Today’s World Desperately Needs “A New Just Economic Order”

September 21, 2023

FRED WILLS ADDRESS AT UNGA-SEPT 8, 1975

ADDRESS AT THE SEVENTH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1975

Call for New International Economic Order at the United Nations

(Frederick R. “Fred” Wills, was Foreign Minister of Guyana from 1975-78)

I have been advocating for 50 years for a New Just International Economic Order with a new Financial Architecture dedicated to economic development for all people of the world. It should be clear to all qualified leaders that the hegemony of the so called rules-based order, has been shattered by the rising expectations of the “Global South.” The reemergence of the Non-Aligned Movement, typified by the Group of 77 and the BRICS, with their righteous demands for economic equality, has become a new force on our planet. They resonate with the calls for a “New International Economic Order” prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s. This is why it is more than relevant today for us to review and stand upon the shoulders of this profound speech, delivered before UNGA by Fred Wills, almost half a century ago. We have the responsibility to complete this mission for the sake of civilization.

Excerpts from Fred Wills’ historic presentation follow:

Mr. President,

One year ago in this very forum there were articulated the Declaration on the Establishment of the New International Economic Order and a Programme of Action to implement it. These were adopted at the Sixth Special Session and were followed by the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties promulgated at the 29th regular session of the United Nations. Thus was provided a compendious mandate for the dismantling of the old structures that have proved inadequate and the construction of an entirely new system more responsive to the needs and hopes of the poor and disadvantaged.

The allegedly sterile debate as to whether or not a new international economic order is required has already resulted in the presentation of far-reaching proposals which it would be our clear duty to evaluate in our efforts to arrive at a global consensus…

THE IMPERATIVES FOR CHANGE

The hour is critical. The expectations are that we will agree on concrete steps that will represent a real advance towards the new order on which the majority of mankind insists.

The imperatives for change are clear. Thirty years ago the Bretton-Woods system, reinforced by the Marshall Plan, introduced a new era in the post-war world which promised a redress of economic disequilibrium in the developed world. Predictably, this system failed to satisfy the aspirations of the developing nations and it is this failure in especial that introduces the note of urgency in our debate. It is imperative that we should fashion new structures and new institutions to arrest the widening gap between the developed market economies and the producers of raw materials and semi-manufactures

It is clear, Mr. President, that any attempt to give new vitality to obsolescent institutions is wholly unacceptable. In the face of such attempts the solidarity of the developing countries is the best guarantee that the processes of change will lead to the establishment of the New International Economic Order.

Those of us who embrace Non-alignment will not lose a moment’s sleep over deliberate attempts at misrepresentation. We are not a bloc. Unbound by pacts, eschewing centralised military force, refusing the dictation of hegemonic power, we are aligned with peace, independence, equality, justice and the importance of the single human being. Our solidarity is based neither on the preservation of nor on the quest for power. It is rooted in common perception and shared ideals. The universality of the principles of Non-Alignment has long been vindicated. Those who only recently have come round to the acknowledgement of its validity must now seek to understand it properly…

GUIDELINES FOR ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION

Mr. President, the international community must move forward and in our way forward we must be guided by three fundamental approaches to the problems of development and international economic co-operation. From these approaches my delegation feels we deviate only at our peril. 

First, we must subject all proposals to the test of their likelihood of advancing the arrival of the New International Economic Order along the path charted by the Group of 77.

Secondly, decision making on these vital issues must remain firmly within this Organisation.

Thirdly, the solidarity of the developing countries must be given new depth and content, especially through programmes of collective self-reliance…

Are we of the developing countries being asked to believe that institutions which have historically served the best interests of the developed world can be modified to promote our development? Must the improvement in the condition of the developing world remain a mere footnote to the prosperity of the developed world? In short, in a situation that demands surgery are we being asked to be satisfied with the dispensation of mere palliatives?

Nevertheless, Mr. President, I wish to assure you that my delegation will approach these and all other proposals, including those of the EEC, objectively and responsibly, because we are aware that what is at stake is nothing less than the future condition of all mankind…

Now, Mr. President, the third guideline – collective self-reliance among developing countries. The Programme of Action for the implementation of the New International Economic Order assigns an important role to collective self-reliance among the developing countries and calls upon the developed world to support such efforts. Forms of horizontal cooperation at the regional, sub-regional and inter-regional levels have already demonstrated their potential as instruments compelling significant change. Such new horizontal economic structures and arrangements will assist substantially in bringing our marginal situation to an end and could provide an essential thrust for radical alteration in the international economic system. The much maligned produce associations have already proven their worth as a stimulant of International dialogue, catalyst for change and a mechanism for the mobilisation of resources in the developing world…

The new economic order must therefore be designed to foster all efforts of self-reliance on the part of the developing countries – efforts both national and collective. True development cannot be imposed ab extra, but must be part of the internal dynamics of growth. The international framework must therefore create the conditions and provide support within which self-reliance can flourish…

Those, therefore, Mr. President, are the guidelines which we suggest should inform our decisions as we come now to the closing stages of this Special Session. They should be integrated within the blueprint already adopted for the New International Economic Order...(All emphasis added)

Read the entire presentation below:

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com.

