32. Address by Secretary of State Kissinger1

The Challenge of Interdependence

We are gathered here in a continuing venture to realize mankind’s hopes for a more prosperous, humane, just, and cooperative world.

As members of this organization, we are pledged not only to free the world from the scourge of war but to free mankind from the fear of hunger, poverty, and disease. The quest for justice and dignity—which finds expression in the economic and social articles of the United Nations Charter—has global meaning in an age of instantaneous commu [Page 169] nication. Improving the quality of human life has become a universal political demand, a technical possibility, and a moral imperative.

We meet here at a moment when the world economy is under severe stress. The energy crisis first dramatized its fragility. But the issues transcend that particular crisis. Each of the problems we face—of combating inflation and stimulating growth, of feeding the hungry and lifting the impoverished, of the scarcity of physical resources and the surplus of despair—is part of an interrelated global problem.

Let us begin by discarding outdated generalities and sterile slogans we have—all of us—lived with for so long. The great issues of development can no longer realistically be perceived in terms of confrontation between the “haves” and “have-nots” or as a struggle over the distribution of static[statist?] wealth. Whatever our ideological belief or social structure, we are part of a single international economic system on which all of our national economic objectives depend. No nation or bloc of nations can unilaterally determine the shape of the future.

If the strong attempt to impose their views, they will do so at the cost of justice and thus provoke upheaval. If the weak resort to pressure, they will do so at the risk of world prosperity and thus provoke despair.

The organization of one group of countries as a bloc will, sooner or later, produce the organization of potential victims into a counterbloc. The transfer of resources from the developed to the developing nations—essential to all hopes for progress—can only take place with the support of the technologically advanced countries. Politics of pressure and threats will undermine the domestic base of this support. The danger of economic stagnation stimulates new barriers to trade and to the transfer of resources.

We in this Assembly must come to grips with the fact of our interdependence.

The contemporary world can no longer be encompassed in traditional stereotypes. The notion of the northern rich and the southern poor has been shattered. The world is composed not of two sets of interests but many: developed nations which are energy suppliers and developing nations which are energy consumers, market economies and nonmarket economies, capital providers and capital recipients.

The world economy is a sensitive set of relationships in which actions can easily set off a vicious spiral of counteractions deeply affecting all countries, developing as well as technologically advanced. Global inflation erodes the capacity to import. A reduction in the rate of world growth reduces export prospects. Exorbitantly high prices lower consumption, spur alternative production, and foster development of substitutes.

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We are all engaged in a common enterprise. No nation or group of nations can gain by pushing its claims beyond the limits that sustain world economic growth. No one benefits from basing progress on tests of strength.

For the first time in history, mankind has the technical possibility to escape the scourges that used to be considered inevitable. Global communication insures that the thrust of human aspirations becomes universal. Mankind insistently identifies justice with the betterment of the human condition. Thus economics, technology, and the sweep of human values impose a recognition of our interdependence and of the necessity of our collaboration.

Let us therefore resolve to act with both realism and compassion to reach a new understanding of the human condition. On that understanding, let us base a new relationship which evokes the commitment of all nations because it serves the interests of all peoples. We can build a just world only if we work together.

The Global Agenda

The fundamental challenge before this session is to translate the acknowledgment of our common destiny into a commitment to common action, to inspire developed and developing nations alike to perceive and pursue their national interest by contributing to the global interest. The developing nations can meet the aspirations of their peoples only in an open, expanding world economy where they can expect to find larger markets, capital resources, and support for official assistance. The developed nations can convince their people to contribute to that goal only in an environment of political cooperation.

On behalf of President Nixon, I pledge the United States to a major effort in support of development. My country dedicates itself to this enterprise because our children—yours and ours—must not live in a world of brutal inequality, because peace cannot be maintained unless all share in its benefits, and because America has never believed that the values of justice, well-being, and human dignity could be realized by one nation alone.

We begin with the imperative of peace. The hopes of development will be mocked if resources continue to be consumed by an ever-increasing spiral of armaments. The relaxation of tensions is thus in the world interest. No nation can profit from confrontations that could culminate in nuclear war. At the same time, the United States will never seek stability at the expense of others. It strives for the peace of cooperation, not the illusory tranquility of condominium.

But peace is more than the absence of war. It is ennobled by making possible the realization of humane aspirations. To this purpose this Assembly is dedicated.

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Our goal cannot be reached by resolutions alone. It must remain the subject of constant, unremitting efforts over the years and decades ahead.

In this spirit of describing the world as it is, I would like to identify for this Assembly six problem areas which, in the view of the U.S. delegation, must be solved to spur both the world economy and world development. I do so not with the attitude of presenting blueprints but of defining common tasks to whose solution the United States herewith offers its wholehearted cooperation.

