The North has discovered the South any number of times; we have given it-or parts of it-a variety of names (sometimes in error), and have defined its interests almost always from our own exclusive perspective. Curiosity, greed, fear, evangelic fervor and the zeal to civilize; the motivation for contact or disengagement has ranged from the loftiest to the basest. Northern observers have generally chosen the more generous interpretation; Southerners have less often shared that point of view.

North-South economic linkages have proved the most enduring and have taken several forms. Trade has been foremost. Trade generally consisted of commodities from the South-spices, fibers, precious metals and gems, beverages, slaves, sugar and tobacco; and manufactured goods from the North-trinkets, cloth, weaponry, implements and machinery. During the Industrial Revolution a global pattern of trade evolved; not vis-à-vis the Southern trading partners, which was assumed, but against Northern competitors. This was followed by the North's need to protect and secure its interests, initially against other Northern rivals and adversaries, local ruling classes and occasional brigands, and later against religious sects and sometimes entire local populations. From time to time the North settled segments of its surplus population in the South: sometimes forcibly, as to America and Australia, and other times peacefully, as to Canada and parts of Africa.

The direction and the result of these settlements were always the same: from North to South, infrastructure was installed, principles of governance were introduced and technologies were transferred. It was assumed that the North's techniques and technologies were superior, relevant and sustainable. Much more frequently than admitted, these assumptions have proved false.

In North-South terms, the year 1945 was a turning point both in activities and in expectations. Throughout the South, long-festering independence movements burgeoned into prominence. In the North, where interests are increasingly defined in terms of security and stability, a sterile bifurcation began to divide East and West. Not surprisingly, the definitions of security and the criteria for stability differed when viewed from the North or from the South. Of the human attributes, arrogance has not been absent in either hemisphere. Humility, however, has seldom been present in the North when it looks South. The absence of this trait, unless overcome, will continue to weaken the North both in image and in substance and will be critical to Northern welfare as the century turns.

The North-South relationship is a diverse and confusing web. To understand, to respond effectively and to ensure a constructive outcome is as demanding a task as any that faces humankind. It is demanding not only in terms of substance, but also because of attitudes well entrenched in both North and South. It is moreover the most important task, since it subsumes-or inevitably will subsume-all the others. We in the North may be most in peril (as those in much of the South have long been) because the momentum of events impacting upon us is in excess of our willingness to respond. If we are not willing to become aware, to change our unsustainable attitude of superiority, and to take action to reduce dramatically in the South the broad incidence there of absolute poverty, then our own economic welfare, our own social tranquility and our own political stability will not simply be at risk-increasingly they will be in jeopardy.

The phrase "North-South relations" was reportedly first used in the late 1950s by Sir Oliver Franks, then British ambassador to the United States. In the three decades since, the definition of the term has become as elastic as the relationship it describes has been turbulent.

This has happened, perhaps, because of the multitude of variables encompassed in the phrase: the formation of 100 or so newly independent states; the desire on the part of governments rich and poor that broad disparities in wealth be reduced; the hard evidence in a variety of places that violence is still all too often regarded as an acceptable option; the stark reminders of the strengths of tribalism, feudalism and fundamentalism; and the ubiquitous obstacles to change-lack of awareness, absence of preparedness, inadequacy of commitment, retention of privilege.

Though imprecise, even inaccurate, the term "North-South" is resonant of human expectations and by far richer in its range of connotations than its contemporary, "East-West."

The notion of "development" has been consistently present in those connotations. The word itself is now permanently associated with the nonindustrialized, often recently independent countries. Gradually, the concepts of "economic advancement and social security" included in the 1941 Atlantic Charter by Churchill and Roosevelt, and reformulated in the U.N. Charter in 1945, have come to occupy a central position in international relations, but without a uniform interpretation. Politicians, popes, academics and journalists have all put forward definitions and proposals, some quite contradictory.


