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



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).    


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).


March 17, 2011

Increasingly in recent times we have come first to identify the remedy that is most agreeable, most convenient, most in accord with major pecuniary or political interest, the one that reflects our available faculty for action; then we move from the remedy so available or desired back to a cause to which that remedy is relevant. John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)

On Again, Off Again (Personal Reminiscences)1

It was 1982. I was in Sierra Leone as a World Bank short-term consultant. This was the Bank’s first joint agriculture sector review mission with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This assignment also represented several firsts for me as well. It was my first direct encounter with a UN System agency, my first participation in a World Bank mission, my first visit to West Africa, and my first involvement in long-term sector policy assessment and formulation.

I soon discovered that our IFAD colleagues were worried that Bank staff would ignore their desire to consult directly with smallholder farmers at the village level. But that turned out not to be the case and, as an outsider to both IFAD and the Bank, I found little difference in either style or focus between the staff of those two agencies.

Although I was not aware of it at the time, this collaboration with IFAD was evidence of a shift in World Bank attitudes toward United Nations (UN) agencies.  It also signified a growing interest in more participatory approaches, even if by only a small number of Bank staff. And unbeknownst to me, that had been the reason I had been employed by the Bank for this mission.

About eighteen months later (1984), I was hired as the World Bank’s first Institutional Development Specialist and assigned to a new Institutional Development, Technical Assistance, and Training projects division within what was then the Eastern and Southern Africa regional vice-presidency. There again I found an interesting sign of collaboration between the World Bank and the UN. That collaboration took the form of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) staff-unit embedded within our projects division. Indeed, the “training” designation in our Division’s title referred to that unit. I confess that I never really understood then nor do I know now what my UNDP colleagues actually did. All I knew was that, although their offices were integrated with ours, they attended our staff meetings, and were evaluated by our projects division chief, they actually had their own portfolio of activities, retained their status as UNDP staff, and were paid by UNDP. And about three years later the unit was dissolved, staff were reassigned either to UNDP headquarters in New York or to that agency’s field offices.

I did not have occasion to interact with any UN agency again until sometime during 1989 when I approached UNDP with a request for financing. Requests to UNDP or other UN entities for grant financing by World Bank staff were rare, but not completely unknown. In this case, I had proposed and received permission to launch a relatively low-cost effort to “develop local consulting capacity in Africa.” But that approval had come with a catch. Although I would have about twenty percent of my time released at the Bank’s expense, I would need to find grant financing for the actual activities elsewhere. So I prepared a draft scope of work and drafted a cover letter for my regional Vice-President to sign and send to several possible sources of grant financing. The only positive responses were from UNDP and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together pledging about $650 thousand. I naively thought that once the two memoranda of  understanding had been signed, the money would be released and I could proceed. But of course, that was not the case. The formal agreements still needed to be negotiated separately and appropriate paperwork prepared and  signed before any money would actually be transferred to the World Bank trust fund account established for this specific activity. And as busy as I was with my normal tasks within the Bank, it appeared that my colleagues in The Hague and New York were even busier. A brief visit to the Ministry in The Hague did the trick there. But it soon became clear to me that a truly understaffed office in New York was attaching a relatively low-priority to the processing of the necessary paperwork and, therefore, the UNDP money might never be actually available. As they explained, it was not that they didn’t want to do it, but they didn’t have the staff-time to do it.

So I invited myself to New York, asked them for an office, and examples of paperwork previously completed for other trust fund arrangements and, with their permission, typed the letters required on UNDP letterhead and personally collected the four or five required signatures so that the letters could be sent to my Managers at the Bank; all of which was completed in one full day. Only a few days later, that signed paperwork arrived in Washington, DC, the trust fund was established, and the money was transferred. I tell this story not to embarrass anyone in UNDP those many years ago, but rather to illustrate the fact that degrees of collaboration between agencies like the World Bank and UNDP are not simply a function of policy, but of the relative priorities and incentives among managers and staff of collaborating organizations.

My next encounter with a UN agency was indirect, even if a bit disconcerting. Although I am a political scientist, my advocacy and modeling of participatory approaches led to my assignment in 1995 as Manager of the “UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Program” (WSP) unit for the “East Asia and Pacific Region” (WSPEAP) headquartered in Jakarta. Established in 1979 as a partnership between UNDP and the World Bank, the WSP was an early example of international consortia managed by the World Bank with regular World Bank staff but financed by grants from multiple donors; the most well-known of which is probably the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) established eight years before. However, although largely financed by UNDP during its earlier years as a program to develop and test very low-cost hand pump and latrine designs suitable for local manufacture, it had shifted by the early 1990s to the design and implementation of small-scale pilot projects meant to demonstrate the efficiency of demand-driven approaches to the design and implementation of projects for provision of safe water and effective sanitation to poor people.

By the time I came aboard in 1995, UNDP headquarters was no longer providing core financing, although individual UNDP country-programs did continue to finance some WSP pilot projects. Financing for our Program in East Asia was provided primarily by the Australian, Swedish, and Swiss bi-lateral aid agencies and from within the World Bank itself as our approach was increasingly incorporated into the design of the Bank’s larger loan or credit financed projects. My satisfaction as a regular World Bank staff with the increasing integration into mainstream World Bank operations was off-set by our apparent inability to establish effective collaboration with other UN system organizations, especially UNICEF’s separate water and sanitation program in the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic.

