Protecting Indigenous People: Recent Recommendations for UN Conference 2014

June 21, 2013


Greetings from Honduras.

The “Alta Outcome Document,” described in a VOA headline as “Indigenous Peoples Stand Up to Exploitation” and more circumspectly by The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) — an official advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) — as “a set of recommendations,” was signed in Alta, Norway on June 12, 2013 with the expectation that it will serve as the basis for the upcoming UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September 2014.

Two of the main themes of the Alta Declaration are directly related to approaches strongly advocated in this Blog site: (1) participatory involvement of persons directly impacted by “development” interventions and (2) the need to understand, acknowledge, and respect non-formal parallel governance systems to achieve more effective, efficient and properly targeted assistance to poor people.

For further information on the UN-sponsored World Conference for Indigenous People, September 22-23, 2014 (New York, NY), see — a very good source of information about “indigenous people” worldwide and, in particular, .

For UNPFII’s description of the “Alta Outcome Document,” see .

For VOA’s background coverage of the meeting in Alta see .

Best, Jerry

Help Change the Lives of Young Girls in One of Africa’s Largest URBAN Slums

April 24, 2013

Help the Uweza Foundation meet the “Raise for Women Challenge” sponsored by The Huffington Post, Skoll Foundation, and Half The Sky Movement by donating any amount through Crowdrise at either or . A donation is any amount whatsoever will be very much appreciated.

If you believe as I do that developing girls’ self-esteem and providing them with advanced formal education is an important contribution to breaking the cycle of poverty, please donate today. The Challenge is open for only a short period of time – from today (April 24th) to Thursday, June 6th.

The sponsors of this Challenge will donate up to an additional $25 thousand depending on the amount raised by Uweza (or other NGOs) during the short time available under the terms of this fund-raising competition.

Information, films, and photos focused on Uweza – a US tax-exempt 501(c)(3) Foundation registered in the State of Illinois – supports several “demand-responsive” programs assisting children and women in Kibera, a slum neighboring Nairobi, Kenya, is also available at either of those two websites.

Uweza has very low overheads and accomplishes an awful lot of good on an annual budget of only about $150 thousand a year. As a former World Bank staff person used to dealing in much larger sums, I cannot express how impressed I am by the due diligence, record keeping, and fundamental accomplishments of this small NGO.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I am one of only five (5) completely unpaid volunteer Uweza Board Members, the only male, and by far the oldest.

Best Wishes, Jerry

Kenya Election Results: Empowering Kenyan Girls is the Next Step for a Peaceful Kenya

April 10, 2013

As many of you know, I am on the Board of a US-based Non-Profit (the Uweza Aid Foundation) that assists women and children in Kibera, the largest “slum” — or preferably non-formal settlement — at the periphery of Naroibi, Kenya. With that in mind, I believe you will find this article  — …Empowering Kenyan Girls is the Next Step for a Peaceful Kenya both interesting and informative.

Written by fellow Uweza Board member Amy Augustin, the article focuses primarily on the need for, and results of, Uweza’s collaboration with No Means No Worldwide to provide a two-day self-defense and life skills training course to more than thirty girls at Uweza’s Kibera community center. This is an important program in the face of an epidemic of gender-based violence in non-formal settlements like Kibera throughout much of the world.

Clearly, Uweza’s work in Kibera is entirely consistent with the “demand-driven” approach advocated my blog International Development Should….


January 9, 2013

Introduction 1

After a significant delay, this blog post continues the narrative about the earliest years of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). One of the reasons for the delay has been the time required to collect, analyze, and format a substantial amount of primary source data. Given the amount of data presented in this post, I encourage readers to dig deeper by clicking on the highlighted Links.*

This discussion covers two eventful decades from 1960 through 1979 and is divided into three segments. This posting is Segment A. It describes the integration of the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) and United Nations Special Fund (UNSF) into the new UNDP; the transition from project-specific to “country programming;” and the relabeling of “technical assistance” (TA) to “technical cooperation” (TC). Subsequent segments will address financing and reorganizing UN development efforts (Segment B) and attempts to move beyond conventional assumptions about development and the role of UNDP (Segment C). Following the posting of Segment C, the next full article in series will focus on the increasingly collaborative relationship between UNDP and the World Bank during those same two decades.

International Context

The two decades beginning January 1, 1960 and ending December 31, 1979 witnessed a continuation of Cold-War tensions between the United States and its allies and “Communist bloc2 even as the United Nations (UN) undertook its fifth through thirteenth Peace-Keeping operation (three of which are still underway);3 conflicts in the Middle East continued to bedevil relationships among the United States, its NATO allies, and Israel;4 and the international economy transitioned to floating exchange rates5 and the beginning of the current cycle of financial crises that have occurred at roughly ten-year intervals ever since. Other international events worth noting included the successful completion of India’s first underground nuclear test (1974) as well as a dramatic increase in airplane hijackings and other terrorist attacks that have continued since (although from a variety of different sources).

But the defining characteristic of this period was the transition of 53 territories from colonial to independent sovereign-states (Figure 1); states that now account for about 11 percent of the World’s total population.6

That was not always an unalloyed good. At least in part for reasons discussed in previous blog posts, legal independence was followed in many of these new sovereign-states by the imposition of military or other authoritarian one-party regimes — at least partially in response to the wide-spread but erroneous belief that economic development within “underdeveloped countries” required a level of political stability that could only be provided through long-term planning and disciplined implementation.

At the end of the 1950s, only 82 sovereign-states were members of the UN, of which 65 were also members of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). Those membership levels amounted to only 42 and 35 percent of their respective memberships today. Nonetheless, by the end of the 1970s; UN membership had increased by another 85 percent. IBRD membership increased even more dramatically; more than doubling (103%; Figure 2). And by the end of that decade, a full 76 percent of UN and 79 percent of IBRD members were composed of non-European or “non-European derivative” countries.7

From EPTA & UNSF to UNDP   

The first 25 years in the life of both UN development-oriented entities and the World Bank Group were characterized by substantial intellectual and organizational experimentation and jockeying for position. By contrast, the two decades reviewed here witnessed attempts to consolidate the structure and staffing of both organizations and recognition of substantial complementarities between them.


As discussed in earlier posts, the period prior to 1960 witnessed a proliferation of various UN entities driven by new thinking about “development” objectives and approaches within a fundamentally changed international political framework. It was in that atmosphere that UNDP’s two predecessor agencies were established; the Extended Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) began operations in 1950 to provide technical assistance services, fellowships to citizens of “developing” countries, and limited amounts of equipment required by advisors for demonstration and training purposes. The Special Fund (UNSF) followed nine years later (1959) to finance initial pre-investment activities in a manner that would attract sufficient investment capital to jump-start or accelerate economic growth in “underdeveloped” countries.8 It did not take long, however, before several voices within the Economic and Social Council (EcoSoc) and the UN General Assembly began to argue for a merger of EPTA and UNSF.

Indeed, within only three years after UNSF was established, advocates of merger were arguing that by pooling resources and integrating personnel and organizational structures, policy formulation would be unified, overall planning could be integrated, duplications eliminated, procedures simplified, administrative costs reduced, and the time frame during which technical assistance might be required would be shortened. Further, the integration of all headquarter’s technical assistance staff would facilitate a more coherent representation of UN development interests within its member-states.9

That view was not unanimous however; at least not at the outset. UN specialized agencies did not support the prospect of centralized authority. And the Soviet Union and its allies were afraid that a new combined agency would be dominated by the United States.10

Nevertheless, in response to a report submitted by a UN designated group of “independent experts,”11 the General Assembly authorized establishment of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the unified successor of both EPTA and UNSF on November 22, 1965 and it was officially launched January 1, 1966.

Priorities Proliferate

During its initial years, UNDP’s strategic priorities expanded dramatically beyond its predecessors’ four areas of interest.12 During its very first year, UNDP’s inherited portfolio had grown by another one hundred and thirty-seven approved projects. But that expansion was not accompanied by increased financial support from United Nation’s members. Instead, annual authorizations by UNDP fell dramatically immediately after its establishment in 1966; a situation that continued for another decade (Figures 3 and 4). 

