UN Declaration: New International Economic Order

The Declaration for the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly Special Sixth Session in 1974 (1 May 1974, A/RES/S-6/3201) called for a restructuring of the international order toward greater equity for developing countries, particularly in reference to a wide range of trade, financial, commodity, and debt-related issues.  The Declaration was built on a set of proposals for more equitable international economic cooperation, as put forward during the 1970s by developing countries through UNCTAD, including to: reform the terms of trade, increase development assistance, reduce developed-country tariffs, among others.

In terms of technology, the Declaration acknowledges that “the benefits of technological progress are not shared equitably by all members of the international community,” and specifically highlights that “the need for and possibility of significant [negotiation]” that address the role and power of multinational corporations, “the international division of labour, world market access and supply, the transfer of technology, economic sovereignty and related financial flows.” (Green and Singer, 1975:433-4)

Generally, the G77 proposed a massive restructuring of the international economic system in favour of developing countries, aimed to replace the Bretton Woods system, which had unfairly benefited the industrialised nations and instead to permit greater participation by and benefits to developing countries. This was also known as the ‘North-South Dialogue’. Along with the declaration, a Programme of Action and a Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States were adopted in 1975.

A joint working group involving researchers at IDS and SPRU as well as other UK institutions collaborated on a paper in support of a negotiated NIEO in favour of developing countries. This group argued for “parallel action in the fields of primary commodities, manufactured goods trade, technology, financial transfers, MNCs, food production and provision of some minimum security to the poorest nations and individuals.” (Green and Singer, 1975:430) They also highlighted the need for “coordination of concrete negotiations” and “parallel action” in order to achieve “a sense of direction” and “an adequate interrelationship of its component parts” and “an over-all result significantly beneficial to all or almost all participating states.” (Green and Singer, 1975:430)

On global R&D priorities, there is a direct reference to the 1971 World Plan of Action, suggesting a reorientation of developed country R&D toward issues of concern to developing countries, including orientation away from R&D on arms production (part of process of disarmament), orientation away from synthetic materials that replace export products developing countries research or increasing food production with labour-intensive technologies. (Green and Singer, 1975:430)

The group highlights technology transfer as a source of export earnings for industrial economies, urging “better guidelines on sale and use” to enable importing countries to “negotiate a fair price and obtain genuine control over, and freedom to apply, imported technology”. The paper refers to the draft International Code of Conduct in UNCTAD and warns that “without agreed guidelines […] a real danger exists of a breakdown in contractual relationships, with patents, copyrights and other knowledge sales agreements being disregarded because the bargains driven have been unfair to poor countries. Such a situation of uncertainty and insecurity would benefit no one.” (Green and Singer, 1975:430)

The group highlights the “problems associated with the appropriateness of imported technology” and suggests a coordination of agency efforts toward building technological capabilities in developing countries. “The building up of LDC adaptation and development capacity are very real ones which should be faced by UNCTAD, the ILO World Employment Conference and UNIDO,” adding that “the UN World Plan of Action for the Application of Science and Technology and its development in the process of preparation for the coming UN Conference on Science and Technology should be more seriously and purposefully used as a basis of agreed action in this field.” (Green and Singer, 1975:436)

The paper further elaborates points about economic sovereignty and MNC activities. “A code of conduct might be useful if it set down minimum acceptable standards and carried a commitment to support governments taking corrective action against firms in breach of it. MNCs on balance export investible surpluses from poor to rich countries and pose far more serious threats to economic sovereignty and macroeconomic policy in LDCs than in major industrial economies,” but point out opportunities for joint action in “at least some areas of common concern”. (Green and Singer, 1975:438)

The paper highlights opportunities for “decentralization, intermediate technology, use of locally available materials and energy sources, labour-intensive techniques” as well as “resource-saving technologies, e.g., solar energy”, with the aim of collective impact in “reorienting the impact of knowledge transfers toward redistributive growth, economy in scarce-resource use, production-employment creation, secure access to minimum human needs, with decentralization making participation in decisions possible.” Lastly, this paper even refers to a ‘systems’ approach to finance and research in considering new settlement developments. (Green and Singer, 1975:441)



Green, R. and H. Singer (1975) ‘Toward a Rational and Equitable New International Economic Order: A Case for Negotiated Structural Changes’, World Development 3.6: 427-44.  This paper was product of a joint working party from IDS, SPRU, the Overseas Development Institute, and Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford (QEH), involving: Barbara Ward, Rob Wood (ODI), Brian Johnson (ISIO), Carlos Fortin, Theodore Morgan, Richard Jolly, Michael Lipton, Richard Stanton, Paul Streeten (QEH), David Jones (ODD, Sam Cole (SPRU), Paul Isenman, Charles Cooper, Len Joy, Lyn Reynolds.  http://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/wdevel/v3y1975i6p427-444.html  

‘Declaration for the Establishment of a New International Economic Order’, United Nations General Assembly document A/RES/S-6/3201 of 1 May 1974. Available online at: http://www.un-documents.net/s6r3201.htm  and http://www.un-documents.net/k-003044.htm 

September 1975 ‘Resolution on Development and international economic co-operation’ A/RES/S-7/3362  http://www.un-documents.net/s7r3362.htm 

Jagdish N. Bhagwati (editor) (1977) The New International Economic Order: The North-South Debate.

See the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States http://www.un-documents.net/a29r3281.htm