Although UNDP had been heavily involved in the original establishment of the WSP, UNICEF’s own discrete water and sanitation projects were designed and implemented by its own separate staff that were also resident in many of the same countries as UNDP. And despite similar demand-driven approaches to expanding water and sanitation facilities and services to the rural and urban poor, both groups viewed each other as competitors rather than collaborators. Our own Country Program Officer in Vientiane was bedeviled by what he viewed as UNICEF’s successive rejections of overtures to establish closer operational collaboration. However, although maintaining friendly diplomatic relationships with the UNICEF resident office in Vientiane was valuable, it soon became apparent to me that actual collaborative planning and/or implementation was unlikely because our respective institutional incentives pulled us in separate directions. Both groups were scrambling for money from the same bi-lateral donors and staff were not likely to be promoted on the grounds that they deferred to another organization in the interests of greater overall efficiencies. Eventually, our nominally shared UN system identities disappeared as UNDP financing of the joint program ended and the official name of the Program was ultimately changed to “The Water and Sanitation Program” (WSP) in April 2000 to better reflect the multi-donor nature of its financing. Nonetheless, although UNDP no longer finances the Program, its representative continues to serve on its Program Council.2


The conventional expectation at the end of World War II was that the new International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) would focus primarily on providing financial support to member-states while the United Nations (UN) concentrated on global collective security. Nonetheless, it was also expected that IBRD would operate within a broader policy context coordinated by the UN, as implied in Article V of its Articles of Agreement:

The Bankshall cooperate with any general international organization and with public international organizations having specialized responsibilities in related fields…. In making decisions on applications for loans or guarantees relating to matters directly within the competence of any international organizationparticipated in primarily by members of the Bank, the Bank shall give consideration to the views and recommendations of such organization.

True, that single Article is not as specific as the multiple provisions specifying the role of the Economic and Social Council (EcoSoc) within the UN Charter. But there is also other evidence that IBRD was expected to operate within the broader mandate of the UN.
One example is provided by the active lobbying by several Latin American delegations in San Francisco for expanding EcoSoc’s power and responsibilities as a direct channel for post-war financial aid to non-European states,4 a position directly opposed by the Soviet Union’s view that the UN should limit itself to ensuring “collective security” and not much else.5 However, the Latin Americans prevailed as EcoSoc was explicitly tasked with consideration, coordination, and recommendation of proposed economic and social activities (Articles 61-72). But that victory was ultimately incomplete — and therein lays a tale.

The telling of that tale will be presented in a series of five separate blog posts. This first post provides a summary comparison of the UN System and World Bank Group. Part #2 (“Building Walls”) presents the story of their relations during the period from 1946 through the 1950s. Part #3 (“Mending Fences”) extends the story to the evolution of the relationship during the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, Part #4 (“Tensions Re-Emerge”) summarizes relations during the 1980s and 1990s while Part #5 (“Older and Wiser?”) focuses on the period since the year 2000.

Similarities & Differences

The overall structure of the United Nations System and World Bank Group has been described in previous posts. Both of those groups have expanded exponentially since their creation. Given that both the UN and World Bank were born from the same parents almost simultaneously, the extent of differences among organizations both within and between those two broad institutional systems is surprising:

  1. Although membership in all entities within the UN System and World Bank Group is limited to sovereign- states, all members of the United Nations General Assembly are not necessarily members of IBRD (or other World Bank subsidiary bodies or specific UN specialized agencies);
  2. Although sovereign-state members are represented by their respective governments within UN System and World Bank Group entities, different agencies within those governments represent them in those different international bodies (for example, [i] ministries of foreign affairs generally represent their governments in the General Assembly and Security Council, [II] bi-lateral development agencies, ministries of external affairs, or sector-specific line ministries normally represent them in specialized agencies, and [iii] ministries of finance or central banks normally represent them in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund [IMF]);
  3. Although informal agreements existed that the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the President of the World Bank should both be Americans,6 a wide range of other nationalities have always served in the highest leadership position of other UN specialized agencies;
  4. Although senior leaders within both systems stressed the importance of “country-knowledge” among staff, the UN system began posting Resident Representatives to client countries very early-on while the World Bank continues to rely primarily on staff and consultants dispatched from its Washington headquarters; and
  5. Although the UN system fairly rapidly expanded its interests in international development assistance and capacity to provide it, the attention of its overall leadership and Secretariat staff remains focused on, in the words of Craig Murphy, “matters of international high politics.”7

In addition to the differences summarized above, three others are even more fundamental: (1) their respective decision-making structures; (2) their sources of finance; and (3) the terms under which development assistance is provided.


It is generally well understood that the United Nations General Assembly operates on the principle of “one country, one vote” without regard to the different amount of dues paid by each individual member-state. That is also true of all other UN “principal organs” except for the Security Council where China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States each have an absolute veto. Less well understood is that decision-making structures vary among UN specialized agencies, including the World Bank Group and IMF.

It is impossible to describe that entire range of variation among UN System agencies within this blog post. But in broad terms, there are three broad decision-making arenas within the UN and World Bank Group systems. The first two are the “principle organs” of the United Nations where decisions made by individual member-states are directly represented and the various “secretariats” where the professional leadership and staff of UN subsidiary bodies and specialized agencies make operational decisions themselves.8 The third arena is found primarily within the walls of the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, DC where, although officially part of the United Nations system, decisions are independently made by its middle and senior managers.9 With that three-fold classification in mind, the remainder of this blog post focuses primarily on the relationship between UNDP and its predecessor agencies on the one hand with IBRD and the International Development Association (IDA) on the other hand.

Financing Development Assistance

Most welfare and development-oriented UN entities provide assistance as grants. Although grants do not require repayment, some cost-sharing is almost always required of recipient governments. Nonetheless, because most UN activities are financed by grants it is most often limited to provision of technical assistance or training.