Nonetheless, by 1968, the list of so-called official “priorities” had quadrupled to no less than sixteen distinct activity areas and approximately 3,000 large-scale pre-investment and small-scale technical assistance projects were underway in about 130 member-states and colonial territories.13

That lack of congruence between real financial constraints and the proliferation of priority activity areas was due, at least in part, to the fact that although EPTA and UNSF staff and programs had been assigned to a single UNDP Administrator, distinctions continued to be made between them for both fund-raising and operational purposes – a situation that continued until January 1, 1972.14 On that date, and in response to yet another study commissioned by the UN Secretariat, both programs were finally fully integrated. That also marked the year in which UNDP became the “developing world’s” largest multilateral provider of technical and pre-investment assistance.


The study that had been commissioned by the UN Secretariat referenced above had also recommended that UNDP move from a conventional focus on discrete projects toward a broader “country-programming” approach. That recommendation, consistent with the prevailing emphasis on long-term planning, reflected a more fundamental change — from focusing on separate requests for project-specific assistance to a primary emphasis on broader more strategic, development objectives. The hope was that a broader strategic perspective would lead to mutually reinforcing synergies across sectors. That approach more closely reflected EPTA’s earlier approach to allocating technical assistance than UNSF’s project-specific quality competition model. In any event, UNDP began to introduce country-programming during its first year as a fully integrated agency (1972).

Indicative Planning Figures (IPFs)

The objectives of country-programming were to be achieved through “integrated strategic planning” for each individual client country in response to priorities supposedly established by recipient governments themselves. Allocation of grant resources would, in turn, be based on “indicative planning figures” (IPFs) — i.e., estimates of UNDP resources made available to each country (or other regional, inter-regional or global program) during five-year planning cycles. Discrete projects would need to be justified within the parameters of those over-arching five-year planning frameworks.

The emphasis on integrated strategic planning required the improvement of institutionalized capacities to conduct effective public and financial administration and statistical data gathering. It also began to shift attention to such cross-cutting issues as the role of women in development (WID), a focus that emerged in a serious way beginning during the latter 1970s. Indeed, by 1977 detailed guidelines about how to increase the participation of women in UNDP-supported projects had been issued.15 Ironically, those innovations were most often introduced during the early years within lower-income countries with the least capacity (or political interest) to implement them.

From 1st to 2nd Planning Cycles

The beginning of its first five-year planning cycle (1972-1976) began auspiciously with nineteen country programs prepared and ready for launch. In combination with other funds approved by its Governing Council,16 UNDP’s planned expenditures totaled $1.5 billion for this first five-year cycle. However, by the beginning of that cycle’s fifth year (1976), UNDP had accumulated a deficit of $40 million, had almost exhausted its operational reserve, and was suffering from the world-wide inflationary devaluation of the financial pledges on which its operations depended. That, in turn, raised questions about UNDP’s ability to continue to operate at that level – questions that were at least temporarily overcome through the mobilization of extraordinary funds pledged by several member-states to support UNDP projects. Indeed, those specially pledged funds almost met UNDP’s originally planned financial target for the entire first programming cycle (falling short by only $700 thousand), avoided any need for UNDP to retreat from supporting the full sixty-six approved country programs during that cycle, and enabled it to move forward with another sixty-six country programs ready for approval at the beginning of the second cycle (1977-1981).

But before moving the discussion forward here, it is important to note that UNDP was not a particularly large actor in the overall world of “official development aid” (ODA) (Figures 5 and 6).17 During the entire period from 1970 through 1979 (the first decade for which sufficient comparative data is available), UNDP’s share of net “official development” grants and other concessional aid was only three percent (Figures 7 and 8). This decade also witnessed the beginning of the World Bank’s increasingly important place in the overall concessional lending arena. By 1979, the World Bank’s share of overall concessional grants and loans – not including the larger amount of non-concessional lending to middle-income countries – had increased to 31 percent from 18 percent at the beginning of that decade.

Given UNDP’s reliance on funding largely from the same cast of countries as those providing the bulk of bi-lateral aid and funding of other UN system entities, it is not surprising that its policies adhered fairly closely to the broader norms of that constituency. Although UNDP did begin to amass sufficient credibility on its own to embark on a few new path-breaking initiatives that other agencies followed, its overall approach was more evolutionary than revolutionary. A good example of adherence to conventional approaches was retaining direct responsibility for implementing the technical assistance and pre-investment projects financed by it and utilization of project-management units.   

“By-Pass” Model

Although incrementally reinforcing the strategic planning role of recipient governments, UNDP-financed activities continued to be implemented directly by the UN and its specialized agencies rather than those governments. That also contributed toward the already growing tendency to establish temporary project management units outside of recipient governments’ established ministerial structures.

In an attempt to counter that trend, UNDP promulgated its “New Dimensions in UNDP Technical Co-operation” during 1975 to “free the Programme’s joint planning with Governments from the traditional project package of foreign experts, fellowships, equipment and Government personnel.”18 Those new dimensions were also intended to shift lead responsibility for implementing UNDP-financed projects directly to recipient governments by 1977. Nonetheless, the practice of maintaining separate donor-financed project-management units (PMUs) – often termed the “by-pass” model — continues to this day. Discussion of the many reasons why donors’ – both UNDP and many others — continued the utilization of separate project-specific management units is beyond the purview of this blog post. And a rather large literature on this subject already exists.19

The introduction of Integrated strategic planning at the country-level also reinforced UNDP’s commitment to increasingly decentralize many of its planning and support tasks to its rapidly increasing number of field offices; 104 of which existed by 1974. The role of headquarters in New York was to be transformed into supporting those field offices and planning and managing cross-country regional and inter-regional activities.

From Technical Assistance to Technical Cooperation

The provision of “experts11 and educational and technical training “fellowships” had been referred to as “technical assistance” (TA) throughout the 1950s. However, by 1959, the governments of many recipient countries were arguing that “technical co-operation” (TC) would be a more appropriate term. In response, EcoSoc unanimously approved a resolution to that effect on December 22, 1960. From that date until about 2006 — when the term “Capacity Development” was introduced to signify a further shift “from the use of expatriate technical cooperation personnel to the nurturing of national leadership and expertise20 — the term “technical cooperation” was in general use by United Nations agencies. Nonetheless, many bi-lateral aid agencies, the WB Group, and IMF continue to use the term “technical assistance.”

In 1965, EcoSoc delegated responsibility for formulating policy for all United Nations’ technical cooperation to UNDP’s Governing Council, and UNDP increased its advocacy and support of technical co-operation among developing countries (“TCDC”) throughout the 1970s. But it was not until 1980 that UNDP’s Governing Council issued official detailed guidelines to guide the UN System’s technical cooperation efforts.21 That enhanced UNDP role eventually led to its claim to responsibility for coordination of all development assistance provided by multilateral agencies within each recipient country.

Distribution of UNDP Technical Cooperation  

Between 1972 and 1976, UNDP employed an annual average of about 10,000 experts to work in recipient countries (Figure 9) and provided 28,200 fellowships. But over the entire period from 1960 to 1979, the annual numbers were very uneven. The lowest number of experts (3,306) was provided during 1960, grew to a high of 20,198 in 1971, and declined again until by the end of 1979 only about half of the 1971 number (10,396) were in the field. UNDP’s funding of experts exceeded $1 billion for the first time during 1975; half-way through that period of decline.22

Experts: Sectoral Distributions. Agriculture accounted for 24 percent of UNDP projects approved during 1972 to 1981; down from 35 percent during 1969. Nonetheless, agriculture continued to be a major focus even as the industrial sector’s share of allocations grew to 21 percent during that same period. But with reference to the provision of experts, UNDP increasingly directed its assistance toward “general economic and social policy and planning.” Focusing on a fairly wide-range of technical assistance “expertise11 — including evaluating proposed country programs; development planning and pre-investment studies; coordinating international emergency responses to natural or man-made disasters; establishing and strengthening education, training, and research centers focused on teacher training and adaptation of modern technologies (especially water pumps, small-scale sanitation infrastructure, and appropriate alternative cooking stoves); and non-formal in-service training and formal graduate level education to serving government staff – authorized allocations for economic and social policy formulation and planning increased from 10 percent during the first cycle (1972-1976) to 17 percent during the second (1977-1981).

Recipient Regions. The geographical distribution of UNDP’s assistance was fairly constant throughout the 1960s and 1970s; except for Europe and the Middle East (Figure 10). Beginning in 1962, Africa consistently received the largest share; between 23 and 40 percent. Asia eclipsed Africa only twice (1963 and 1978) while dropping below Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) only once (1966). Overall, Africa received 31 percent of UNDP’s total assistance from 1960 through 1979, followed by Asia (26%), LAC (21%), and Europe and the Middle East (16%) — global, inter-regional, and regional programs received the remaining six percent.