Gambari COS for Buhari: Right Man at Right Time for Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari-left and his new Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari-right. (Politics Nigeria)

Gambari COS for Buhari: Right Man at Right Time for Nigeria

Lawrence Freeman

May 15, 2020

President Muhammadu Buhari has unexpectedly chosen an exceptional new Chief of Staff (COS), Professor Ibrahim Gambari, (his friends call him “Prof”), to replace the recently deceased Malam Abba Kyari. Over these many years, through meetings formal and informal at the United Nations, Washington DC, Abuja, and Darfur, I have come to respect Prof. Gambari as an honorable and thoughtful Nigerian leader. During our many discussions, his depth and breadth of strategic thinking was evident and contributed to my knowledge of Nigeria, Africa, and the United States.

President Buhari and Prof Gambari know each other well. Prof Gambari served as the Minister for External (Foreign) Affairs between 1984 and 1985 under General Buhari’s military regime before it was overthrown in a coup. It should be remembered that during that time period, when the government of Gen. Buhari resisted the “Washington Consensus” and the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), the Naira was worth $1.34 dollars. Following the regime change of the Buhari-Gambari partnership, the Naira was immediately devalued to 25 to $1. As it is said, the rest is history.

Not a career politician or member of the foreign service, Prof Gambari as ambassador headed the Nigerian Mission to the United Nations from 1990-1999 and had the distinction of serving under five heads of state during his tenure. Recognizing his experience and diplomatic skills, Prof Gambari upon leaving the Nigerian Mission was appointed Special Adviser on Africa to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan from 1999 to 2005. He was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2007 under Secretary-General’s Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. Prof Gambari was later appointed head of the Joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) from 2010-2012. As head of the 26,000 man UNAMID force, Prof Gambari navigated a difficult peace keeping operation between the government of Sudan and those international forces who were intent on a Khartoum regime change.

Nigeria in Difficult Times

Nigeria is experiencing multiple tribulations. Its economy is suffering with 40% of its 200 million population living in extreme poverty and the majority of Nigeria’s tens of millions youth are unemployed. Infrastructure is inadequate, especially the lack of daily accessibility to electrical power for consumers and commercial enterprises. Furthermore, the murderous Boko Haram is still operating in the northeastern section of the country. Worsening the condition in Nigeria is the COVID-19 pandemic, which could potentially explode given the insufficient healthcare needed to contain and combat the effects of the coronavirus. The collapse of the price of oil now fluctuating below $30 per barrel has caused significant shortfalls in Nigeria’s revenue and its ability to accumulate foreign exchange. Nigeria’s national budget has been thrown into turmoil because it was predicated on a minimum price of $50 per barrel.

Essential priorities for Nigeria, which I have discussed with government leaders:

  • A national economic growth  plan that benefits all geographical sections of the nation
  • Massive building of physical infrastructure including an urgent mobilization to upgrade and expand healthcare
  • Reverse the shrinking Lake Chad and transform the Lake Chad Basin by implementing Transaqua, an inter-basin water project supported by President Buhari.

Stark weaknesses of globalization have vividly surfaced due to the spread of COVID-19, which has caused devastation, and will likely continue throughout 2020. As a result, the world is crying out for a New International Economic Order to replace the currently defective international financial system. A new paradigm for development that values human life above debt service, prioritizes economic growth, and the elimination of poverty. Nigeria and its people, whose potential has been recognized since the liberation of the continent from colonialism, should play a leading role in this economic transformation of Africa.

To begin the process of accomplishing these goals, President Buhari, in the remaining years of his second term, will need the support of a trusted group of counsellors.  It is my hope that my friend, Prof Gambari, a first-class strategic thinker, and a patriot who cares deeply for Nigeria, will galvanize this effort.

Below I provide excerpts from an article I wrote about Prof Gambari in March 2002, because of their relevancy today.

Professor Gambari discussed the effects of “debt over-hang” on Africa’s development. “The heavy debt burden of many countries is robbing them of their sovereignty, and impeding their pursuit of economic and social policies. The sad part is that debt overhang is hitting generations that had little or nothing [to do] with its contraction. As the UNDP poverty report observes, the ‘truth of the matter is that demands debt servicing are no longer a matter of money, but a source of the excruciating impoverishment of people’s lives.’ ”
While not attacking globalization directly, Gambari diplomatically discussed the consequences for African economies–the unequal benefits from the globalization process.” Globalization, “driven by market and capital expansion, often pays little attention to governance of these markets and their repercussions on people,” and does not guarantee “equity and human development.” The results of globalization are that “Africa’s share of world trade has declined from 40% (1980s) to less than 2% at present.”

Read my outline for the development of Nigeria: Guardian of Nigeria Publishes “Proposal for Nigeria’s Future” by Lawrence Freeman

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com