Although a few, relatively small, grants are sometimes provided by the World Bank, the overwhelming majority of its finance is provided by IBRD in the form of “loans” at or near market interest rates and zero-interest concessional “credits” provided by IDA. Differences between IDA and IBRD are limited to: (1) sources of finance; (2) eligibility for finance; and (3) fees charged borrowers and terms of repayment. The principal amount of IDA credits must eventually be paid back, but only a small fee of half of one percent is charged, there is normally a ten-year grace period before repayment begins, and full repayment is extended for twenty to thirty years beyond that. Since 1970 (the date from which adequate time-series data is available), World Bank financing has been substantially larger than that provided by the UN’s largest agencies.

According to the World Bank’s current classification scheme, member-countries are eligible to borrow from IDA only if their per capita income was less than $1,165 during 200910 and they are not sufficiently credit-worthy to borrow from IBRD. That means that only countries classified as “lower-income” plus a few at the very lowest end of the “lower middle income” range might be eligible. Member-states with per capita incomes above $1,165 but less than $12,196 are eligible for IBRD loans. “High income” member-states with incomes of above $12,195 are not eligible for any borrowing from the World Bank. A few lower middle-income “blend” countries like India and China have been allowed to maintain a mixed-status allowing access to borrowing some combination of IBRD loans and IDA credits that effectively lower the aggregate amount of interest they are charged.

Sources of Finance

Financing formulas and arrangements vary substantially among different United Nations organizations and commissions.  A very brief comparison of the way the UN General Assembly, UNDP, UN Specialized Agencies, IBRD, and IDA are financed is provided below.

UN General Assembly Authorized Core Budget & Peacekeeping. UN member-states are assessed dues for three-year periods. Dues range from a maximum “ceiling” of twenty-two percent of the total core budget to a minimum “floor” of only 1/1,000th of one percent based primarily on estimates of each member’s gross national income (GNI). Since the founding of the UN, the United States has been the only country whose dues are levied at the maximum rate; from at least fifty percent of the UN’s regular core budget in 1945 to one-third in 1955 and twenty-two percent of the UN’s 2010 core budget.11

UNDP. As a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly, the UN’s regular core budget subsidizes a small percentage of its total expenditures. The remainder is raised directly through direct negotiations with UN member-states. At the time that UNDP’s predecessor Extended Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) was established in 1949, its leadership understood that its financial survival required two things: (1) continued voluntary support by the United States, including by both Congress and the President, and (2) increasing contributions by Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden, that had escaped relatively unscathed from World War II. Therefore, it is not surprising that the United States voluntarily contributed a full sixty percent of its budget in 1949 and declined only slowly to fifty percent by 1958 at the dawn of the de-colonization era. Nonetheless, by 2004, the United States contribution had declined to only about twelve percent of what had become the UNDP budget.

UN Specialized Agencies. By contrast with subsidiary organs like UNDP, specialized agencies are not normally subsidized even in part by the UN’s regular core budget. Instead, they negotiate the amount of dues with each of their own member-states directly. In addition, several agencies like UNICEF also raise funds from both public and private sources. Some agencies also contract their services directly to individual member-states; as UNESCO, UNICEF, and WHO did to the United States Government in Iraq during 2003 and 2004.12

IBRD. By contrast to all UN principal organs (other than the Security Council), subsidiary bodies, and almost all other specialized agencies, World Bank Group entities and the IMF employ a weighted voting system whereby the share of total votes held by each individual member-state is determined by their relative share of subscribed capital. Nonetheless, the actual voting power of individual member-states varies within each of the Bank Group’s five entities.

With specific respect to IBRD, the minimum number of shares assigned to each member is tied to the financial “quota” that state is required to deposit with the IMF.13 Because the voting power of original and early members of the Bank (Articles of Agreement, Article V) has declined as the number of member-states has increased, the United States’ share of total IBRD votes has been dramatically reduced from the thirty-seven percent of the total in 1944 to today’s sixteen percent (click below for Figure 1).

Figure 1 – WB Voting Shares (1947-2005)

The primary difference between the manner in which the United Nations, IMF, IDA, and IBRD are financed is that, unlike all those others, IBRD member-states are not required to pay-in the full amount of their capital subscriptions. Instead, the overwhelming bulk of IBRD’s resources come from borrowing in the private sector financial markets (Article IV), the collateral for which are the financial guarantees by its sovereign-state members that their unpaid capital subscriptions will be available if required to meet the Bank’s obligations (Article II). Although available, calls on unpaid capital subscriptions have never been necessary. Indeed, the Bank has always posted an annual profit. In 2007, that profit exceeded $1.65 billion.14 That, in turn, has enabled IBRD to provide substantial funding in its own right to IDA and various other multi-donor trust funds managed by the Bank. Because the bulk of IBRD financing is raised through the private sector bond market, the need to establish and maintain a superior credit rating among international private investors has been critical to the IBRD’s financial success. Indeed, IBRD’s “first bonds, issued  in July 1947, were substantially oversubscribed.” According to the private non-profit Bank Information Center (BIC), the IBRD had by 2008:

paid-in capital of US$11.5 billion and callable capital of US$178 billion…. [and] with capital backing of nearly US$200  billion from its member governments.., [had a] “AAA” credit rat[ing] and [is able to on-]lend those funds to  borrowers at rates slightly below those offered by commercial lenders.15