Policymakers in the immediate postwar period grappled with development issues framed by the experience of the colonial era and the anxieties of an increasingly polarized world. Initial development efforts emphasized, on the one hand, flows of technical assistance and improved market access for primary commodities and, on the other, efforts to bolster friends and strategically located countries against the perceived threat of communist aggression or subversion. Environmental awareness was generally absent. In all too many instances there was a failure to respond effectively to the underlying social and economic problems facing the developing countries. In the absence of accurate diagnosis, the tendentious policies of the industrialized countries were not surprising. In particular the rapid and vigorous employment by Europe of generous U.S. assistance in the late 1940s led to assumptions that similar programs in developing regions would be equally successful. The Marshall Plan was not applicable, however, to the dissimilar circumstances of the developing countries.

The turmoil of governments in Western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as they grappled with governance issues, appears minimal compared with the plight of the new postwar states. In the twentieth century, modern communications technologies have acquainted even the most remote communities with a knowledge of the much higher standards of living enjoyed elsewhere. Alternative social and economic images are projected and debated with the ferocity of the antagonists within Europe during the Reformation, but today's images are joined by an excess of weaponry and an intrusion of ideology that turns local dissidents into pawns on a global chessboard.

As they attained independence, developing countries found themselves wooed by East and West, not always in benign fashion. Many were alternately confused and exhilarated by the apparent choices open to them. To governments ill-equipped to shape their own societies, and impotent to respond to such indignities as the Hickenlooper Amendment, which required suspension of U.S. assistance to countries that nationalized U.S. property without speedy compensation, the planetary struggle for hearts and souls appeared in many instances as a bargaining card.

The development debate soon transformed itself from local social and economic imperatives into broad political divisions argued out in regional and interregional assemblies. Western politicians saw that more was involved here than the provision of rural health clinics or the importation of unprocessed primary commodities. The North-South relationship was no longer an engagement of cooperative activity; it had become a battlefield in which human ideals, vested interests and concepts of strategic security tussled and jousted. Throughout the 1950s the legal basis for U.S. development assistance was security-The Mutual Security Act. South Korea and Taiwan became major aid recipients, and Western financing for the Aswan High Dam was withdrawn when Egypt presumed to accept Soviet military assistance.

Then the United Nations declared the 1960s a "Development Decade," and the Organization for European Economic Cooperation became the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The creation of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964 eloquently signaled that the South regarded its plight as one anchored in the current international economic structure. "Trade, not aid" became a rallying cry, one which led to the formation of the Group of 77 and a determination by the nations of the South that they would form and maintain a unified bargaining position. If the North controlled the economic agenda, the South moved to assert the political agenda.

Throughout the 1970s, with mixed results, that agenda remained. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) added Part IV to accommodate the particular problems of developing countries, and UNCTAD produced a resolution on a generalized system of preferences that was later adopted by OECD members. The strident call for a New International Economic Order issued from a nonaligned summit in Algiers in 1973 on the eve of the success of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in quadrupling oil prices within a year.

The intensity of the North-South debate escalated during the two special sessions of the General Assembly, and led to efforts to mute the language and restore some orderliness to the dialogue. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund introduced new facilities to meet the needs of those countries grievously wounded by the rise in oil prices. The Common Fund emerged in mid-decade as the dominant demand of the South, but diminished in importance as its complexity proved to be unmanageable and as the attention of the world turned increasingly to the fate of the low-income, oil-importing countries. The South, wearied by the reluctant responses of the North, turned to South-South cooperative initiatives but found its unity shattered with the second oil shock of 1979.

At the end of the 1970s the Brandt Commission signaled alarm that Northern interests were imperiled by the inability of the South to better meet its needs, but it was unable to attract the attention of the new U.S. administration. The 1980s ushered in the great debt crisis of the developing countries, with coincidental circumstances of extreme drought and famine in much of Africa, and unprecedented economic vitality and export performance in the newly industrialized countries of Asia. The Brundtland Commission warned that, in the absence of sustainable development practices, the planet would lose its life-support abilities.

In 1989 it seems clear that the governments of the North have not yet been able to muster resolve and effective response to these bewildering circumstances.