Experts: Countries of Origin. In 1972, UNDP introduced new recruitment and training policies to increase the number of staff from developing countries. Nonetheless, UNDP continued to rely predominantly on European and European-derivative7 countries as the source for “experts11 assigned to recipient countries (Figures 11 and 12).

During the period under review here, the United Kingdom accounted for between 28 percent (1960) and 32 percent (1965) of all TC provided by European experts (Figure 13) while the second largest European provider, France, followed behind within a range between 19 percent (1977) and 25 percent (1973). Those two countries together accounted for between 50 percent (1977) and 54 percent (1973) of all European “experts11 provided during the period under review here (Figure 14). And two “European-derivative”7 countries — the United States and Canada — also provided between twelve percent (1966 and 1969) and 16 percent (1960, 1974, and 1975). Indeed, the United States alone provided 11 percent of all UNDP TC during this same period; second only to the United Kingdom (Figure 15).

India’s dominance as a provider of UNDP experts from Asia is also clear during this period (Figure 16); accounting for between 30% (1971) and 43% (1978) of all TC provided by Asian experts between 1960 and 1979 (Figure 17). That was essentially equal to all other Asian countries combined (excluding Australia and Japan). India was also the only “non-Western” country to rank among the top five providers of UNDP and predecessor TC (Figures 18 and 19).

But it should be noted that India’s “experts11 were clearly significantly “western” in their individual educations, economic orientation, and acceptance of professional norms. And India and Australia alone accounted for between 48 percent (1971) and 58 percent (1961, 1978) of all Asian experts during this period.

By contrast with Europe, Asia and the Middle East, there was no clustering of “experts11 among citizens of Latin American or Caribbean countries (Figures 20 and 21); first-ranked Chile fluctuated between 14 percent and 22 percent most years and only once accounted for upwards of 30 percent (1960). The second largest Latin American or Caribbean provider, Argentina, followed with a range between 13 percent (1961) and 24 percent (1972). Nonetheless, those two largely European-derivative7 countries together accounted for more than 40 percent of the region’s UNDP financed-experts for almost half (4/10) of the years under review here.

The total number of Soviet “experts11 engaged in UNDP TC exceeded those of any other Communist-party state during the twenty-year period under review here (Figure 22). But that number is misleading in at least two respects. First, the total number of experts from the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies accounted for only seven percent of total UNDP TC during this period; new authorizations for experts from the Soviet Union and its European allies fluctuating between four percent and nine percent during any one year (Figure 23). Second, although the Soviet Union provided almost as much TC as all other Communist-party states combined during the 1960s, its dominance declined during the 1970s when Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland increased their shares significantly (Figures 24 and 25). Indeed, Czechoslovakia alone exceeded the number of Soviet “experts11 during 1969 and 1970 while Poland took the lead in 1976 and maintained it throughout the rest of that decade).

As for the Middle East, Egypt, Israel, and Syria alone provided more experts than all other countries within that region combined (Figure 26). Egypt alone never accounted for less than 31 percent (1960) of all Middle Eastern experts. Israel lagged behind from a low of 13 percent (1960) and high of 26 percent (1975). Those two countries combined accounted for more than half of all Middle Eastern experts throughout the nineteen years between 1961 and 1979 and exceeded 70 percent during five of those years (Figure 27).

Sudan clearly dominated among the relatively few Sub-Saharan African country-providers of UNDP experts; accounting for almost a third of the experts provided by nine independent African countries, apartheid South Africa, and the British colony of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (i.e., Zimbabwe and Malawi)23 combined (Figure 28). And with respect to South Africa and British Rhodesia and Nyasaland, it should be noted that attitudes toward recruitment of experts from among those relatively small European elite populations living in Africa changed during the 1960s and 1970s. As late as 1960, of the only 32 TC “experts11 from Africa employed by UN/EPTA, 17 (53.1%) were from South Africa and 4 (12.5%) were from Rhodesia and Nyasaland. By the end of the 1970s, that reliance on “European” elites had been reversed.     

Nonetheless, even though Sudan was the dominant provider of UNDP-financed African experts during this period, it never accounted for more than 18.9% (1967) of all such experts. And from a broader global perspective, Sudanese never exceeded 7/10th of one percent of “experts11 worldwide; second rank Tunisia never ranked higher than 6/10th of a percent; and third ranked Ghana’s highest contribution equaled 3/10th of a percent (Figure 29 and 30). Those three top-ranked African countries together accounted for only between 6/10th (1963) and one percent (1976) of UNDP-financed experts worldwide during the period reviewed here.

Experts: Countries of Assignment. Beginning in 1962, the Sub-Saharan Africa Region was the destination of more UNDP-financed experts annually than any other region (except 1965; Figure 31). Indeed, except that year and the next it received 33-40 percent (Figure 32). Asia was the primary destination of experts during 1960, 1961, and 1965, but fell to third place from 1973 to 1976 and again during 1979. A significant number of experts were also assigned to Latin America, accounting for a full 25 percent of the total in 1979, while the Soviet Union and its allies never accounted for more than 3 percent.  

Fellowships: Sectoral Distributions. During the first years following the transition to integrated UNDP programming, the number of short-term training, study tours, and longer-term graduate education fellowships declined substantially; from about 8,500 during 1968 to about 6,000 during 1969. But by 1978, the number had increased to 13,457; declining a bit to 12,354 the following year.

By contrast with the provision of experts, no sectors consistently dominated the allocation of fellowships during the entire two decades under review here (Figure 33); a full 52 percent of which was for unspecified “education” and “skills training (Figure 34).” The most that can be said is that an emphasis on public works fellowships during the early 1960s began a shift toward an emphasis on social activities and welfare during the latter half of that decade.

Geographic Distribution of Fellowship Recipients. By 1961, both Africa and Asia emerged as the dominant priority regions for educational and skill training fellowships (Figure 35); accounting for 56 percent of total fellowships provided during those two decades (Figure 36). Although those two regions traded up and back between the most and next most number of fellowships between 1961 and 1975, Asia took pride of place for the remainder of the 1970s.

Countries Hosting Fellowship Recipients. By contrast with the relatively large number of countries from which fellowship recipients were selected, the number of significant host-country providers was much more concentrated. More precisely, only nine (6%) of the 150 state-members of the United Nations in 1979 hosted slightly more than half of all UNDP fellowship recipients during the 1960s and 1970s. The United Kingdom and United States alone were the destination of 19 percent of all UNDP fellowship recipients (Figures 37 and 38). But that pales by comparison to the USA’s estimated thirty percent share of all world-wide destinations by students studying in countries other than their own throughout the period under review here.24

For its part, the Soviet Union hosted only three percent of total UNDP fellowship holders (about 7,400) during those two decades. That is in marked contrast to the Soviet Union and its allies’ “almost ten percent” share of all students studying at university level in countries other than their own between 1970 and 1990; a share that reflects the Soviet Union’s “active policy to attract and indoctrinate future leaders” by offering fellowships to Moscow’s “People’s Friendship University (formerly known as Patrice Lumumba University)founded in 1960 with the explicit mandate to prepare future socialist leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America24 and other Eastern European universities as well. 

India (5%) and Egypt (2%) were the only “non-Western” destinations among the top-ten host country providers. With the addition of eleventh-ranked Thailand, only three “non-Western” countries were among the nine dominant hosts. But even so, they together hosted only thirteen percent (about 31 thousand) of all UNDP fellowship recipients during the same period.

Persistence of Conventional Approaches: Substitutes & Performers

In 1948, General Assembly Resolution 2000(III) broadened the scope of UN-provided technical assistance to include “promotion of conditions of economic and social progress and development.” The justification for this expansion of advisory and training activities beyond the more limited scope employed during the immediate post-war period in Europe was the “lack of expert personnel and lack of technical organization” in “underdeveloped” countries.21 To fill that gap, the UN provided “operational, executive and administrative (OPEX) personnel” to serve directly as officials of recipient governments, even as they were still employed by the United Nations or specialized agencies at international, rather than local, rates.

Available data illustrate the ebb and flow of OPEX assignments during the period following the establishment of UNDP on January 1, 1966. During that first year, 101 UNDP-financed OPEX personnel worked in 35 countries or dependent territories (45% of which were in Africa). Overall numbers of OPEX “experts11 increased until reaching a peak for the period under review here of 216 personnel working in 49 countries and dependent territories during 1975 (67% of whom were serving in 25 African countries; Figure 39 and 40).

