Courtesy Reuters

A Requiem for the North-South Conference

In the early hours of June 3, 1977, the Conference on International Economic Cooperation (CIEC) came to a battered and confused end - more than a hectic day behind its scheduled final ministerial meeting. An 18-month "dialogue" between the rich North and the poor South, which had begun with much enthusiasm and great hope in Paris, finished on a faint and joyless note. A hastily drafted, and uncommonly bland, report was presented for adoption to a glum and exhausted audience at the Conference's last plenary meeting.

The report, approved but unapplauded by the delegates, made a nostalgic reference in its stark preamble to the Conference's earlier resolve to create an "equitable and comprehensive program" for international economic cooperation.1 It then proceeded to list, almost clinically, the issues and measures on which agreement had been reached as well as those which had failed to obtain a consensus. There were no ringing passages; no dramatic declarations; no grand design; not even much pious diplomatic platitude.

As could be expected, the reactions to the results of the Conference were mixed. While both sides made a feeble effort not to call their dialogue a failure, each insisted on having its own appraisal recorded separately in the final report. Thus, the "Group of 19" developing countries (which had come to Paris to implement the recommendations of the U.N. Seventh Special Session on Development and International Economic Cooperation) were visibly dejected; they found the CIEC's conclusions falling "short of the objectives envisaged for a comprehensive and equitable program of action" designed to create a new international economic order. They noted "with regret" that "most of the proposals for structural changes in the international economic system" and "certain proposals for urgent actions on pressing problems" had failed to receive the rich countries' support.

The "Group of Eight" developed countries, in turn, "regretted" that the Conference had not found it possible to reach agreement on "some important areas of the dialogue such as certain aspects of energy cooperation." But they "welcomed"

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