There are a number of reasons. First, much as we in the North lose patience with our efforts to eradicate pockets of poverty in our midst and turn our attention elsewhere, the North seems unable to muster the stamina needed for the lengthy period of transformation in the South. The nations of the North evolved over many centuries as they tackled problems associated with the absence of infrastructure, inadequate education and social diversity. The struggles in the South are no less challenging and require a continuing commitment.

Second, arrogance and ignorance combine to prescribe inept remedies. Technologies that are inappropriate and ineffective continue to be transferred from North to South. When they fail, the South is blamed. Third, outrageous abuses of human rights, corruption and privilege in some developing countries are ready excuses for reluctance to respond adequately anywhere. And fourth, a latent fear of competition from low-wage producers deters full cooperation. In the end, evolving economies are often denied access to Northern markets, or are forced to absorb subsidized agricultural produce from the North at the expense of their own farm sector.


As in the arcane and isolated world inhabited by arms controllers, so in the supercharged atmosphere of development, sheer quantity of activity can leave the false impression of accomplishment.1 In most developing countries individual standards of living have dropped, political instability has increased, and the likelihood of sustained economic growth has now diminished. From the perspective of hundreds of millions of inhabitants of developing countries, life remains a wretched, uncertain prospect. One out of five persons lives in "absolute poverty"-the World Bank's definition of the state of those persons suffering from malnutrition "to the point of being unable to work." For all too many, the likelihood of a dignified, fulfilling livelihood is as distant as it was a generation earlier.

North-South relations are now in a state of disequilibrium, which makes the status quo unsustainable. The most obvious of the disequilibriums are environmental degradation, economic uncertainty, social unrest and political instability.


On July 11, 1987, the world's population passed the five-billion mark. In the first full year following, a net growth of another 83 million took place, an increase greater than the entire population of Mexico. The size of the planet did not increase, nor will it. In some respects, the planet has become smaller. The amount of arable land is actually decreasing. In those same 366 days, arable land diminished by 8,700 square miles-more than twice the size of the island of Jamaica.

From prehistory until about the year 1000, the world's population did not increase by much. In earliest times, life was so precarious and food supplies so unreliable that a rough balance was maintained between births and deaths, notwithstanding an undoubtedly high fertility rate. The introduction of agricultural practices around 8000 B.C. lent a greater certainty to food supply, but for a long time it was largely offset by recurring crises of other sorts-plague, war, etc. Population growth was modest for many centuries-from about 300 million at the time of Christ to some 800 million in the mid-1700s. The doubling took about 1,500 years. Equally important is the fact that the rate of growth was approximately the same in all populated regions of the world.

From about the year 1850 onwards, the rate of population growth immensely accelerated. Mortality decreased with progress in science and technology. The next doubling period was reduced by 90 percent; the world required only 150 years to grow from 800 million to 1.7 billion in 1900. That acceleration has continued. By 1950 the figure had reached 2.5 billion; by 1987, five billion: doubling the world's population, which had once taken 1,500 years, had been accomplished in 37 years. The World Bank states that the best estimate for the year 2000-just 11 years from now-is an increase of 1.2 billion, for a total world population of 6.2 billion at the close of the century.

Those figures are difficult to digest. They work out to an annual increase of close to 100 million persons. One hundred million is about the population of Bangladesh. From now to the turn of the century, then, the world's population will grow by the equivalent of one new Bangladesh every year. Accepted projections distribute the population for the year 2000 as 4.9 billion for the developing countries and 1.3 billion for the industrialized countries. This is disequilibrium.

In increasing numbers, from countries far and wide, the wretched and the persecuted seek entry into the industrialized countries in search of refuge and opportunity. Neither physical barriers nor bureaucratic labyrinths can stem this human tide. The only effective constraint is hope and security within the developing countries. The problem is rapidly worsening, however, by reason of the changing demographic composition.