IDA. IDA was established in 1960 for reasons that will be discussed in Part #2 of this five-part series. Although it operates under the terms of  its own Articles of Agreement, it is actually a fund rather than a separate organization. Indeed, the managers and staff of IBRD and IDA are exactly the same. The procedures for identifying, appraising, supervising, and evaluating IDA credits are also the same. As a separate fund, IDA is financed primarily by contributions from its members pledged approximately every three years during “replenishment rounds;”16 the seventeenth of which begins during 2011. Those funds are also supplemented by repayment of previous IDA credits and direct contributions from IBRD profits. Although not very large to date, those repayments will increase as IDA’s very long-term repayment periods are increasingly reached over future years. As in the case of IBRD, voting within IDA is weighted according to the number of shares subscribed, but the amount of shares subscribed is entirely voluntary.17 Because all members of IBRD are not also members of IDA18 and the number of shares is voluntarily subscribed, the share of votes held by each member-state varies from those exercised within IBRD. Thus, while the United States currently holds only sixteen percent of votes within IBRD, it holds eleven percent of votes within IDA.19

Summary Conclusion

As will be illustrated in subsequent parts of this five-fold series, different sources of finance, membership, and voting formulas account for many of the different priorities and behaviors among UN and World Bank organizations rather than different moral principles. Differences in financial sources limited UN system entities largely to technical assistance and education assistance while enabling the World Bank to provide substantial capital for large-scale infrastructure development. As will be demonstrated in the following four parts of this series, those different capacities led their respective organizations in different directions. As only one example, while UNICEF was established in 1946 and WHO two years later, the World Bank did not begin to finance projects in the education and health sectors until 1962 and 1979 respectively (click below for data provided in Figure 3).

Figure 3 — UN/WB Comparisons: Macro-Organizational & Thematic (1947-2011)



[1]All “Personal Reminiscence” posts are stories told about one or more of my own personal experiences as I remember it. They are true to the best of my ability to recollect them and reflect my view of how they illustrate “lessons learned” from that experience even if one or another aspect of the story as told might not be completely correct in each and every detail. Further, I have done my best to disguise the identity of other persons referred to in these stories, including not using their true names unless references to their presence at that time or circumstance has already been published by others in other media.

[2] WSP’s current donors include Australia; Austria; Canada; Denmark; Finland; France; Ireland; Luxembourg; Netherlands; Norway; Sweden; Switzerland; United Kingdom; United States; The World Bank; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

[3] Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly and Thomas G. Weiss point out that “there is no comprehensive history of the United Nations (UN), either institutional or intellectual…. [even though] several specialized agencies have written or are in the process of writing their institutional histories.” That contrasts with the publication of two large histories of the World Bank, both of which were sponsored by the Bank to commemorate its 25th and 50th anniversaries (Edward Mason and Robert Asher, The World Bank Since Bretton Woods [Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1973] and Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, two volumes [Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997]), and the employment of an in-house historian who ensures the capture of its place in history with regular publications (for example, James Boughton, Silent Revolution: The International Monetary Fund 1979–1989 (Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2001). See Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly and Thomas G. Weiss, Economic and Social Thinking at the UN in Historical Perspective, Development and Change 36 (2005), p. 211–235.

[4] Latin American delegations argued forcefully that EcoSoc’s authority to “recommend” development projects and policies should be understood to have the force of a directive or veto with respect to the decisions of any UN subsidiary or specialized agency. They formulated that position following the Inter-American Conference on the Problems of War and Peace at the Chapultepec “Castle” in Mexico City from February 21 to March 8, 1945 in response to the United States delegation’s statement that its priority for post-war financing – and by extension the IBRD’s priority as well — would be the reconstruction of Allied European economies rather than development of Latin American economies that had largely stagnated during the War. See the Declarations on Reciprocal Assistance and American Solidarity, known as the “Act of Chapultepec,” see United States Army Information School, “Pillars of Peace in Documents Pertaining to American Interest in Establishing A Lasting World Peace: January 1941 – February 1946 (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: Army Information School Book Department, May 1946). Also see Jean Krasno, A Step Along an Evolutionary Path: The Founding of the United Nations, Global Dialogue 2 (Spring 2000); Colombia’s Resolution on Aggression Introduced at Inter-American Conference; New York Times (February 23, 1945); Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, Reminiscence of William Sanders, written responses to questions as part of Oral History Project (August, 1975); and Jerry Mark Silverman, An International Economic History of Latin America & The Caribbean in Jose de Arimateia da Cruz and Eduardo Gomez (ed.), Latin America in the New International System: Challenges and Opportunity (Boston: Pearson Custom Publishers, 2005), p. 57-96.

[5]See Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, Oral History Interview with August Maffry, interview conducted by Richard D. McKinzie as part of Oral History Project (January 19, 1973).

[6] The informal agreement with respect to the World Bank Group is still apparently in effect, although increasing noises are made to end it. The informal agreement with respect to UNDP ended with the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown, a citizen of the United Kingdom and at the time the World Bank’s Vice-President for both External Affairs and United Nations Affairs, as UNDP’s 6th Administrator on April 23, 1999. He was the first UNDP Administrator who was not a United States citizen to serve in his own right since the establishment of UNDP in 1966. He was succeeded by Kemal Dervis, a citizen of Turkey and also former World Bank Vice-President, in  August 2005 and by Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand on April 17, 2009.

[7] Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly, and Thomas Weiss assert that “…UN secretaries-general basically confirm that political and security crises tend to fill all the available time, and that economic and social issues assume a lower priority.” They quote Javier Perez de Cuellar, UN Secretary-General from January 1, 1982 to December 31, 1991, to bolster that statement: “Coming from the Third World, I was especially unhappy during my ten years as Secretary-General with the failure of the United Nations to work as a system more effectively for economic and social development . . . It can be persuasively argued that, over the years, there has been inadequate leadership on the part of the Secretary-General and the UN Secretariat in placing the United Nations in the forefront of economic thinking . . . Moreover, the political and administrative demands on the Secretary-General have always come first. See 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. Javier Perez de Cuellar’s quote is from his Pilgrimage for Peace (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1990) while Craig Murphy’s quote is from The United Nations Development Programme: A Better Way? (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006). A history “commissioned by UNDP” that is nonetheless “an independent publication” in which the “views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations Development Programme.