Of equal interest to those aggregate statistics, the numbers serving in a few specific African countries at the peak for that continent during 1974 stand-out – the very small country of Swaziland had a full 23 OPEX staff followed by Botswana (20), Equatorial Guinea, Lesotho, and Malawi (13 each); and Nigeria (12). The only non-African countries hosting anywhere near those numbers that year were Yemen (8) and Trinidad and Tobago, and Western Samoa (7 each).

Beginning in 1976, the number of OPEX personnel began a steady decline – beginning with 190 and ending the decade with a total of 122 personnel in 39 countries or territories. Nonetheless, Swaziland maintained its lead share of the reduced number serving in Africa, followed by Botswana and Malawi (Figure 41 and 42).25

But the decline in the number of OPEX personnel did not signify the end of foreign “advisors” performing direct tasks on behalf of recipient governments rather than transferring skills to local counterparts. Other foreign “advisors,” whether financed by UNDP or other bi-lateral and multi-lateral agencies, continued to perform tasks directly for recipient governments themselves.

One result of the direct performance of tasks rather than the on-the-job transfer of skills was that foreign technical cooperation personnel tended to continue in place for substantial periods – whether as individuals or by virtue of successive replacements with or without minor changes in position titles or job descriptions. Of the 81 countries or territories to which OPEX personnel were assigned for at least one year between the commencement of UNDP operations (1966) and the end of the period under review here (1979), 34 (42%) hosted them for at least seven (50%) of those 14 years.26 And that phenomenon was compounded by a “brain-drain” of many government staff sent to study in European or European derivative7 countries who did not return home.

It is a perverse irony that, although by 1972 almost a third of new UNDP staff members — as distinct from UNDP-financed experts — were from “developing” countries, almost all of them were graduates of Western universities. And many of those were found among earlier recipients of UNDP and other donor fellowships, leading some to criticize donors for contributing to a brain drain and subverting the very purpose of the fellowships in the first place.

The assignment of foreigners as “substitutes27 with direct line responsibilities within recipient countries is now rare almost anywhere other than in UN administered territories and other post-conflict situations.28 However, the dominant role of experts as “performers27 implementing tasks assigned to them directly by UNDP – or another “donor” — has not changed to any significant extent until the present time.

That is the case despite UNDP’s introduction of the “New Dimensions in Technical Co-operation” during 1975 and the UNDP’s Governing Council’s 1979 “invitation” to:

the UNDP Administrator, agencies and Governments to consider alternatives to UNDP-financed, internationally recruited experts and to consider, in particular: increased support to Governments wishing to undertake the direct recruitment of experts; increased use of qualified nationals as experts in projects; increased use of expatriate nationals for service in their home countries; and increased use of institutional twinning arrangements and related methods….”29

In short, getting the immediate job done overrode responsibilities for providing on-the job training to benefit recipient governments in the longer-term. Although this was generally considered appropriate, by the late 1970s an expanding number of development professionals began to argue that such practices were – at least over the longer-term — counter-productive.30  

In retrospect, “performer” approaches have clearly failed to meet expectations even as “donors” continue to finance such roles to this day. The discussion of the failure to provide effective in-service training by on-site residential “experts11 and alternative, non-conventional, approaches to providing such services is deferred to a future posting (look for “From Colonial Administrators to Development Advisors,” forthcoming). For now, we turn our attention to UNDP’s outreach to the financing and reorganization of UN development efforts from 1960 to 1979 (Segment B).    

The geo-branding war

May 22, 2012

This is the first time I have re-blogged a post from another site (and yes, with permission). I have done so because I find it both provocative and something about which I largely agree.

Thanks to David Levine for sending this to me.


Africa is a Country (Old Site)

Geo-branding is a serious thing. It is particularly serious when people from other geographic areas decide to brand your geographical area and the people in it, the way they see fit and the way that fits their purposes. No other country, region or continent, I’d argue, suffers from other peoples’ nonsense as much as the continent of Africa. Actually, the reason why people generally and casually talk about Africa as one place is because of what Nigerian-American author C. P. Eze refers to as “their geo-branding war”.

View original post 2,066 more words

Dual Economy Theory Revisited

September 1, 2011

The blog has received a number of search queries re. “dual economy theory.” Therefore, during this period of low productivity, I post a paper I wrote and presented to the 4th Annual International Conference of The Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) during March 1992 with the title Dual Economy Theory Revisited.


March 28, 2011

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down

Robert Frost, Mending Wall (1874 – 1963)


Depending on the specific agencies involved, relations between the World Bank Group and the United Nations (UN) system have been both cooperative and hostile, often at the same time. A detailed description of those relationships over the last sixty-five years is beyond the scope of a single blog post. Therefore, the focus here is limited to a summary of initial UN overtures and the World Bank’s response as well as examples of both collaboration and tensions during the period from January 1946 through the end of December 1959.

Initial UN Overtures

Only two months after its first meeting in London, a letter from the first President of the Economic and Social Council (EcoSoc), Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar of India, was delivered to the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) at their first meeting (Savannah, Georgia, March 1946). That letter proposed establishing the IMF and IBRD as UN specialized agencies. However, because neither the Bank nor IMF had a chief executive officer or any staff at that point, Ecosoc was informed that its request had been referred to the first meeting of their respective executive directors to be held two months later. Therefore, just before that meeting on May 6, 1946, a follow-up letter was sent to IBRD and the IMF in Washington, DC. But, this time, the letter was signed by the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General David Owen, a British citizen subordinate only to the UN Secretary-General. Owen was clearly disappointed in the IBRD’s and IMF’s earlier response to what UN staff no doubt assumed was a routine matter. Indeed, agreements between EcoSoc and the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had already been completed by the time this second letter was sent.2 But once again, the response of the Bank’s executive directors was that “such action would be premature.” That second rebuff prompted yet a third letter only one month later – this time signed by the Secretary-General, Trygve Lie of Norway, himself – requesting discussions between an EcoSoc negotiating committee and representatives of the IBRD and IMF begin no later than the first joint Annual Meeting of their Board of Governors the following September. But once again, both the IBRD and IMF demurred, arguing that other problems required their priority attention.

There was substantial validity to that claim. The Bank’s first President, Eugene Meyer, had only just arrived on June 18, 1946, he was met by a full staff of only twenty-six professional and administrative staff recruited since the meeting in Savannah, and IBRD was about to officially begin operations on June 25, 1946. In addition, there was the unresolved question of whether the Bank’s Executive Directors or its President was primarily responsible for managing the Bank. Nonetheless, the most important reason for IBRD’s reluctance was the view that, as a “non-political” investment bank, it had a fiduciary responsibility to its financiers. The fear was that private sector investors would not trust IBRD if it was responsible to a UN politically beholden to its membership because its “one country one vote” decision-making structure was divorced from financial responsibilities.

That view is clearly recalled by Richard Demuth, who was at that time a lawyer and Assistant to the Bank’s President, as remembered during an interview on August 10, 1961:

…[during the latter part of 1946,] the UN people…gave us copies of relationship agreements that they’d entered into with some of the other specialized agencies, which made the other agencies very definitely subordinate to them. We said we didn’t know enough about our business to enter into any kind of formal contract with them [yet]…. [But] in any case, we said that we couldn’t enter into the kind of contract that the other agencies had entered into because it would appear to the public that we were in effect an agency of the United Nations, and if it seemed that we were an agency of a political instrumentality, ourposition [in the financial markets] would be impaired.

Those views did not change during the brief five month tenure of the Bank’s first President Eugene Meyer, the three month hiatus before the arrival of its second President John McCloy, or during subsequent years. Indeed, the World Bank’s own Archives characterizes McCloy’s position as follows:

McCloywanted to demonstrate that the Bank was autonomous, free from political interference, and run according to sound financial and organizational principles. The establishment of the executive autonomy of the president, the emphasis that investment decisions would be made on economic rather than political grounds, and the close link between the president and the U.S. executive director were important factors in bolstering the confidence of the U.S. securities market.3

But this too was not the whole story. There was also the less tangible, but no less important, feeling of superiority that emerges time and again from the oral histories of selected IBRD staff serving at that time. Indeed, another high level IBRD staff, Davidson Sommers, recalled the Bank during that period as having a “standoffish” and “supercilious” attitude to other international organizations.4 So when representatives of both the Bank and Fund met together to discuss Trygve Lie’s letter, they agreed that neither organization could sign any kind of agreement like those already signed by the UN with other specialized agencies.