By the year 2000, 51.2 percent of the world's population will be urban. Forty-five of the 60 largest cities will be in the South, 18 of them larger than ten million. While populations are aging in the North, the reverse is the case in the South. The residents of Southern cities will be overwhelmingly young. In the developing countries, 35 percent of the total population will be under the age of 14. In ever-increasing numbers these youths find themselves on the streets: abandoned, uneducated, unemployed, alienated from any societal norms, without any loyalties except to their own gang or their own ideology or their own religious zealotry.

The rural populations find themselves forced to degrade the environment in an incessant quest for food, firewood and forage. Planetary forest cover was reduced from 25 percent of the earth's surface to 20 percent in two decades, according to the Brandt Commission. Today, the Brundtland Commission estimates, for every tree planted in the tropical regions, ten are destroyed; in sub-Saharan Africa, the ratio is one to 29.

Economic Wealth.

The broad interstate disparities in wealth and income have long been recognized. A new factor has recently reemerged: financial transfers from South to North. Reemerged, for it was also a common occurrence in earlier colonial periods.

Capital flows to developing countries fall into two broad categories, private and official. The latter may be on concessional or commercial terms and found in both bilateral (national) and multilateral (international) institutions. Funding of these kinds is as targeted as is the case within industrialized countries, and takes several different instrumental forms: export credits, direct investment, grants and loans.

Until recently, the volume of capital flows to and from developing countries represented only a small proportion of the international total. The composition of those flows has varied considerably. Prior to World War I, the only countries then independent but regarded as developing were in Latin America. Virtually the only capital flows to the South were from private sources; overwhelmingly they were employed to finance the construction of railroads and utilities. In the interwar period, government borrowings became common, and sometimes loans were obtained to finance commodity stocks in the face of falling prices. With the Great Depression came defaults often spurred by protectionist trading policies that effectively prevented debtor countries from earning export-generated surpluses with which to service foreign debt.

The Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 sought to address the frailties of the international system through the creation of the World Bank and the IMF. A third, critically important institution, the proposed International Trade Organization, failed to emerge.

In the post-World War II period, financial flows to the poorest of the developing countries began to emerge from the new multilateral sources, initially from the International Development Association, then from the new regional development banks. With trade liberalization, both trade finance and private direct investment increased. The IMF began to finance restructuring efforts.

The oil-shock-induced current account deficits were in most instances financed from the unprecedented liquidity in the oil-producing countries, increasingly through the intercession of private banks. Since 1970 developing countries' external liabilities of all kinds, including obligations to the IMF, increased significantly. The current total is in excess of $1.3 trillion, the greater part of it denominated in U.S. dollars. Debt service payments have risen more than tenfold in the same period. Rising interest rates have resulted in interest payments accounting for more than 50 percent of debt servicing. What was once a condition of illiquidity in much of the South has now become a condition of insolvency.

The unprecedented exposure of the private banks has considerably reduced fresh credits. This-combined with the successful, though painful, servicing efforts of the majority of debtor countries-has led to a sharp reversal of the earlier transfers, with negative net transfers recorded successively since 1983. In 1988 the net negative flow (i.e., from South to North) from the 17 most highly indebted countries was $31 billion. The figure for all developing countries last year was in excess of $43 billion.

These negative flows are particularly evident in the World Bank and the IMF. The World Bank shifted from being a net provider to the tune of $2.6 billion in 1985 to a net taker of $350 million in 1987. Net flows of resources from the developing countries to the IMF increased from $2.7 billion in 1985 to $8.6 billion in 1987. However, the recently agreed upon credits from the IMF are desperately needed. Continuing net financial transfers of this magnitude from the developing countries to the industrialized countries and the international financial institutions are not sustainable. The increasing structural dependence of Northern countries upon this type of transfer is dangerous. This is disequilibrium.

A factor contributing to the growing magnitude of this imbalance is found in the terms of trade between developing and industrialized countries. It is more acute in some regions than others. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean found that terms of trade for Latin American countries deteriorated 16.5 percent between 1980 and 1985.