[8] The identification and formulation of two of these four “arenas” is borrowed from Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly and Thomas G. Weiss who differentiate within the UN system between the “arena where states make decisions” and “the leadership and staff of international secretariats.” See Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly and Thomas G. Weiss, Economic and Social Thinking at the UN in Historical Perspective, Development
and Change
36 (2005), p. 211–235 and Thomas Weiss, David Forsythe, and Roger Coate, The United Nations and Changing World Politics 4th edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004).

[9] For reasons discussed in a forthcoming blog post (“From United States to World Bank Dominance”), the World Bank’s executive directors do not significantly affect World Bank Group decisions.

[10] The IDA-eligible per capita income ceiling is recalculated by the World Bank on July 1st of each year using its Atlas method.

[11] For illustrative purposes, the top ten member-state assessments for the UN regular core budget for 2005-2007 (the most recent year for which I could find data) were: United States (22.0%); Japan (19.5%); Germany (8.7%); United Kingdom (6.1%); France (6.0%); Italy (4.9%); Canada (2.8%); Spain (2.5%); China (2.1%); and Mexico (1.9%); United Nations, Questions and Answers about the United Nations (June 30, 2006). See also the United Nations Association of the United States of America, U.S. Dues and Contributions.

[12] I have personal knowledge of UNESCO’s, UNICEF’s, and WHO’s participation in that part of the Coalition Provisional Authority’s program administered by USAID in Iraq for only the years 2003 and 2004. I do not know how long they individually or collectively continued that involved beyond April 2004.

[13] According to IBRD’s Articles of Agreement (Article IV), “each member shall have two hundred fifty votes plus one additional vote for each share of stock held.” See also World Bank, Voting Powers, Board of Directors.

[14]Bank Information Center (BIC), World Bank (IBRD & IDA).


[16] Article III of IDA’s Articles of Agreement suggests that replenishments will occur “approximately five years” apart, but in fact several member-states have refused to make commitments beyond three years at a time.

[17] According to IDA’s Articles of Agreement (Article VI), “each original member shall, in respect of its initial subscription, have five hundred votes plus one additional vote for each $5,000 of its initial subscription.”

[18] As of June 25, 2010, IDA’s total membership consisted of 170 sovereign-states equivalent to 91% of IBRD’s total membership of 187. The 17 IBRD members that have not joined IDA to date are: Antigua and Barbuda; Bahrain; Belarus; Brunei; Bulgaria; Jamaica; Lithuania; Malta; Namibia; Qatar; Romania; San Marino; Seychelles; Suriname; Turkmenistan; Uruguay; and Venezuela.

[19] See International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Management’s Discussion and Analysis, The World Bank Annual Report 2010 (June 30, 2010).

Keywords: agriculture, Argentina, Asia, August Maffry, Australia, Austria, Bank Information Center, BIC, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Blend countries, Canada, capacity-building, CGIAR, Chapultepec Conference, China, Coalition Provisional Authority, collective security, Community-based social development projects, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, consulting capacity in Africa, Craig Murphy, credits, David Forsythe, Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification, Decade for Disabled Persons, Decade for Eradication of Poverty, Decade for Industrial Development in Africa, Decade for Sustainable Development, Decade for Women, Decade for World’s Indigenous People, Decade to roll back malaria in developing countries, particularly in Africa, Denmark, Department for International Development, development banks, development corporations, DFID, East Germany, Eastern Europe, Economic and Social Council, EcoSoc, education, Egypt, EPTA, FAO, Finland, First Development Decade, Food and Agriculture Organization, Fourth Development Decade, France, General Assembly, Germany, health, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, Helen Clark, Human Development Reports, IARD, IBRD, IBRD Articles of Agreement, ICSID, IDA, IDA Articles of Agreement, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, industry, Inter-American Conference on the Problems of War and Peace, integrated rural development projects, integrated urban development projects, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, international civil servants, International Development Association, International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labour Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Water and Sanitation Decade, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Jean Krasno, Kermal Dervis, Lao PDR, Latin America, Literacy Decade: Education for All, loans, Louis Emmerij, Luxembourg, Mark Malloch Brown, MDGs, Middle East, Millennium Development Goals, MIGA, Monroe Doctrine, Multilateral Insurance Guarantee Association, National Institute of Planning, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, North Africa, North America, Norway, peace-keeping, policy-based lending, ports, programs, projects, PSM, public administration, public sector management, public utilities, railways, Richard Jolly, roads, Roger Coate, Russia, Sadat Academy of Management, SAMS, San Francisco Conference, Scandinavia, Second Decade for Eradication of Poverty, Second Decade for Industrial Development in Africa, Second Decade for Transport and Communications in Africa, Second Decade for World’s Indigenous People, Second Development Decade, Second World War, Security Council, Sierra Leone, South Asia, Southern Europe, Soviet Union, Spain, Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development, structural adjustment, Sub-Saharan Africa, SUNFED, Sweden, Switzerland, Third Development Decade, Thomas Weiss, training, transport, UK, UN, UN Charter, UN System, UNDP, UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNRWA, UNSF, United Kingdom, United Nations, United Nations Childrens’ Fund, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization, United Nations Expanded Program for Technical Assistance, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Population Fund, United Nations principal organs, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, United Nations Resident Representatives, United Nations Secretariats, United Nations Special Fund, United Nations specialized agencies, United Nations subsidiary bodies, United Nations System, United States, United States Agency for International Development, United States Congress, United States President, USAID, Vientiane, Water and Sanitation Program, Water for Life Decade, West Africa, Western Europe, WFP, WHO, William Sanders, World Bank, World Bank Group, World Bank Resident Representatives, World Food Programme, World Health Organization, World War II, WSP, Yalta Conference.