“We Wouldn’t Recommend That They Accept it”

With the arrival of President McCloy on March 17, 1947, the United Nations tried again. As again described by Richard Demuth —

the [UN] Charter required that the United Nations enter into a contractual relationship, that this required a written contract agreed to by both sides, and they raised again with a good deal of insistence the need for a written document. Well, we said, all right, if they really wanted a written document we’d submit a draft that we could accept but they wouldn’t like it and we wouldn’t recommend that they accept it…. So we wrote a draft agreement that was in effect a declaration of independence…. Well, this [led to]…. a very strong, vigorous negotiating session between a committee of the Economic and Social Council and Mr. McCloy [and IMF’s Managing Director Camille Gutt], which went on for a day at the United Nations, in which our draft was reviewed, and we took out a few of our declarations of independence but not very many.

Surprisingly, that proposed text was accepted with only slight changes by the EcoSoc negotiating committee led by Jan Papenek of Czechoslovakia. Selected quotations from the official Text of the Agreement between the United Nations and the Bank signed on August 15, 1947 support Demuth’s characterization as “a declaration of independence:”5

by reason of the nature of its international responsibilities and the terms of its Articles of Agreement, the Bank is, and is required to function as, an independent international organization….

…[action taken by the Bank] is a matter to be determined by the independent exercise of the Bank’s own judgment…

…[it would be] sound policy [for the UN] to refrain from making recommendations to the Bank with respect to particular loans or conditions of financing by the Bank….

…[nonetheless, the UN] may appropriately make recommendations with respect to the technical aspects of reconstruction or development plans, programs or projects….

…[the UN] will take into consideration that the Bank does not rely for its annual budget upon contributions from its members, and that the appropriate authorities of the Bank enjoy full autonomy in deciding the form and content of such budget.

But when presented to EcoSoc’s eighteen elected member-states for approval, it was strongly criticized by the Norwegian, Soviet, and Byelorussian delegates on the grounds that the “special privileges” extended to IBRD and the IMF violated at least four articles of the UN Charter and would seriously endanger the international cooperation for which the UN had been established in the first place. But the American delegation disagreed, defended the Agreement, and it was approved sequentially by EcoSoc, IBRD’s and IMF’s Board of Governors the following September 1947, and the General Assembly on November 15, 1947.

The opposing positions held by the United States and Soviet Union is not fully explained by the emerging Cold War. They also make sense from the perspective of their relative power and influence within the Bank, Fund, and United Nations; especially given the Soviet Union’s decision not to join the IMF and, by extension, IBRD. But with the approval of the General Assembly, both the World Bank6 and IMF became completely independent “specialized agencies” of the UN, allowing their staff to travel on United Nations Laissez-Pass even as their “independence” was institutionalized within the overarching international architecture still in place today.


Although the 1947 Agreement was a “Declaration of Independence,” Richard Demuth has also argued that the limits placed on the UN were misconstrued:

….There’s nothing in this agreement that prevents the Economic and Social Council from making general policy recommendations to us, but the EcoSoc has been so cowed that they feel that it prevents them from making any recommendations on policy to us, which it doesn’t at all…. We [simply] wanted to make it clear that the Economic and Social Council would not attempt to dictate particular loans to us,… but if they wanted to make a policy recommendation,…there was nothing in the agreement that would stop general recommendations of that sort. We wouldn’t necessarily adopt them but we didn’t say that it was inappropriate to make them…. [nonetheless], It’s a very difficult relationship at best, because in the hierarchy of things the UN is the top agency. They’re the central global body, and they feel they ought to be able to exercise authority over all the other international agencies. On the other hand, the Bank has the money….

Nonetheless, the fact is that collaboration at the operational level between IBRD and the UN system has far outweighed areas of largely rhetorical conflict since 1947. Even without an official agreement with the UN, it was clear that IBRD officials were welcome to attend any of the almost continuous series of meetings already being held by EcoSoc during this period.7

The theoretical foundation for collaboration between IBRD and the UN was articulated at about the same time by the ubiquitous David Owen. As reported by Craig Murphy, Owen argued that the UN Secretariat should focus on three key pillars of “development.” The first pillar was the development of skills within underdeveloped countries through provision of technical assistance (TA), a label eventually changed by the UN, but not the World Bank, to technical “cooperation.” The second pillar was the design of appropriate domestic and global institutional environments, including central planning mechanisms internally and appropriate trading mechanisms internationally. The third pillar was the financing of infrastructure required for economic growth and industrialization. Although no doubt thinking that the Secretariat and EcoSoc should be responsible for coordinating activities in all three of those areas, there was no real argument during those early years that IBRD was primarily responsible for the third pillar. But even so, that still left the first two pillars to the UN; especially when an international trade organization was not established for another four decades.

UN Extended Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA, 1949-1966)8

The UN’s earliest TA efforts consisted of “experts,” student fellowships, and seminars financed from the regular General Assembly budget and managed by the Secretariat. Although the IMF joined Secretariat staff and representatives of FAO, UNESCO, and World Health Organization (WHO) in the UN’s first large inter-agency TA mission to Haiti that same year, IBRD did not accept the invitation to join them on the grounds that participation might imply commitment to finance investment proposals such missions might recommend. Nonetheless, the volume of requests for TA accelerated quickly, at least partially in response to the distribution of a pamphlet by the Secretariat that identified ten sources of available TA. That list was clearly a case of aspiration or wish fulfillment rather than actual capacity because it included not only seven conventional specialized agencies, but also IBRD, the IMF, and an “International Trade Organization” that would not actually exist until the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established forty-six years later. But fortunately for the UN, the desire for a new fund for international TA dovetailed with a desire by United States’ President Harry Truman to expand such assistance. That objective was embedded in Truman’s inaugural address delivered on January 20,
1949 in which he called for –

….a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas…. [in] a cooperative enterprise in which all nations work together through the United Nations and its specialized agencies whenever practicable. It must be a worldwide effort for the achievement of peace, plenty, and freedom….9

In response, the UN Secretary-General summoned representatives from the specialized agencies to a meeting at Lake Success, New York where they were told to formulate a proposal that could be presented to the United States as the UN’s contribution to the American’s proposed “Point Four” program. And that led to establishment of the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) on November 16, 1949 as a separate, centralized fund financed by voluntary contributions from member-states that, in turn, financed activities conducted by other UN subsidiary and specialized agencies. EPTA’s name distinguished it from the much smaller TA efforts managed by the Secretariat that continued to be financed from the regular core budget.10

This was not, of course, an entirely “bold new program.” In addition to the UN General Assembly’s initiative the previous year, other UN specialized agencies, whether implementing EPTA financed TA or not, also continued to raise additional funds directly from bi-lateral donors.11 And, in the words of a State Department officer at the time –

the [American] Government had for some years been conducting programs of technical assistance in Latin America, and only there…[and] it seemed reasonable that this novel way of conducting international relations might have its uses elsewhere in the world.12

In response to those new initiatives, the Bank announced on June 2, 1949 that it would also begin collaborating with the UN’s expanded TA activities.13 And between the founding of EPTA in 1949 and the UN Special Fund (UNSF) in 1958, IBRD did participate in several joint missions with UN specialized agencies, especially with FAO.14 According to the authors of the World Bank’s own Historical Chronology

This marked the Bank’s realization that deficiencies in technical skills and experience were often a more serious handicap to economic development than lack of capital.

IBRD, for its part, also expanded its own TA services and, on November 1, 1951, Richard Demuth was appointed Director of the Bank’s first Technical Assistance Department responsible for –

planning, coordinating and giving general direction to the Bank’s technical assistance activities, and for coordinating the Bank’s relationships with other international agencies….”

The Bank substantially expanded those TA efforts even further about eighteen months later when it established a Department of Development Services in 1961.

But in parallel, EPTA had extended TA services to 140 countries and dependent territories by the early 1960s and was by then receiving voluntary financial contributions from 85 member-states; although as discussed in an earlier blog post, the United States was the primary contributor throughout the period under review here.

Nonetheless, although EPTA was an important first step, it financed only a limited range of “expert” services, equipment, and a limited number of student fellowships for studies primarily in industrialized countries. Those limitations led, in turn, to increasing demands for grant financing of an expanded range of activities, including capital investment and, ultimately, for proposals to establish a Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development (SUNFED) and, latterly, the United Nations Special Fund (UNSF). Because the proposal to establish SUNFED was strongly opposed by IBRD, it is discussed under the header “Tensions” below. But the UNSF involved close collaboration between the Bank and UN and is, therefore, discussed first.