Relative to gross domestic product, the external debt of the developing countries in the western hemisphere was 44.5 percent in 1988 (up from 34.5 percent in 1980); in Africa, 54.4 percent (up from 28.3 percent); and in Asia, 26.4 percent (up from 17.2 percent).

In the same period the ratio of external debt to exports was 322.4 percent for developing countries in the Western Hemisphere (up from 183.6 percent), 237.7 percent for Africa (up from 92.5 percent) and 81.8 percent for Asia (up from 72.1 percent). The economic downturn in the South in the past seven years has led to the loss of 130,000 Canadian jobs and some $24 billion (in Canadian dollars) in export revenues. In the United States, diminishing exports to Latin America alone has meant the loss of 340,000 jobs.

Scientific Activity.

In the late 1960s the inquiries launched by the Pearson Commission revealed that expenditures committed to research and development in Latin America, Asia and Africa lagged far behind the outlays in the industrialized countries. An earlier U.N. study estimated, on the basis of admittedly uncertain data, that of all the funds committed to R&D worldwide, less than three percent were expended in the developing countries. Expenditure at these levels means that the indigenous scientific communities are inadequate in size even to identify problems, let alone deal with them effectively across the entire spectrum of natural and social sciences. In an age where technological advances are occurring with breathtaking speed, the gap in capacity between North and South is rapidly widening.

This lack of capacity is particularly distressing in light of the incontestable fact that technology, throughout history, has been the most effective of all agents for change. Contrary to popular opinion, the knowledge now available with respect to agricultural production, primary health care, pedagogy and economic analysis is not simply transferable; rather, it needs to be understood, then revised and absorbed by developing countries in order to be utilized in a geographically and culturally sensitive fashion. Developing countries must acquire the means to pursue the newer biological and physical science technologies and adapt them to their own needs. In their absence, the employment and benefit opportunities that these technologies promise will not be obtained.

UNCTAD figures show that the distribution of scientists and engineers worldwide is overwhelmingly concentrated in the North. The rate per 10,000 inhabitants is 95 in the developing countries compared with 285.2 in the industrialized market economy countries and 308.2 in the East European countries. That average figure of 95 for the South, not surprisingly, is not evenly distributed. The range is from 157.6 in Asia to 9.6 in Africa. The figure for technicians is even more dramatic, revealing a difference between North and South of an order of magnitude of ten.

The numbers of scientists, engineers and technicians engaged in R&D in the developing countries is less than 1.5 per 10,000 inhabitants, compared with 16.6 in the market economies of the North. It follows that R&D expenditures as a percentage of GNP heavily favor the North. In Africa and Latin America the figure is only 0.2 percent, and in Asia 0.5 percent. These figures have shown no significant increase in the past two decades.

No form of public-sector investment has paid greater dividends over time than investment in people through education and training. Yet no investment is slower in its returns (an entire generation is needed at minimum) and few are more controversial; witness the funding crisis now faced by school boards and universities throughout the United States and Canada. Even the most enlightened of developing countries' governments are unable to muster and retain the political courage required to invest in the future while denying immediate needs of a basic kind to populations that are not, historically, acquainted with the advantages of education. In the result, these countries are condemned for the foreseeable future to pursue outmoded, low-valued economic activity of a kind that is increasingly irrelevant to world market demand. In human terms it means that the grip of absolute poverty will not be eased and that the scourges of malnutrition and ill health will persist.

The impact of this disequilibrium takes many forms, many of them with negative effect upon the North: in the current Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations as developing countries resist the inclusion of services and proprietary knowledge in trade preferences; in the world's stock markets as they reflect the decreasing absorptive capacity of developing countries for imports of high-price, high-tech manufactures; in the health care systems of Europe and North America where tens of billions of dollars must be dedicated each year to life-support systems for incurably ill patients; in community concern over the spread of narcotics imported from regions unable to earn foreign exchange from any other economic activity; and in climate changes which are attributed in many instances to unsustainable agricultural practices and tropical rain forest destruction.

Military Power.

