The UN and Development : From Aid to Cooperation

The UN and Development : From Aid to Cooperation

by Olav Stokke


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253220813
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 07/01/2009
Series: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series
Pages: 752
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Olav Stokke is Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and former editor of the Nordic journal Forum for Development Studies. His books include Perspectives on European Development Co-operation, with Paul Hoebink; Food Aid and Human Security, with Edward Clay; and Policy Coherence in Development Co-operation, with Jacques Forster.

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The UN and Development

From Aid To Cooperation

By Olav Stokke

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2009 United Nations Intellectual History Project
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35314-6


Pre-Aid Traditions and Ideas and the Institutional Heritage

* The Traditions

* The Ideas

* The Institutional Heritage

A variety of traditions — each with a primary purpose of its own, a particular mode of work, and different institutional frameworks — may have inspired the UN and its member governments to take on the new commitment of providing international development assistance. Some of these traditions shared basic values and norms; some did not. This calls for a separate discussion of the influence traditions and ideas may have exerted when the idea of development assistance was first generated and institutionalized within the UN system.

The ideas pertaining to development aid in the reports, resolutions, and declarations of the League of Nations and the early years of the United Nations are a second source of inspiration. Another source of inspiration was the Marshall Plan — the massive transfers of resources by the United States to help European countries rebuild their war-torn economies after World War II.

The various traditions, ideas, institutional heritages, and more recent experiences that will be briefly outlined in this chapter represent possible sources and inspirations of what later became international development assistance. This chapter, therefore, is meant as the first step in an effort to identify the main sources of this idea and their main characteristics. In chapter 4 we will look for footprints of these possible sources in the implementation of the idea of international aid.

The Traditions

The traditions included here cover organized activities initiated in the North that were intended to provide benefits of some kind in the South. At least a grain of altruism may have been involved in the values and norms underpinning the basic objectives of these activities. Although this may be true for most of the traditions, such activities may also have been driven by other interests.

Four traditions have often been referred to as sources of international development assistance: humanitarian relief, international solidarity, human rights, and missionary work. Several of these may be subsumed under the category of humanism. In this brief overview, a fifth tradition is added: imperialism. Colonial relations constituted a high-priority issue in the ministries of foreign affairs of the imperial powers — the powers holding center court when the idea of development assistance became institutionalized in the United Nations. The other traditions were supplements or reactions to the predominant tradition of imperialism. What are the major features of these varying traditions? What were their primary aims? What norms guided their operations and institutional setup? What was the basis of their primary values and interests?

The Imperialist Tradition

The most powerful and systematic pre-aid influence the North exerted on development in the South was created by a number of imperial powers and the companies operating under their protection or even as their agents. For some European powers, this tradition had a long history that, by the late 1940s, was still in operation with the exception of only a few cases. The form of colonial rule differed from one imperial power to another, setting different marks on colonized societies. We may distinguish between the British policy of indirect rule, which relied on traditional systems and rulers that were subordinated to a colonial superstructure, and the French policy of direct rule, which adapted its own administrative system to its colonies. And then there was the Portuguese government, which considered its colonies integral parts of the motherland. All these factors make it difficult to generalize about the tradition of imperialism.

The process of colonization was, by definition, characterized by suppression and authoritarian rule. The various forms of economic development that took place were skewed to serve the needs and interests of the imperial power. This process also applied to the efforts to improve infrastructure, communications, and transportation. Still, it brought technology to the colonies as well as capital investment. Schools, especially missionary schools, followed in the wake of colonialism.

Imperial powers created a web of political, economic, and cultural relations between themselves and their colonies and dependencies. Only in exceptional cases were such ties cut at independence. Asymmetrical linkages strongly influenced the idea of providing development assistance. The way that colonial relations ended — whether gradually, through a peacefully negotiated agreement, or abruptly, through a violent liberation struggle — is another relevant factor. We can assume that these past relations have also influenced the continuation and direction of the aid of these countries.

During the 1940s, most imperial powers remained colonial powers, although some of them had begun to unlock the chains in South Asia. The Philippines gained independence from the United States in 1946. India (1945), Pakistan (1947), Sri Lanka/Ceylon (1948), and Burma (1948) gained independence from Britain in the same decade, as did Indonesia (1949) from the Netherlands.