UN Special Fund (1958-1966)

UNSF was established by the General Assembly in 1958 to finance the pre-investment phase of capital investment projects.15 It too served as a mechanism through which voluntary contributions by member-states could be coordinated by the UN. Although EPTA served as a precedent for the UNSF, they both occupied the same building in New York City, and shared a “Joint Administration Division,” there were four fundamental differences between the two groups.

First, in order to ensure collaboration with other important entities, a “Consultative Board” was established for UNSF consisting of the UN’s second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden, the World Bank’s third president Eugene Black, and EPTA’s chief David Owen. Second, UNSF did not adopt EPTA’s practice of establishing specific funding entitlements for each of its eligible countries. Instead, proposals were evaluated at UNSF headquarters on a case-by-case basis. Third, UNSF’s pre-investment studies were substantially more expensive than the expert advice and student scholarships financed by EPTA. UNSF mobilized a full $2 billion in constant 2010 dollars (as all dollar amounts are presented in this blog post) for conducting feasibility studies and designing proposed infrastructure investment projects. Fourth, UNSF was connected much more closely to follow-up financing by the World Bank. Once construction began or materials were procured, the World Bank group’s IBRD, International Finance Corporation (IFC), or International Development Association (IDA) often assumed responsibility. In that way, a clear division of responsibilities was established between UNSF and the “World Bank.” Once again in the words of Richard Demuth —

We felt that the Special Fund might have a very real role to play, and Mr. Black has been very anxious that the Bank cooperate with the Special Fund, and in fact we’ve cooperated with them quite effectively. We are one of the executing agencies — some of the other agencies have many more projects, but I think we’ve probably got more completed and under way than most of the others, and on the whole I think this has worked out very well. We’ve been able to put things to them which they’ve financed, and others we’ve carried out with the help of their financing…. [Indeed,] we get all the Special Fund projects. They send them to us for examination and advice, and to get our views on what should be done, and we’re in close touch with what they’re doing.

About eight years after it was established, the merger of UNSF and the older EPTA created the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an organization that today is still tasked with the responsibilty for coordinating all UN development activities.16


Although collaboration between the World Bank Group and the UN system has been more common than conflict, this segment identifies some of the persistent tensions that emerged between 1946 to the end of 1959. But a word of caution; the presentation of tensions as polar opposites is for analytical purposes only. The reality was a matter of relative emphasis rather than absolute opposites. With that in mind, tensions are discussed in terms of country presence, turf, and substance.

Country Presence

Since its earliest years, the UN has had greater “country presence” than the World Bank Group has had. During the period under review here, the UN was already relying on resident representatives in many client countries to ensure effective implementation of UN activities while also inform headquarters of local conditions. By contrast, the World Bank Group has relied primarily on staff and consultants dispatched from its Washington headquarters (Figure 1 — UN WB Resident Offices 1949-1966) even as the number of its own resident representatives has grown substantially since the 1980s. That was in part a function of the much smaller number of World Bank staff until the latter part of the 1970s; the World Bank’s entire professional and administrative staff totaled only 511 persons on June 30, 1956.


Two areas of tension over turf are addressed here: the relative attention given to “development” or “reconstruction” from 1946 through about 1951 and the unfulfilled desire for the creation of a separate UN capital investment fund during the 1950s.

Development vs. Reconstruction. IBRD’s original mission was to provide finance without preference for either reconstruction in Europe or development elsewhere. Nonetheless, from its first “reconstruction” loan to France on May 9, 1947 until the approval of its first “post-reconstruction” loan to The Netherlands on August 9, 1948, the Bank extended four loans to Europe in the total amount of $4.5 billion while approving only one “development” loan to Chile for $148 million.17 IBRD’s first loan to an Asian country (India) was not made until August 1948 while the first loan to an African country (Ethiopia) was not extended until September 1950. Indeed, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Belgium remained eligible for World Bank lending throughout most of the 1950s while the last loan to any other western European country (with the exception of Portugal)18 was made to Spain on May 17, 1977 ($67 million). In part because of IBRD’s dual mandate, the United Nations rather than the Bank was the intellectual leader with respect to “development” well into the 1950s.

SUNFED vs. IDA. The perception that IBRD was off to a slow start, that it was too much focused on reconstruction needs in Europe, and that its interest rates were too high increased the dissatisfaction among Latin American governments expressed prior to the 1945 San Francisco Conference. Not long after, India joined that chorus of complaint; a complaint reinforced further by lower cost grants and concessional rates provided to European economies under the terms of the American’s Marshall Plan announced on June 5, 1947. Those dissatisfactions led to a proposal and counter-proposal to establish a low-cost lending arm to either the UN (SUNFED) or IBRD (IDA).

The Marshall Plan created two precedents that remain with us today. First, its success encouraged the application of a “reconstruction” – rather than “development” — model in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And that played to the comparative advantage of IBRD. It also legitimized demands by developing countries for the same kind of low cost financing that had been provided to Europe.19 IBRD was not prepared to provide that kind of financing. Therefore, the desire for low-cost financing seemed to play to the comparative advantage of the UN – if only the UN had an institutional mechanism for providing it.

In response to that inequity, the Director of the Delhi School of Economics (India) — Vijayendra Kasturi Ranga Varadaraja Rao – suggested that a new “UN Administration for Economic Development” should be established with a dramatically broader mandate than EPTA (which had just been established that same year).20 Rao’s proposal was, however, a direct challenge to IBRD’s mandate as the primary multi-lateral provider of investment finance and raised the specter that a separate UN capital investment fund would be established. The opposition of IBRD managers to a separate UN capital investment fund was summarized by Richard Demuth as follows:

The one threat that has been hanging over us [would be the creation of] a UN capital fund…. The confusion between that sort of fund and the Bank would have been tremendous, and whether the creation of IDA, which was designed in very large part to hold that development off, will succeed in doing so, has yet to be seen. But with IDA getting into many more fields, and the Special Fund active in fields in which we’re interested, our relationships necessarily become closer….

And in the words of Davidson Sommers:

Within the United Nations staff as well as the membership, there’s been a real movement that the United Nations ought to get into the capital financing business. Technical assistance was a first step, and the Hoffman Special Fund is a second step, a compromise, something short of capital financing. But the other — the pure SUNFED idea, if you remember that proposal, is not dead. That will revive again from time to time.

The first attempt to find a compromise between Rao’s proposal and industrialized countries that opposed it was introduced during the 1953 session of the General Assembly by Greece, Haiti, and Pakistan supported by the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. That proposal authorized a study of the proposed new organization by an intergovernmental committee and gave the proposed organization a preliminary name only slightly different from the one proposed by Rao – i.e., the Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development (SUNFED).21 Following completion of that report, several of SUNFED’s advocates proposed establishment of SUNFED with the specific purpose of providing grant financing for capital investments  and, further, that decisions by SUNFED should be made on the basis of “one country, one vote.” In addition, a few of SUNFED’s supporters also argued for establishment of a new “Economic Security Council” to replace EcoSoc with a voting system somewhere between one country, one vote and the Bank’s system of weighted voting.

With active support for those proposals building within the General Assembly, IBRD pro-actively opposed SUNFED22 even as the proposal to divorce voting power from levels of finance provided was also too much for the
United States Treasury and several members of Congress. Therefore, the United States, with support from several other industrialized countries, joined the World Bank in a counter-proposal to establish IDA for the specific purpose of providing concessional finance for large-scale projects in developing countries. As IBRD’s third president Eugene Black admitted, the establishment of IDA was largely motivated by the desire to scuttle SUNFED – and in that it was completely successful. And that success was assured when India, an original supporter of SUNFED, changed its position in favor of IDA. In the words of Eric Toussaint, India –

was convinced that [it] would benefit from IDA since the major powers predominating in the [World Bank] would understand the necessity of giving India special treatment in view of its strategic position. And India was right: in the first year of IDA activity, it received 50% of IDA loans.

India’s expectations were correct. As of July 17, 2008, India remains the recipient of the largest number of loans and credits (560) and total amount of money received ($80.5 billiion in nominal dollars). It was in that context
that the substantially more limited and collaborative UNSF was also agreed in 1957.


Substantive tensions between UN system entities and the World Bank were largely about whether “development” was primarily about human “rights” or a narrower concern for economic growth.