In contrast to the three previous sectors of activity, this one suffers not from neglect but from too active a stimulus. The issue is not so much that the North is enormously more richly endowed in military prowess than the South; it is that the countries of the South in many instances choose to mimic the industrialized states in placing high priority on defense-related expenditures at the expense of social needs. The result is a perverse imbalance. In the North are quantities of nuclear weapons, many mounted on long-range delivery systems of great accuracy, supported by highly trained personnel and sophisticated techniques for command, control and communications. These are weapons that are intended not to be used. In the South are increasingly available arsenals of conventional weapons ranging from rockets through aircraft and tanks to machine pistols, the specter of chemical weapons in some instances, much of this too often within the reach of inadequately trained or commanded troops. These are weapons that are intended to be used.

The sheer volume and transportability of modern weapons guarantees the porosity of once impervious membranes. No longer are deadly devices tightly held by national armed forces. The arsenals of heavy weaponry now in the hands of informal, sometimes unidentifiable, groupings is the equivalent of those in many legitimate armies. The firepower available to street gangs in some American cities exceeds that of World War II infantry platoons. And from both sides of the North-South divide, weapons and munitions make their way into the hands of terrorists.

The industrialized states are not entirely to blame for these circumstances, but neither are they entirely without responsibility. The conscious extension of East-West rivalries into the developing countries has certainly encouraged the latter to dedicate scarce resources to military activities. The perception that interregional rivalries are not only worthy of armed conflict but are also subject to military resolution (both assumptions highly questionable in most instances) is still another reason for high defense spending. The assumption that strong military forces are the best guarantee of a nation's ability to govern itself further supports these expenditures. Until relatively recently, the military academies of Europe and the United States were preferred training institutions for future leaders in the South, often with the active encouragement of Northern governments.

Not only have the military capacities of a number of Southern countries become considerable, including arsenals of increasingly potent weapons and delivery systems, but there has also been a tendency to rely on military force to the detriment of democratic processes. The combination of eager buyers in the South and willing sellers in the North has created a North-to-South weapons market of tens of billions of dollars annually, and the proliferation of an unhealthy community of arms brokers and military advisers.

Still another anomaly has emerged. The high cost of arms imports and the images of successful defense industries, projected unconsciously by such countries as the United States and France, have encouraged increasing numbers of developing countries to become weapons manufacturers. The result is an increasing South-South arms trade, and an economic dedication in the South to defense industries, to the disadvantage of the civilian sector. Some countries are more successful than others in their search for markets. The Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University has calculated that arms exports represent nearly 20 percent of all Israeli manufactured exports and some ten percent of all exports.

Even as Northern policy analysts express alarm at the current chemical and the emerging nuclear capabilities of increasing numbers of developing countries, there is precious little evidence that Northern governments are willing to address seriously the underlying social and economic conditions that have spawned subversive movements and prompted armed retaliation.

This form of disequilibrium-military disequilibrium-is not one that should be balanced by major increases in expenditures and activity in the developing countries. The entry into a developing region of new types or levels of weaponry can be as destabilizing as would be the case in central Europe, and undoubtedly more destructive. Yet the tendency is in that direction.

As East-West tensions relax in the NATO region, the possibility of a power vacuum in the developing countries into which the East-West conflict could move is distressingly high, despite the welcome assurances of the Soviet Union to the contrary. To military planners in the North and South, security is often defined in military terms with consequences all too evident in any number of developing countries where defense expenditures rival or exceed expenditures on basic social requirements, to the detriment-not the enhancement-of political stability and, often, of military security as well: Lebanon, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Ethiopia-the tragic list goes on and on.


The consequences of these and other disequilibriums are not always predictable, and sometimes not even discernible during real-time human observation. The political unit of time measurement in the industrialized democracies is four or, at most, five years. Events that mature on a longer cycle are seldom visible, and are certainly not influential, in the time frame occupied by decision-makers. Absent a political equivalent of time-lapse photography, governments of the North are unlikely to commit resources now to influence or control events in the distant future. If development is investment, as we encourage the developing countries to believe, we in the North offer little evidence of our own commitment to invest in the South's development.