The Tradition of Humanitarian Relief

The tradition of humanitarian relief is part of the much broader tradition of humanism. It includes a wide variety of institutions working in tandem or separately within more specialized areas. These institutions operate within local or national frameworks as well as internationally. The Red Cross movement — which includes the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the many national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies — has traditionally been the prime expression of this tradition, but it is far from the only one.

The main mission of this tradition is to meet immediate human needs in situations of violent conflict and (increasingly) in response to natural disasters. Its institutional patterns reflect the fact that work is directed toward providing relief in emergency situations wherever they appear. An international dimension was present from the very beginning, since victims of violent conflicts were the primary target group. It follows, therefore, that its perspective transcends that of the nation-state.

Neutrality toward belligerents became the sine qua non for the Red Cross movement, whose tradition dates back more than 140 years. Other institutions that operate within the tradition of humanitarian relief have not been as strict on the norm of neutrality, and some have tended to side with the party considered to be the victim. Relief activities are not necessarily separate from politics. Some governments may use relief as an instrument to attain political or strategic goals or to prevent unwanted developments from taking place. Basically, the tradition is characterized by voluntary efforts by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), often undertaken in tandem with other governments. In practice, national governments have contributed extensively to humanitarian relief efforts, at home and beyond their borders as well.

Organizations that function within the tradition of humanitarian relief contribute to an awareness of and concern for people in need across borders. Although human-made and natural catastrophes are the primary focus of relief efforts, attention to human suffering and the empathy created by alleviating suffering may have wider consequences. It may lead to a greater awareness of and concern about need and poverty in general, whatever its causes and wherever it is found. Such attitudes may generate a willingness to initiate and sustain assistance for development as well as a continuation of relief assistance.

The Tradition of Solidarity

This tradition has been closely related to socialist and social-democratic movements and trade unions, although not exclusively so. The norms on which this family of ideologies are based are largely similar to those that underpin the tradition of humanitarian relief. There may even be commonalities with those of some religious traditions. However, they also contain a dimension of self-interest: reciprocity is fundamental in solidarity relations, although it is recognized that all members may not be equally able to contribute.

The raison d'être of solidarity movements is to enhance the dignity and the economic and social conditions of their members. Historically, the nation-state emerged as the most important instrument trade unions and the political wings of solidarity movements could use to realize key objectives such as social justice, equality, and improvements in the welfare of members. Although seeking political control of state power became the primary way to attain goals, the perspective of solidarity movements also transcended national borders.

At an early stage, the socialist movement split over whether to use the ballot or force to acquire political control of the state. These differences also affected the use of state power once socialists were in control, as illustrated by the differing policies pursued by the Soviet Union and social-democratic West European states. However, socialists shared the idea of a strong, controlling, and intervening state and a large public sector. Long-term planning became a major instrument for moving development in the desired direction. Economic growth, especially industrial development, was seen as a fundamental precondition for developing and sustaining the welfare state, the core instrument for ensuring social security through income distribution (involving the instrument of taxation) and social services, including health and education.

Like the tradition of humanitarian relief (but from different perspectives), solidarity movements can hardly avoid creating general attitudes among their members that favor initiating and sustaining assistance for development in the South, as long as this is not detrimental to what are perceived as their own interests.

The Missionary Tradition

Many religions have been involved in missionary activities for centuries, within their home countries and across national borders. This makes it hazardous to attempt to identify common denominators, even from the limited perspective pursued here of norms that guide economic and social relations. However, we may note that the ethics of several religions prescribe that the fortunate ones in a society should look after and share with the less fortunate, particularly those in need. Such norms are present in the main religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Although these norms are primarily meant to govern interpersonal relations, they also govern the actions of institutions (even states) and activities that transcend the borders of nation-states.

In the Christian missionary tradition, proselytizing efforts in the South have long been combined with activities similar to the development assistance of more recent years, especially education and health care. In some cases, missionaries have contributed to economic development by introducing new techniques, especially in agriculture. While this "technical assistance" was instrumental in promoting the Gospel, it also put into practice the norms that were being preached.

The ethics of the main religions, their activities to improve the lot of people in need at home, and the insights brought back by missionaries about prevailing conditions in the South all make it natural to expect that religious institutions would favor the idea of development assistance and would support sustaining such activities.

The Tradition of Human Rights

Human rights are enshrined in the UN Charter. The Preamble states: "We the peoples of the United Nations determined ... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small." This is followed up in Chapter I: the purpose of the UN is to "develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace" (Article 1, paragraph 2) and to "achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion" (Article 1, paragraph 3).