Expanding the Supply of Energy

First, a global economy requires an expanding supply of energy at an equitable price.

No subject illustrates global interdependence more emphatically than the field of energy. No nation has an interest in prices that can set off an inflationary spiral which in time reduces income for all. For example, the price of fertilizer has risen in direct proportion to the price of oil, putting it beyond the reach of many of the poorest nations and thus contributing to worldwide food shortages. A comprehension by both producers and consumers of each other’s needs is therefore essential:

—Consumers must understand the desires of the producers for higher levels of income over the long-term future.

—Producers must understand that the recent rise in energy prices has placed a great burden on all consumers, one virtually impossible for some to bear.

All nations share an interest in agreeing on a level of prices which contributes to an expanding world economy and which can be sustained over the long term.

The United States called the Washington Energy Conference2 for one central purpose—to move urgently to resolve the energy problem on the basis of cooperation among all nations. The tasks we defined there can become a global agenda:

—Nations, particularly developed nations, waste vast amounts of existing energy supplies. We need a new commitment to global conservation and to more efficient use of existing supplies.

—The oil producers themselves have noted that the demands of this decade cannot be met unless we expand available supplies. We need a massive and cooperative effort to develop alternative sources of fuels.

—The needs of future generations require that we develop new and renewable sources of supply. In this field, the developed nations [Page 172] can make a particularly valuable contribution to our common goal of abundant energy at reasonable cost.

Such a program cannot be achieved by any one group of countries. It must draw on the strength and meet the needs of all nations in a new dialogue among producers and consumers.

In such a dialogue, the United States will take account of—and take seriously—the concern of the producing countries that the future of their peoples not depend on oil alone. The United States is willing to help broaden the base of their economies and to develop secure and diversified sources of income. We are prepared to facilitate the transfer of technology and to assist industrialization. We will accept substantial investment of the capital of oil-producing countries in the United States. We will support a greater role for oil producers in international financial organizations as well as an increase in their voting power.

Avoiding Imbalances in Raw Materials

Second, a healthy global economy requires that both consumers and producers escape from the cycle of raw material surplus and shortage which threatens all our economies.

The principles which apply to energy apply as well to the general problem of raw materials. It is tempting to think of cartels of raw material producers to negotiate for higher prices. But such a course could have serious consequences for all countries. Large price increases coupled with production restrictions involve potential disaster: global inflation followed by global recession from which no nation could escape.

Moreover, resources are spread unevenly across the globe. Some of the poorest nations have few natural resources to export, and some of the richest nations are major commodity producers.

Commodity producers will discover that they are by no means insulated from the consequences of restrictions on supply or the escalation of prices. A recession in the industrial countries sharply reduces demand. Uneconomical prices for raw materials accelerate the transition to alternatives. And as they pursue industrialization, raw material producers will ultimately pay for exorbitant commodity prices by the increased costs of the goods they must import.

Thus the optimum price is one that can be maintained over the longest period at the level that assures the highest real income. Only through cooperation between consumers and producers can such a price be determined. Such a cooperative effort must include urgent international consideration of restrictions on incentives for the trade in commodities. This issue—dealing with access to supply as well as access to markets—must receive high priority in GATT [General [Page 173] Agreement on Tariffs and Trade]3 as we seek to revise and modernize the rules and conditions of international trade.

In the long term, our hopes for world prosperity will depend on our ability to discern the long-range patterns of supply and demand and to forecast future imbalances so as to avert dangerous cycles of surplus and shortage.

For the first time in history, it is technically within our grasp to relate the resources of this planet to man’s needs. The United States therefore urges that an international group of experts, working closely with the United Nations Division on Resources, be asked to undertake immediately a comprehensive survey of the earth’s nonrenewable and renewable resources. This should include the development of a global early warning system to foreshadow impending surpluses and scarcities.

Crisis in Food Production

Third, the global economy must achieve a balance between food production and population growth and must restore the capacity to meet food emergencies. A condition in which 1 billion people suffer from malnutrition is consistent with no concept of justice.

Since 1969, global production of cereals has not kept pace with world demand. As a result, current reserves are at their lowest level in 20 years. A significant crop failure today is likely to produce a major disaster. A protracted imbalance in food and population growth will guarantee massive starvation—a moral catastrophe the world community cannot tolerate.

No nation can deal with this problem alone. The developed nations must commit themselves to significant assistance for food and population programs. The developed nations must reduce the imbalance between population and food which could jeopardize not only their own progress but the stability of the world.

The United States recognizes the responsibility of leadership it bears by virtue of its extraordinary agricultural productivity. We strongly support a global cooperative effort to increase food production. This is why we proposed a World Food Conference at last year’s session of the General Assembly.4

Looking toward that conference, we have removed all domestic restrictions on production. Our farmers have vastly increased the acreage under cultivation and gathered record harvests in 1973. 1974 promises to be even better. If all nations make a similar effort, we believe the recent rise in food prices will abate this year, as it has in recent weeks.