March 3, 2011

In politics, what begins in fear ends in folly. Samuel Taylor Coleridge  (1772-1834)

The United Nations

The United Nations Charter was agreed by forty-eight internationally recognized sovereign-states plus three other governmental entities1 at the San Francisco Conference from April 25 to June 26, 1945; although the United Nations (UN) was not actually established until October 24, 1945 when twenty-nine countries acceded to the Charter.

United States, United Kingdom, & Soviet Union Take the Lead

The UN Charter was the result of compromises negotiated primarily between the United States and United Kingdom on one side and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR; Soviet Union) on the other. Those negotiations began when the four “sponsoring powers” of The United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and China met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington,
D.C. from August 21 to October 7, 1944 to prepare the draft design of a permanent “World Organization.” Negotiations continued among President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference between February 4th and 11th 1945, and was finally concluded at the San Francisco Conference four months later. Whatever their differences, all three of the UN’s initial sponsors viewed its primary purpose as political, to provide for the “collective security” of its member-states following World War II. Indeed, the UN was viewed as one part of a new four-part international architecture with each part established to address one of the four pillars of a new peace. While the UN addressed collective security, the other three pillars included a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) to “smooth” fluctuations in balance of payments among states, a new International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) to provide investment finance for post-war recovery and economic growth, and a new international trade organization to promote “free trade” by fostering reductions in trade barriers.2

UN Structure

Article 7 of the UN Charter established six “principal organs of the United Nations,” including a Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council (EcoSoc), International Court of Justice,3 Trusteeship Council, and Secretariat headed by a Secretary-General. The last UN “Trust Territory,” Palau, attained independent sovereign-state status and UN membership on October 1, 1994 and, therefore, the Trusteeship Council suspended operations one month later.4 Nonetheless, the UN’s organizational arrangements at the end of 1946 reflected that original overarching structure and not much else (click on “Figure 1 – United Nations: Structure 1946″ below).

Figure 1 — United Nations: Structure 1946

At that time, the only development oriented UN entities were UNICEF, the Commissions on Status of Women and Population, and three semi-autonomous “specialized agencies.” Nonetheless, Article 7 also provided for the future establishment of “such subsidiary organs as may be found necessary.” Under the umbrella of that future oriented clause, the “United Nations System” now encompasses a vast collection of entities (click on Figure 2 – United Nations: Structure 2010″ below), including about forty-

Figure 2 — United Nations: Structure 2010

three “development” and three “humanitarian” oriented entities distributed across the General Assembly, Secretariat, and EcoSoc. The remainder of this blog post is limited to discussion of the UN System’s development and humanitarian functions5 rather than its parallel collective security6 and regulatory activities.7


As late as 1959, the number of development and humanitarian oriented entities within the UN System had grown to fourteen. But in response to the accelerating pace of de-colonization during the UN’s First Development Decade (1960-1969), that number jumped to thirty-five by 1989 and increased by another eleven since then. Provision of significant amounts of development assistance was clearly not part of the founder’s original vision. Although the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded in 1945, followed the next year by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Commissions on the Status of Women and Population, the first two multi-purpose development-oriented UN entities (the Expanded Program of Technical Assistance [EPTA] and United Nations Special Fund [UNSF]) were not established until 1949 and 1958 respectively.

Indeed, it was not until the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was founded in 1960 that an attempt was made to centralize coordination of all technical assistance financed by UN entities. But the position of Director-General for Development and International Cooperation did not follow until seventeen years later. And that position was, in turn, abolished in 1992 as the UN’s centralized approach to coordinating technical assistance was largely abandoned in response to increasingly separate efforts by specialized agencies to mobilize their own resources directly from individual donor countries. As a result, UNDP transformed itself around 1995 from a central fund to a direct provider of development assistance grant-financed projects. But only two years later, the perceived need for coordination of the vast array of UN development and humanitarian efforts resulted in the newly designated United Nations Development Group chaired by the UNDP Administrator and the designation of the UNDP Resident Representative in each country as the UN Resident Coordinator ostensibly responsible for creating positive synergies among proliferating efforts of various UN development entities within those countries with a UNDP presence.8

Resource Allocations9

A full forty-three percent of average contributions to the UN budget for the period 2006 to 2008 were allocated to “development-related activities;” followed by peacekeeping (22%), humanitarian assistance (21%), and global policy, advocacy, norms, and standards (14%). Within the “development” and “humanitarian” arena, the distribution among sectors was as follows: health (28%); general development issues (19%); social development (11%); agriculture, forestry, and fisheries (7%); education and population (6%); the environment (5%); human settlements (4%); industry (2%); and miscellaneous other (9%). Nonetheless, only ten of today’s forty-six development and humanitarian oriented UN entities absorbed a full ninety-percent of total contributions to the UN System’s aggregate 2008 budget.10 The remaining ten percent was allocated to the other thirty-six entities combined.

UN Subsidiary Bodies & Specialized Agencies

Of the forty-six development and humanitarian oriented entities within the UN System, twenty-four (52%) are found within the ambit of EcoSoc; another twenty are responsible to the General Assembly; and the remaining two are found within the UN’s Secretariat. In addition to these more or less permanent entities, various ad hoc bodies are also created by vote of the General Assembly or Security Council from time-to-time in response to one or another temporary crisis. The extent to which any UN entity is actually responsible to one or another of the six “principal organs” of the UN varies substantially. Nonetheless, the most fundamental difference is found between entities responsible to the General Assembly plus the EcoSoc commissions and other bodies on the one hand and, on the other hand, specialized agencies within the ambit of EcoSoc.