Human rights were codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948) and in a series of subsequent international declarations and conventions that define human rights over a wide spectrum, including the most fundamental of all rights: the right to life; the right to freedom from torture and from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment; civil and political rights; and economic and social rights, including the right to employment, shelter, health, and education.

The tradition of human rights as institutionalized in the UN system is almost as young as the idea of international development assistance. Given their prominence in the UN Charter, human rights could be expected to inspire and set their stamp on this new activity, especially its objectives and norms. It seems only logical that human rights and international development assistance would be mutually reinforcing.

The Ideas

The prevailing development paradigms in the late 1940s and 1950s largely reflected European experiences and the theories and models that emerged from these experiences. In the bipolar international security system that came into being after World War II, a cluster of capitalist models associated with the main western powers came to represent one pole, while various socialist models associated with the main Eastern European powers represented the other. This dichotomy, however, is too simplistic, as national systems showed considerable variation with regard to the major dimensions involved, particularly in the West, where Labour Party governments were in power in several European countries.

The main ideological and theoretical conflict between these two systems concerned the role of the state. In economic policy, the ideological poles were the liberal mini-state, where "decisions" were made by market forces, and the socialist central-planning state. In the sphere of politics, similar poles appeared: at one end of the spectrum, states pursued liberal political values and norms; at the other end of the spectrum, states pursued authoritarian political values.

The various development models emerged from different historical settings. The liberal model is associated with the industrial revolution in England. It relied on market forces, industrial growth that started with light industries, private investments resulting from high profits created by low wages, and a process of continuous technological innovation and improvement. Such a system thrived with free international trade. Latecomers, however, did not find free trade equally useful. In order to enable them to catch up, an alternative model was designed, that of state capitalism combined with protective measures, especially with regard to infant industries. In the early phase, this model was associated with Germany and Russia in particular. However, mixed economies characterized by varying degrees of state intervention and participation were evolving in the West during the first part of the past century. This mix also included labor governments that professed a socialist or social democratic ideology.

The Soviet model was qualitatively different from the predominantly liberal development strategies evolving in the West, although similarities with the state capitalism of the early phase of the industrial revolution could be traced. The authoritarian state used coercive powers to enforce capital accumulation. Its main instrument was the five-year plan, which set quantitative objectives to be attained during the plan period. The emphasis was on industrialization, with priority given to heavy industry; technologically advanced methods were applied and large-scale industries developed. Resources were transferred from agriculture to industry. In this process, the agricultural sector was collectivized.

These models influenced the development strategies of political elites in newly formed states in the South. They became instruments in the East-West conflict: during the Cold War, the superpowers used their respective models in their ideological warfare to gain influence in the Third World. The UN arena was no exception in this regard.


Excerpted from The UN and Development by Olav Stokke. Copyright © 2009 United Nations Intellectual History Project. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
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Table of Contents

List of Boxes and Tables
Series Editors' Foreword Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly, and Thomas G. Weiss
Preface and Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations

Part 1. The Emergence of International Development Assistance
1. The Institutional Heritage and Pre-Aid Traditions and Ideas
2. The Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance
3. The UN Fund for Economic Development
4. First Steps Down the Road: What Can the Footprints Tell?
Part 2. The Formative Years
5. The First Development Decade: An Instrument of Persuasion?
6. The Second Development Decade
7. The United Nations Development Programme, 1966-1981
8. The World Food Programme, 1961-1981: Surplus Food for Development and Relief
9. The 1960s and 1970s: Perspectives on Development
Part 3. The Lost Decade and a New Beginning
10. Visions and Priorities for the 1990s: The United Nations Strategy for the Fourth Development Decade
11. The Revival of the Social and Human Dimensions of Development
12. Evolving Priorities, Patterns, and Trends, 1982-2005
13. Food Aid: From Development to Humanitarian Relief
14. The Long Road toward the Millennium Development Goals
15. The Contribution of the UN System to International Development Cooperation

Appendix: A Bird's-Eye View of ODA to Developing Countries and Multilateral Institutions
About the Author
About the Project

What People are Saying About This

From the foreword by Louis Emmerij

A fascinating and deeply researched study. . . . Olav Stokke has done a remarkable job of weaving together this complex story.

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