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UN responsibility for world economic, social, and human rights affairs is vested in the General Assembly and, under its authority, in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The latter is charged with coordinating the activities of the independent specialized agencies and certain other bodies of the UN system, including various subordinate standing and advisory committees, functional commissions and subcommissions, and the five regional economic commissions. It also does much of the preparatory work for the General Assembly, debating economic, social, and humanitarian issues and considering reports that are usually forwarded, with recommendations for further action, to the General Assembly where they are generally considered in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) or the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural).
In the past, major trade, financial, and developmental issues were considered for the most part in organizations outside the UN system or, within the UN system, in the four specialized agencies comprising the Bretton Woods group of international financial institutions (IMF, IBRD, IFC, IDA) where there is weighted voting based on financial input. In recent years, however, the developing countries have made UNCTAD, ECOSOC, and, particularly, the General Assembly their chosen forums for furthering their views on broad economic issues. As a result, the division between the developed and developing countries as reflected in voting patterns has become more evident. The rapid expansion of UN membership since 1960, combined with a growing tendency toward bloc voting, has enabled the developing countries to command a large majority on virtually any issue they consider of primary interest to them.
In the spring of 1974 this majority was used during the sixth special session of the General Assembly to adopt, with little effort to negotiate differences with the developed countries, resolutions on a "Declaration and Program of Action on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order" (NIEO). The adoption of the NIEO resolutions undercut the negotiations on a "Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States" (CERDS) which had been underway for 2 years under UNCTAD auspices. As a result, CERDS was adopted during the 29th regular session of the General Assembly with many still una greed provisions. The developed countries registered numerous reservations to both NIEO and CERDS and made clear that they did not consider themselves bound by them, since General Assembly resolutions have only recommendatory force. The United States and other developed countries were particularly opposed to provisions dealing with the arbitrary
treatment of foreign investment and expropriation without regard to international law or contractual obligations; primary commodity producer organizations (cartels); tying prices of developing country exports to prices of imports ("indexation"); and calls for restitution for alleged losses under colonialism, neocolonialism, and the like.
The developing countries, on the other hand, took the position that NIEO and CERDS provided goals that the UN community was committed to strive to attain. Throughout much of 1975 the developing countries sought to reinforce NIEO and CERDS by inserting endorsements of them in declarations and resolutions adopted in a variety of forums on a variety of topics--including disarmament, environment, social development, status of women, trade law, and agriculture --whether or not such references were material to the subject at hand. Prominent among such examples were the Lima "Declaration and Plan of Action on Industrial Development and Cooperation," adopted by UNIDO in March at its Second General Conference, and the "Declaration of Mexico on the Equality of Women and Their Contribution to Development and Peace," adopted by the World Conference of the International Women's Year in July. And during its 30th session, the General Assembly on December 12 adopted by a recorded vote of 114 to 3 (U.S.), with 11 abstentions, a resolution (initiated by Mexico in the Second Committee) that endorsed CERDS, called for its implementation, set up a process of regular review by various UN bodies, and requested the Secretary General to publicize it widely in order to facilitate the observance of its provisions.
Despite the continuing preoccupation with NIEO and CERDS, the climate of confrontation to large extent gave way to one of cooperation as the result of the seventh special session of the General Assembly during the first 2 weeks of September 1975. The United States played a leading role in this session, which culminated in the adoption by consensus of a comprehensive omnibus resolution on "Development and International Economic Cooperation." The outcome of the seventh special ses sion was warmly received by most UN members and was hailed as auguring the beginning of a new period of conciliation, cooperation, and negotiation. Much of this spirit carried over into the General Assembly's 30th regular session where many economic resolutions were adopted by a negotiated consensus. These included resolutions calling for the creation of an international technological information bank, establishment of an International Fund for Agricultural Development, and condemnation of corrupt practices involving transnational corporations.
A milestone for the United Nations in the area of strengthening human rights was the adoption by the World Conference of the International Women's Year of a World Plan of Action that provides guidelines for a long-term effort to eliminate discrimination against women. The United States had participated actively in preparing this plan which was subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly, which also proclaimed the years 1976-85 the "UN Decade for Women: Equality, Development, and Peace." A distinctly negative development in another human rights field was the General Assembly's adoption of a resolution equating Zionism with racism. This led the United States and some others to declare that they would not participate in the activities of the "Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination" (1973-83).
In other social and scientific fields, the United Nations in 1975 continued its efforts to eradicate drug abuse throughout the world, sought to strengthen its capacity to respond to international disasters, and continued its preparations for the important 1976 UN Conference on Human Settlements.
SEVENTH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The seventh special session of the General Assembly, on development and international economic cooperation, was held September 1-16, 1975, immediately prior to the General Assembly's 30th regular session. The special session had its roots in the International Development Strategy, a comprehensive document adopted in 1970 that had set forth an integrated program of national and international action to achieve a series of interrelated economic and social objectives during the Second UN Development Decade (the 1970's). The Strategy provided for periodic reviews and appraisals of progress made during the Decade.
In 1973, at the time of the first biennial review and appraisai, the 28th General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the special session in 1975 to examine the political and other implications of the state of world development and international economic cooperation and, in the light of the implementation of the International Development Strategy, (1) consider new concepts and options with a view to promoting effectively the solution of world economic problems and (2) initiate structural changes in the UN system in order to make it "a more effective instrument of world economic cooperation and for the implementation of the International Development Strategy."
The hastily arranged sixth special session intervened, however. Its agenda dealt with raw materials and development, and it adopted resolutions calling for the establishment of a "new international economic order" which endorsed the demands of the developing countries for increased resource transfers and enhanced power in economic affairs.
The United States recognized that in a world of monetary instability, high unemployment, inflation, food shortages, energy crisis, recession in the freemarket industrialized countries, and growing interde pendence, efforts had to be made to meet the legitimate needs of developing countries. Moreover, problems between developed and developing nations could not be effectively dealt with by a posture of confrontation. Ultimately, despite widely varying country interests, the recognition of interdependence gave impetus to renewed dialogue and negotiations in order to widen areas of agreement and to promote the economic stability and growth vital to all countries, developed and developing alike.