General Assembly Entities

Entities responsible to the General Assembly are established by majority vote of all members of the United Nations. The General Assembly has supervisory rights with respect to those organizations and includes at least partial funding of those entities within the regular UN budget approved by all UN member-states (although the budgets of only a few such individual entities are financed completely by that budget). All member-states of the UN are automatically members of those entities.

Economic & Social Council Entities

According to the UN Charter, EcoSoc was established to create –

conditions of stability and well-beingnecessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples…[by] promot[ing] higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development; solutions of international economic, social, health, and related
problems; and international cultural and educational cooperation; and universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion
(Article 55).

EcoSoc consists of fifty-four member-states elected for three-year terms by vote of the entire General Assembly (Articles 61). It is authorized to conduct –

studies and reports with respect to international economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related matters and may make recommendations with respect to any such matters to the General Assembly, to the Members of the United Nations, and to the specialized agencies concerned [including]…. recommendations for the purpose of promoting respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,… prepare draft conventions for submission to the General Assembly…. [and organize] international conferences on matters falling within its competence (Article 62).

Commissions & Other Bodies. EcoSoc’s authority to establish “commissions” is embedded in Article 68. Such commissions and other bodies are established, as well as other decisions taken, by majority vote of its fifty-four elected member-states (Article 67) and are included in its budget (although as in the case of General Assembly entities, few are financed completely by that budget). Twenty-four development-oriented entities are within the purview of EcoSoc, thirteen of which (54%) are directly responsible to it as functional or regional commissions or “other bodies.” The executive heads of specific EcoSoc Funds and Programs report directly to EcoSoc after appointment by the UN Secretary General and confirmation by the General Assembly.11 Although EcoSoc maintains a “Chief Executives Board for Coordination” and high-level committees on Programs and Management, its most effective operational entities are its five regional commissions. Three of those are styled Economic Commissions: for Europe (ECE, established in Geneva 1947); Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC, Santiago [Chile] 1948); and Africa (ECA, Addis Ababa 1958). The other two are styles Economic and Social Commissions: for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP, Bangkok 1947) and Western Asia (ESCWA, Beirut 1973).

Specialized Agencies. United Nations “specialized agencies” range from completely autonomous to semi-autonomous membership organizations with their own directors, management, and budgets. They are each established separately under
the terms of their own individual Charters or Articles of Agreement12 and do not require approval by any Principal Organ of the United Nations prior to being established. UN members are not required to join specialized agencies nor is membership in any specific specialized agency guaranteed to UN members. Indeed, several specialized agencies existed prior to the establishment of the United Nations itself.13

According to the UN Charter, EcoSoc’s overarching responsibility with specific respect to specialized agencies is to bring them —

into relationship with the United Nations [Article 57]…. subject to approval by the General Assembly…[and] may co-ordinate the activities of the specialized agencies through consultation with and recommendations to such agencies….[To achieve that objective,] the Economic and Social Council may enter into agreements with any potential or existing special agencies…defining the terms on which the agency concerned shall be brought into relationship with the United Nations. [Article 63]…. such agencies thus brought into relationship with the United Nations are hereinafter referred to as specialized agencies [Article 57].

In addition to that recruitment function, EcoSoc is also authorized to –

make recommendations for the co-ordination of the policies and activities of the specialized agencies [Article 58]…. [as well as] take appropriate steps to obtain regular reports from the specialized agencies…. [and] may make arrangements with the Members of the United Nations and with the specialized agencies to obtain reports on the steps taken to give effect to its own recommendations and to recommendationsmade by the General Assembly [Article 64].

With those responsibilities of EcoSoc in mind, there are currently eleven development oriented specialized agencies that report in one way or another to EcoSoc.14 That includes all five of the World Bank Group’s constituent entities; and therein lays a tale. Indeed, this blog post is meant to lay the foundation for that next blog post.



[1] For reasons identified below, the Ukraine and Byelorussia Soviet Republics were admitted to the United Nations as “Charter” members, even though both of those “Republics” were constituent parts of the Soviet Union, and India (including what later became Pakistan and later yet Bangladesh) as another “Charter” member even though India did not gain legal sovereign-state status until August 15, 1947.  For those reasons, the United Nations claims fifty-one Charter Members, although only forty-eight of those entities were internationally recognized sovereign-states in 1945.

[2] In the event, an “international trade organization” was not established until the creation of the new World Trade Organization (WTO) on January 1, 1995. Nonetheless, a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was established on October 30, 1947 that, through its several sequential negotiation rounds, was directed toward that same objective. The WTO did not replace the GATT. Instead, the WTO institutionalized in organizational form the responsibility for managing the GATT’s ongoing negotiations process and enforcing decisions agreed during that process. Click here for information about the WTO.

[3] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) established as a Principal Organ of the United Nations by the UN Charter, effective in 1946, and located in The Hague should not to be confused with the International Criminal Court (ICC) established by the Treaty
of Rome
(July 17, 1998) made effective July 1, 2002. According to the ICJ’s website, it “has a dual role:settling legal disputes between States submitted to it by them and giving advisory opinions on legal matters referred to it by duly authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.” By contrast, the ICC, also located in The Hague, is not a part of the United Nations System and operates as a completely independent Court. According to its website, the ICC was “established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of… genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.” The United States is a member of the ICJ but not of the ICC. Click here for further information about the International Court of Justice and here for the International Criminal Court.