Human “Rights” vs. Economic Investment. Much of the “social development23 and “human rights-based” approaches to development that emerged during the 1990s was foreshadowed by the General Assembly’s passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. That Declaration, in turn, incorporated President Franklin Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” enunciated on January 6, 1941,24 many of the civil rights incorporated over time in the United States Constitution,24 and several other “rights” not previously articulated in international treaties.26

The Universal Declaration launched a substantial number of UN covenants meant to establish universally-accepted norms about a wide range of specific “rights.”27 Indeed, some legal scholars and other advocates of a rights-based approach have argued that state-signatories of UN human rights covenants are required to oppose any aid project, program, or policy loan within multilateral organizations of which they are a member that violates any of the rights spelled out in those covenants.28

A human rights-based approach to development has clearly not been the primary driver of successive United States government development efforts (until perhaps very recently) or those of the increasing number of multilateral development banks or the IMF. Although the difference is often exaggerated, there is no doubt that UN entities have been strong advocates of a “Human Rights” approach to development while IBRD has historically viewed such approaches as “soft” at best and “political” at worst. Nonetheless, UN calls for eliminating all forms of discrimination against women or ensuring the rights of children while supporting the idea that there is a moral responsibility to promote social progress and better standards of living in all countries provides important benchmarks against which international development efforts can be judged.

Social” Development. From the establishment of both UNESCO and the United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) in 1946 and WHO two years later, the United Nations has been well out-front of other international development assistance agencies with respect to the inclusion of “social” aspects of “development.” Nonetheless, throughout the 1950s and 1960s almost all technical cooperation financed by members’ voluntary contributions to EPTA and other UN agencies were devoted to the education sector (Figure 2: Technical Co-operation – Evolution of Extrabudgetary Funds Utilized).29 But those efforts were limited largely to the specification of long-term strategic priorities that would require finance from other bi-lateral and multi-lateral agencies. Such financing was often provided, although there was almost always a significant lag between the UN’s specification of investment priorities and provision of necessary funds.

Indeed, the World Bank’s first education project, an IDA credit in the amount of $36 million approved on September 17, 1962 to build technical education institutes in Tunisia, both proves and disproves that observation. On the one hand, the Tunisian credit was approved following a UNESCO-led identification mission only one year after the Conference of African States on the Development of Education in Africa was held in Addis Ababa. But on the other hand, that credit was approved more than a decade after the UN began to focus significant attention on the importance of education for development. Further, although the World Bank entered into a cooperative agreement with WHO to expand access to clean drinking water and improve waste disposal and storm drainage on September 1, 1971, lending in the health sector was not authorized for almost another eight years (July 24, 1979). Most of the World Bank’s initial lending for those sectors was for the construction of facilities and supply of equipment rather than for development of curriculum, training of teachers or medical staff. Indeed, I was surprised to find when I joined the Bank in 1983 that a large component of the World Bank’s education sector staff were architects concerned with the design of primary school buildings.

Summary Conclusion

Early tensions between the UN and IBRD raise important questions about the expectation that international organizations will serve as instruments of their sovereign-state members. If that was actually the case, tensions between UN entities and the World Bank should not have existed. The membership of both the UN and IBRD was essentially the same, with the exception of the Soviet Union, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, and Hungary (and later Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Cuba). Nonetheless, powerful leadership emerged very early within the both the UN Secretariat and IBRD — and that leadership carved out substantial areas of autonomous actions for those organizations. And although the World Bank’s definition of “development” was, and remains, substantially more limited than most UN entities, it has softened considerably during the last decade or so. One result of that softening has been increasing ambiguity about the division of responsibilities among the UN, World Bank, and IMF. Echoes of that concern can be heard in Larry Summer’s Speech four decades after the period reviewed

Although Robert Frost might not agree, the aphorism “fences make good neighbors” is as true as his assertion quoted above that “something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” especially where it might be necessary to demarcate areas of responsibility within newly settled organizational territories. As will be illustrated in Parts #4 and #5 of this five-fold series, that lowering of boundaries has increased tensions between those two institutional systems.



[1] Except where otherwise noted, this blog post relies on World Bank, World Bank Group Historical Chronology and John Jay McCloy: 2nd World Bank President, 1947-1949; Craig Murphy, The United Nations Development Programme: A Better Way? (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly and Thomas Weiss, Economic and Social Thinking at the UN in Historical Perspective, Development and Change 36 (2005), p. 211–235; Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997); Edward Mason and Robert Asher, The World Bank Since Bretton Woods (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1973); and The World Bank/IFC, Transcript of Interview with Richard H. Demuth conducted by Robert Oliver, Archives: Oral History Program (Oral History Research Office, Columbia University, August 10, 1961). Unfortunately, the UN system as a whole has not recorded a similarly large number of staff oral histories as has the World Bank (see Emmerij, Jolly and Weiss). Therefore, there is greater reliance here on the personal recollections of IBRD staff than on UN staff.

[2] See Andrzej Abraszewski and Raúl Quijano, Relationship Agreements Between the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies: Review and Strengthening of Sections Pertaining to the Common System of Salaries, Allowances and Conditions of Service (Geneva: United Nations Joint Inspection Unit, 1993).

[3] The same World Bank Archives clarified McCloy’s position with respect to political involvements as follows: “From the outset there was much concern about the role of political considerations in the Bank’s lending decisions. The discussions at Bretton Woods had dwelt on the importance of insulating the lending decisions of the Bank from politics and ideology. McCloy realized that the Bank did not operate in a political vacuum and that the line between politics and economics was not sharply delineated. His philosophy was that the Bank would not make loans to accomplish political objectives, but it could refuse to make loans where the political uncertainties were so great as to make the loan economically unsound.”

[4] As quoted by Kapur, Lewis, and Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1. See also World Bank, Transcript of Interview with Davidson Sommers conducted by Robert Oliver, Oral History Program (New York: Columbia University, Oral History Research Office, August 2, 1961) and Transcript of Interview with Robert S. McNamara conducted by John Lewis, Richard Webb, and Devesh Kapur, World Bank History Project (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1991).

[5] These quotations are from the Text of the Agreement Between the United Nations and the Bank, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Second Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors, Proceedings (London, September 11-20, 1947), p. 25-27 as cited in Mason and Asher, The World Bank Since Bretton Woods.

[6] Surprisingly, no common agreement exists about when the term “World Bank” first came into use. According to the World Bank’s Office of Chief Legal Counsel, one might legitimately date the introduction of that label to: (i) its first official use in the Bank’s Annual Report 1958-1959; (ii) President Truman’s use of the term in his message of September 23, 1946 to the Chairpersons of the Bank’s and IMF’s Boards of Governors; (iii) the official name of the first meeting of the IBRD and IMF Boards of Governors during March 1946 as the “World Fund and Bank Inaugural Meeting” and related news stories employing the term “World Bank;” or (iv) the earliest reference of all to the “World Bank” in an Economist article dated July 22, 1944. See World Bank, About the World Bank, Law and Development.

[7] As only one example, both IBRD and the IMF were represented by the same person, Dr. Ching Chun Liang, at the first session of the newly formed Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in Shanghai, China well before IBRD’s “Declaration of Independence” was negotiated. However, it is worth noting that by the second session in Baguio, The Philippines, they were represented separately; IBRD by Raoul de Sercey and the Onternational Monetary Fund by Dr. Wang Yuan-Chao; see Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, Annual Report to the Sixth Session of the Economic and Social Council: First Session, Shanghai (16 June 1947 to 25 June 1947) [and] Second Session, Baguio (24 November 1947 to 6 December 1947) (Bagio, The Philippines: Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, December 1947).

[8] Also see UNESCO: 50 Years for Education (Paris: United Nations Education, Social, and Cultural Organization, 1997) and Technical Cooperation Programs – Evolution of UNDP, Encyclopedia of the Nations.

[9] This was one of President Harry Truman’s “Four Points” set forth in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1949. The first three points were: “First, we will continue to give unfaltering support to the United Nations and related agencies, and we will continue to search for ways to strengthen their authority and increase their effectiveness…. Second, we will continue our programs for world economic recovery. This means, first of all, that we must keep our full weight behind the European recovery program…. Third, we will strengthen freedom-loving nations against the dangers of aggression. We are now working out with a number of countries a joint agreement designed to strengthen the security of the North Atlantic area….

[10] See also Kenneth Auerbach and Yoshinobu Yonekawa, The United Nations Development Program: Follow-Up Investment and Procurement Benefits, International Organization 33 (Autumn, 1979), p. 509-524.

[11] From this point forward, Chapter 8 of Maggie Black’s book, The Children and the Nations: The Story of Unicef (New York: United Nations Children Fund, 1986) is also a key source.

