective instruments for achieving the NIEO. The current crisis only served to underline the urgency of this call.

"The measurement of success for this conference", Mugabe declared, "would be the extent to which the shared perception of global economic malaise could speedily be translated into policies and measures designed to correct anomalies in the different sectors of economic activities whose sum total constitute the world economy".

On the debt crisis was nothing but an element of a multifaceted development crisis from which no third world countries was immune. "It mirrors a breakdown in the machinery of multilateral economic cooperation and success of developed countries in creating and cushioning themselves against a negative external environment".

Efforts to deal with the crisis so far had been piecemeal, and those whose policies and practices had led to the crisis did not want to alleviate it, but insisted it was the results of "suppressed market forces".

The least developed countries, particularly those in Africa, who submitted to this view have had no positive results, and aid to them had stagnated just when they were undertaking structural adjustment programmes.

"The cumulative effect of devaluation, mounting debt, declining commodity prices and stagnant concessionary flows has reversed the direction of capital inflows in favour of developed countries and the IMF and World Bank.

"The time has come" Mugabe added, "for the north to play fair with us of the south. So far, it has been the south that has borne all the costs of the recurrent crisis in the capitalist dominated world economy".

UNCTAD, Mugabe said, was an embodiment of political emancipation of the third world, and was born of the conviction that "principles of economic liberalism are in real life thwarted by structural market failures".

"The theology that trade aspects of development could be relegated to tariff cutting exercises is hollow", and in the real world there was "no economic homogeneity between north and the south".

There were structural differences and there was also "entrenched dependency of the south on the economic fortunes of the north, which in turn feeds on the sweat, toil and sacrifices of the south".

Hence the UNCTAD philosophy of not-discrimination, non-reciprocity, and special and differential treatment of all third world countries.

UNCTAD’s mandate was to correct the asymmetries in north-south relations, Mugabe noted.

"The UNCTAD of today, and that of tomorrow, must continue to be a purveyor of new ideas as well as a defender and promoter of the development process as seen by the developing countries themselves. That is the challenge before the secretariat and to that end it can count on the full support of NAM and other developing countries".

As a universal forum UNCTAD should aim at harnessing energies of all economic systems to service of development aspirations of third world "without imposing any form of social and/or economic system on its diverse members".

Domestic policies should remain as they were, but should not be pursued at the expense of economic welfare of other countries, and UNCTAD should "keep under surveillance the impact of trade and monetary policies ... likely to be inimical to development process of the developing countries".

UNCTAD, the NAM chairman declared, should also be true to its mandate and promote a code of conduct on transfer of technology, evolve a blueprint for a future "comprehensive international trading system", and promote a framework for making commodity production remunerative and redress unequal exchanges in international trade, and propose mechanisms to stop the haemorrhage of financial resources from developing countries.

"We would be deluding ourselves if we believed that faith in economic liberalism alone will restore economic growth and promote structural adjustment in the north", Mugabe declared.

In the real world there were numerous tactics by industrial countries to render ineffectual economic liberalism, and they could also distort prices in agricultural markets, calling such distortions "income support programmes".

In special situation where an entire sector could not survive the test of the market, all of the sector could also be excluded from GATT, Mugabe pointed out in a reference to the Multifibre Arrangement to restrict imports from the third world.

The biggest irony and tragedy of civilisation now was in the midst of unparalleled scientific and technological progress, there should be much poverty and deprivation and misery.

What future could human race have when despite such resources 280.000 children died weekly from malnutrition and preventable disease, or when despite the knowledge of the devastating capacity of the nuclear bomb, the present generation continued to develop its destructive capacity even further, or when billions of dollars could be squandered on nuclear arms in the face of growing poverty.

"It graphically underlines for us that the struggle for peace is inseparable from that of socio-economic development", Mugabe concluded.