Population, properly supported, is an immense natural resource and an incomparable source of accomplishment. Wretchedly poor people, however, without basic necessities or the hope of attaining them, turn upon themselves and upon their landscape with distressing results. Governments in North and South alike must acknowledge that population pressures are inconsistent with a wholesome environment and demeaning to human dignity, make a social contract impossible, and contribute to political and economic insecurity. Humane, effective programs of fertility control must attract sustained support, as must programs for the development and enhancement of individual human beings.

Sustainable economic growth is no longer severable as between North and South. Development assistance programs that are designed primarily for the benefit of the Northern donors-to reduce agricultural surpluses, to create employment in sluggish sectors of the economy, or to spur the export of military hardware-must be recognized for their inherent cynicism and their eventual ineffectiveness. In the interests of the North, the economic well-being of all countries must be accepted as a policy goal to be factored into all resource allocations.

Scientific activity must be encouraged within the developing countries to permit them to identify their own problems and gain the competence to resolve many of them. This approach demands programs designed to permit Third World scientists to engage in research of their own choosing in their own institutions on problems seen by them to be of priority. It demands as well a dedication to the sharing of knowledge and a utilization of the new computer and satellite technologies to permit a worldwide dissemination of information now in the public domain. The new biotechnologies promise to meet the food production requirements of many developing countries as well as utilize, for the benefit of North and South, the rich genetic biomass resources that can be cultivated only in the tropical regions and that have immense potential in so many sectors of application.

Military prowess in the North intended primarily for deterrence of worst-case fears has now surpassed the economic ability of either superpower. Technological spin-offs into the civilian sector have long since ceased to be cost-effective. Each new threshold in technology results in the release to Third World markets of massive quantities of powerful obsolescent weaponry. Governments North and South must accept that military prowess is not the normative indicator of accomplishment, that military prescriptions for the symptoms of socioeconomic distress reveal ignorance, not resolve.

What is needed is an attitudinal change of profound quality, of the kind that visits humankind only infrequently. To encourage a fresh perspective, we might borrow from Cornwallis' decision at Yorktown to order his bands to play "The World Turned Upside Down." We could begin by abandoning the misleading term "North-South" and substitute for it the now more accurate "South-North."

The South-North matrix is extensive and complex; it does not translate readily into simple patriotic imagery. It does not respond to simplistic "if only they were like us" solutions. It cannot even be defined in purely statistical terms. It is an embarrassment to Northern governments for it is at once a reminder of barren colonial legacies, compelling evidence of the failure of humankind to accomplish even a passing degree of social equity and proof that international arrogance is, in the end, hollow. And all the while, time is not on the side of the North any more than it favors the South.

Measured against the relentless momentum of current phenomena, indifference is not benign. Humility is needed, as is sustained dedication, if there is to be any reduction in magnitude of the disequilibriums now evident. The crafting of mutually beneficial dynamic relationships cannot wait for the emergence of a brilliant universal accord; it must emerge from a series of what Saburo Okita called "creative patchworks." In their absence, the present and growing imbalances threaten an uncontrollable Newtonian reaction of the kind prophesied a few years ago by François Mitterrand: "I am convinced that the balance between the two parts of the world, the industrialized nations and the others, will be one of the causes of the most serious tragedies at the end of the century, to be explicit, of world war."2

1 In a number of sectors, accomplishment has resulted. In the 24-year period 1960-84, the average annual per capita growth of GDP for all developing countries, excluding China and the oil-exporting countries, was 2.8 percent. If those countries were included, the average would be 3.4 percent. In that same period, remarkable gains were recorded in literacy, in reducing infant mortality and in increasing life expectancy. Cereal grain production increased; smallpox was eradicated.

2 Interview with James Reston, The New York Times, June 4, 1981.

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  • Ivan L. Head, President of the International Development Research Centre, Canada, was formerly foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
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