[12] Louis Halle, On Teaching International Relatons,” Virginia Quarterly Review, 40 (Winter 1964) as cited by Murphy.

[13] IBRD was no doubt reassured by the UN Secretariat’s apparent acceptance of limits on the scope of its activities, as demonstrated by its critical response to the Introduction written into the Economic Commission for Latin America’s first Economic Survey of Latin America on the grounds that it included references to subjects beyond its mandate, including “development, industrialization, terms of trade, and many other things that ECLA is not supposed to deal with;” as cited by Murphy. See also Louis Emmerij and Gert Rosenthal, UN Regional Contributions: Latin America and the Caribbean.

[14] Examples include joint missions with FAO including the Bank’s first sector study (in this specific case an agricultural sector survey mission to Uruguay) that departed Washington, DC on October 13, 1950; an agriculture mission to Chile on May 26, 1951; and another agriculture sector survey mission to Peru on June 25, 1958.

[15] With reference to the argument presented in a previous blog post, it is interesting to note the following information provided by Craig Murphy: “….when the Special Fund was in its infancy Singer sent Owen a paper linking ‘pre-investment,’…to distinguish the role of the nascent organization, with the new theory of development articulated in a series of Cambridge lectures by W.W. Rostow, an advisor to Senator Kennedy. At the first of Rostow’s five ‘Stages of Development,’ ‘Traditional Society,’ Singer argued that governments needed broad assessments of resources to help shape sensible requests for technical assistance. At the next stage (the ‘transitional state’), surveys of specific resources and the development of large industrial projects, the basis of requests for large investment, would be desirable. At the stage of ‘Take-off,’ investigations into potential macroeconomic bottlenecks and the design of critical investments to reduce them were essential. In short, the combination of Singer’s and Rostow’s ideas would provide a persuasive argument for building on EPTA’s capacity and for convincing major donors and the World Bank that extensive development financing could be used soundly.” See also, Eric Toussaint, Banque Mondiale: Le Coup d’Etat permanent (Liège: CADTM-Syllepse-Cetim, 2006), Chapter 3 translated into English by Judith Harris as Difficult Beginning Between the UN and the World Bank, and that from this point forward is also a key source.

[16] See also UNESCO: 50 Years for Education.

[17] IBRD’s first “reconstruction” loan was approved in the amount of about $2.5 billion in constant 2010 dollars (half of the requested amount) on May 9, 1947 to France for general budget support; i.e., in the words of the World Bank itself: “This loan, the very first, deviated from what was to be the standard pattern for loans: it was not for a specific project, but rather a general purpose loan, covering almost every sphere of activity in industrial life.” That was followed three months later (August 7, 1947) by the Bank’s first loan to The Netherlands for a reconstruction project ($2 billion) followed rapidly by another reconstruction project loan to Denmark on August 22, 1947 ($402 million) and a loan of $121 million to Luxembourg for a steel mill and railway project six days later. By the following year, IBRD was characterizing its loans to Europe as “post-reconstruction,” the first of which was to four Dutch shipping companies on August 9, 1948 in the amount of $121 million. IBRD’s first “development” loan, approved on March 25, 1948 followed the four earlier “reconstruction” loans to France, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Luxembourg. That loan approved on March 25, 1948 provided $148 million for hydroelectric and irrigation projects in Chile, followed within the next twelve months by IBRD’s first sector loan on January 7, 1949 for an Electric Power Development Project in Mexico ($216  million) and a power and telephone project approved on January 27, 1949 in Brazil ($672  million). The above quotation is from World Bank, John Jay McCloy: 2nd World Bank President, 1947-1949.

[18] The last loan to a western European country was to Portugal for a “Regional Development Project” on April 11, 1989 in the amount of $90 million. In addition, three southern European countries continued to borrow throughout the 1970s: Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

[19] It is worth noting here that the general sentiment among Latin American governments was that they had supported European “reconstruction” during the immediate post-war period and that Europe’s successful recovery “meant that their own children’s needs were now as, or more pressing than, those of Europe;” Maggie Black, The Children of the Nations: The Story of UNICEF (New York: United Nations Children’s Fund, 1986) quoting Roberto Oliveria de Campos of Brazil.

[20] See also D. John Shaw, Turning Point in the Evolution of Soft Financing: The United Nations and the World Bank, Canadian Journal of Development Studies / Revue Canadienne d’Etudes du Developpement 26 (2005), p. 43-61.

[21] Richard Jolly in his obituary of Sir Hans Singer (The Guardian, Wednesday 1 March 1, 2006) recounts the following story: “In the 1950s, as secretary to the committee which recommended the creation of a UN fund for economic development, Singer did much of the technical work to create a soft-loan facility for poor countries. The fund was to be called by the acronym Unfed, until Singer pointed out how unfortunate a name this would be. So, as he delighted in telling, it became Sunfed, the Special UN fund.

[22] World Bank, Transcript of interview with Davidson Sommers (1961).

[23] See
also the Copenahgen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development
adopted at the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development during March 1995.

[24] The “Four Freedoms,” enunciated in President Roosevelt’s Annual Message to Congress on January 6, 1941, are: “The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.Transcript of President’s annual message to Congress (January 6, 1941), Records of the United States Senate; SEN 77A-H1; Record Group 46 (Washington, DC: United States National Archives and Records Administration).

[25] I have identified a few examples of consistency between “human rights” articulated in the UN Universal Declaration (UNUDHR) and “civil rights” included in the United States Constitution (USC), as follows: (i) UNUDHR Article 4/USC 13th Amendment; UNUDHR Article 5/USC 4th Amendment; UNUDHR Article 7/USC 14th Amendment; UNUDHR Article 11(1)/USC 5th Amendment; and UNUDHR Articles 18 & 19/USC 1st Amendment. There are additional consistencies and I invite readers to try and find them.

[26] Examples of new “rights” established by the UNUDHR include, but are not limited to, “the right to marry and to found a family…[based on] onlythe free and full consent of the intending spouses [Article 16(1,2)]…; the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment [Article 23(1)]; the right to equal pay for equal work [Article 23(2)]…; the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay [Article 24]; the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control [Article 25(1); and] the right to education…[that] shall be free [through] at leastthe elementary and fundamental stages…[that] shall [also] be compulsory….”

[27] Perhaps the two most important implementing covenants are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Many UN delegations had originally expected that EcoSoc would prepare a single follow-up Covenant on Human Rights that would provide a mechanism for individual citizens to “write to” the UN Human Rights Commission to complain of any government’s violation of “rights” established by the Universal Declaration. But a schism arose between some member-states that were most interested in civil and political rights, including the United States, and some others more interested in economic and social rights. A diplomatic summary of that dispute was provided in speech by Eleanor Roosevelt, spouse of the deceased American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and elected head of the UN Human Rights Commission from 1946 to 1952 (Statement on Draft Covenant on Human Rights, Department of State Bulletin, (December 31, 1951). In the event, EcoSoc’s draft follow-up agreement was split into two separate covenants, as referenced above. Those two convenants were negotiated and adopted by the General Assembly on December 16, 1966 with the hope that they would give practical effect to the Declaration. However, although the United States representative signed both covenants on October 5, 1977, the United States Senate did not ratify the one on civil and political rights for another fifteen years (June 8, 1992) while it still has not yet ratified the other one partly because some American Senators originally expressed the view that some its clauses are “communistic.” Other key UN Human Rights treaties, including whether or not they have been signed or ratified by the United States, are listed here:

According to the Human Rights Web, all countries have ratified at least one of the “core” UN human rights treaties, and 80% have ratified four or more. All international treaties registered with the UN Secretary-General as required of all UN member-states, whether or not the treaty is initiated or adopted by a UN organ, is available at the United Nations Treaties Database.

[28] See, for example, Globalising Economic and Social Human Rights by Strengthening Extraterritorial State Obligations published jointly by Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World, Stuttgart), FIAN – Deutschland. e.v. (Cologne), FIAN – International (Heidelberg), and Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst e.v. (Church Development Service, Bonn) during October 2006.

[29] Examples of UN TA for education included sponsorship of the Inter-American Seminar on Overall Planning for Education (Washington, DC, June 1958); the Regional Meeting of Representatives of Asian Member States on Primary and Compulsory Education (Karachi, 28 December 28, 1959-January 9, 1960); and the aforementioned Conference of African States on the Development of Education in Africa (Addis Ababa, May 15-25, 1961); see UNESCO, Elements of Educational Planning (Paris: United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization, nd).

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