[4] The Trusteeship Council was responsible for monitoring the administration of dependent “Trustee” territories governed by external countries supposedly on behalf of the United Nations. The Council itself was composed of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, three of which (France, the UK, and USA) were also “Trustees” of UN Trustee Territories (China and the Russian Federation did not have direct “Trustee” responsibilities). In 1946, there were a large number of UN Trust Territories;
almost all of which were former Austro-Hungarian, German, Italian, Japanese, or Ottoman territories or colonies prior to either World War I or World War II. However, there are no UN Trust Territories today; although a relatively few dependent territories of several countries still do exist. Therefore, the Council suspended regularly schedule meetings on May 25, 1994 in favor meeting only “occasionally” when deemed necessary by its President or request of a majority of its members, the General Assembly, or the Security Council. Click here for more information about the Trusteeship Council.

[5] UN System entities have been classified by Jerry Mark Silverman as focusing primarily on regulatory,” “development,” “humanitarian,” or other miscellaneous functions. See endnote 7 for a list of entities classified as “regulatory.” The following UN
entities are classified here as being primarily focused on “development:” the International Trade Center (ITC) responsible to UNCTAD and WTO; Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP), UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW), UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), UN University (UNU), and World Food Programme (WFP) all of which are responsible to the General Assembly; UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), UN Volunteers (UNV), and UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) all of which are responsible to UNDP and through it to the General Assembly; and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) both of which are responsible to the Secretariat. There are eleven “development-orientedspecialized agencies within the ambit of the Economic and Social Council (see endnote 9). Finally, three entities are classified here as primarily focused on “humanitarian” rather than “development:” the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) both of which are responsible to the General Assembly and the specialized World Food Programme (WFP) agency within the ambit of EcoSoc.

[6] The following United Nations entities are classified here as primarily focused on collective security: Counter-Terrorism Committee, Military Staff Committee, Peacekeeping Operations and Missions, Sanctions Committees, Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, and the 1540 Committee all of which are responsible to the Security Council; the UN Peacebuilding Commission responsible to both the Security Council and General Assembly; UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and Preparatory Committee for the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO Prep.Com) all of which are responsible to the General Assembly; and Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) both responsible to the Secretariat. See United Nations, Structure and Organization and UN Organization Chart.

[7] The following United Nations entities are classified here as primarily focused on regulating some specific actions within the international political system: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reporting to Security Council; UN Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) responsible to UNODC; EcoSoc Commission on Narcotic Drugs; World Trade Organization (WTO,  autonomous); and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Universal Postal Union (UPU), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and World Meteorological  Organization (WMO) all of which are autonomous “specialized agencies.” Other organizations are classified as Administration (14), Human Rights and Criminal Justice (8), and Miscellaneous (3).The total number of entities specified in these endnotes and the main text do not total the same numbers because some labels are generic rather than discrete; Ibid.

[8] Nikhil Seth, United Nations Reform III: Operational Activities for Development, PowerPoint presentation at UNITAR Training Course (New York, November 19, 2010).

[9] The summary of the UN’s resource allocations here is based entirely on Nikhil Seth, Ibid.

[10] The ten development and humanitarian oriented UN entities that absorbed a full ninety-percent of total contributions to the UN System’s aggregate 2008 were: World Food Programme (WFP, 24%); UNDP (23%); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 15%); United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Health Organization (WHO, each 7%); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 4%); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA, each 3%); International Labour Organization (ILO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, each 2%); see Nikhil Seth, United Nations Reform III: Operational Activities for Development, PowerPoint presentation at UNITAR Training Course (New York, November 19, 2010).

[11] Nikhil Seth, United Nations Reform III: Operational Activities for Development (above).

[12] The essentially autonomous “development” oriented specialized agencies are the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, Rome 1945); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD, Rome 1977); International Labour Organization (ILO, Geneva 1919/1946); United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, Paris 1946); World Health
(WHO, Geneva 1948); and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO, Vienna 1966/1985) plus the World Bank Group’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 1946), International Finance Corporation (IFC, 1956), International  Development Association (IDA, 1960), International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID, 1966), and Multilateral Insurance Guarantee Association (MIGA, 1988; all in Washington, DC).

[13] Several specialized agencies pre-existed the United Nations and were incorporated incrementally during the late 1940s and 1950s, including the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) established in 1865; World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established originally as the International Meteorological Organization (IMO) in 1873; Universal Postal Union (UPU) established in 1874; International Labor Organization (ILO) originally established in 1919; World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) preceded by the International Congress of Official Tourist Traffic Associations established in 1925  and International Union of Official Travel Organisations (IUOTO) after World War II until adopting its current identity in 1974; and International
Civil Aviation Organization
(ICAO) established initially as the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) in 1945.

[14] See endnote 12.

Keywords: Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bangladesh, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, CTBTO Prep.Com, Chief Executives Board for Coordination, China, collective security, Commission on Population, Commission on the Status of Women, Department
of Economic and Social Affairs, DESA, Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Director-General for evelopment and International Cooperation, DPKO, Dumbarton Oaks, ECA, ECE, ECLAC, Economic and Social Council, EcoSoc, ESCAP, ESCWA, FAO, First Development Decade, Food and Agriculture Organization, Franklin Roosevelt, Free Trade, GATT, General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, General Assembly, Germany, health, High-Level Committee on Management, High-Level Committee on Programs, humanitarian assistance, IAEA, IBRD, ICA, ICAO, ICC, ICJ, ICSID, IFAD, IFC, IDA, ILO, IMF, IMO, India, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Congress of Official Tourist Traffic Associations, International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, International Development Association, International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Meteorological Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Trade Centre, International
Telecommunications Union, International Union of Official Travel Organisations, Italy, ITC, ITU, IUOTO, Japan, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, Joseph Stalin, MIGA, Multilateral Insurance Guarantee Association, Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Office of the UN High
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