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The United States is determined to take additional steps. Specifically:

—We are prepared to join with other governments in a major worldwide effort to rebuild food reserves. A central objective of the World Food Conference must be to restore the world’s capacity to deal with famine.

—We shall assign priority in our aid program to help developing nations substantially raise their agricultural production. We hope to increase our assistance to such programs from $258 million to $675 million this year.

—We shall make a major effort to increase the quantity of food aid over the level we provided last year.

For countries living near the margin of starvation, even a small reduction in yields can produce intolerable consequences. Thus, the shortage of fertilizer and the steep rise in its price is a problem of particular urgency—above all for countries dependent on the new high-yield varieties of grain. The first critical step is for all nations to utilize fully existing capabilities. The United States is now operating its fertilizer industry at near capacity. The United States is ready to provide assistance to other nations in improving the operation of plants and to make more effective use of fertilizers.

But this will not be enough. Existing worldwide capacity is clearly inadequate. The United States would be prepared to offer its technological skills to developing a new fertilizer industry in developing countries and especially in oil-producing countries, using the raw materials and capital they uniquely possess.

We also urge the establishment of an international fertilizer institute as part of a larger effort to focus international action on two specific areas of research: improving the effectiveness of chemical fertilizers, especially in tropical agriculture, and new methods to produce fertilizers from non-petroleum resources. The United States will contribute facilities, technology, and expertise to such an undertaking.

Nations at the Margin of Existence

Fourth, a global economy under stress cannot allow the poorest nations to be overwhelmed.

The debate between raw material producers and consumers must not overlook that substantial part of humanity which does not produce raw materials, grows insufficient food for its needs, and has not adequately industrialized. This group of nations, already at the margin of existence, has no recourse to pay the higher prices for the fuel, food, and fertilizer imports on which their survival depends.

Thus, the people least able to afford it—a third of mankind—are the most profoundly threatened by an inflationary world economy. [Page 175] They face the despair of abandoned hopes for development and the threat of starvation. Their needs require our most urgent attention. The nations assembled here in the name of justice cannot stand idly by in the face of tragic consequences for which many of them are partially responsible.

We welcome the steps the oil producers have already taken toward applying their new surplus revenues to these needs. The magnitude of the problem requires, and the magnitude of their resources permits, a truly massive effort.

The developed nations, too, have an obligation to help. Despite the prospect of unprecedented payment difficulties, they must maintain their traditional programs of assistance and expand them if possible. Failure to do so would penalize the lower income countries twice. The United States is committed to continue its program and pledges its support for an early replenishment of the International Development Association. In addition, we are prepared to consider with others what additional measures are required to mitigate the effects of commodity price rises on low-income countries least able to bear the burden.

Applying Science to the World’s Problems

Fifth, in a global economy of physical scarcity, science and technology are becoming our most precious resource.

No human activity is less national in character than the field of science. No development effort offers more hope than joint technical and scientific cooperation.

Man’s technical genius has given us labor-saving technology, healthier populations, and the Green Revolution.5 But it has also produced a technology that consumes resources at an ever-expanding rate, a population explosion which presses against the earth’s finite living space, and an agriculture increasingly dependent on the products of industry. Let us now apply science to the problems which science has helped to create:

—To meet the developing nations’ two most fundamental problems, unemployment and hunger, there is an urgent need for farming technologies that are both productive and labor intensive. The United States is prepared to contribute to international programs to develop and apply this technology.

—The technology of birth control should be improved.

—At current rates of growth, the world’s need for energy will more than triple by the end of this century. To meet this challenge, the [Page 176] U.S. Government is allocating $12 billion for energy research and development over the next five years, and American private industry will spend over $200 billion to increase energy supplies. We are prepared to apply the results of our massive effort to the massive needs of other nations.

—The poorest nations, already beset by manmade disasters, have been threatened by a natural one: the possibility of climatic changes in the monsoon belt and perhaps throughout the world. The implications for global food and population policies are ominous. The United States proposes that the International Council of Scientific Unions and the World Meteorological Organization urgently investigate this problem and offer guidelines for immediate international action.

An Open Trade and Finance System

Sixth, the global economy requires a trade, monetary, and investment system that sustains industrial civilization and stimulates growth.

Not since the 1930’s has the economic system of the world faced such a test. The disruption of the oil price rises, the threat of global inflation, the cycle of contraction of exports and protectionist restrictions, the massive shift in the world’s financial flows, and the likely concentration of invested surplus oil revenue in a few countries—all threaten to smother the dreams of universal progress with stagnation and despair.

A new commitment is required by both developed and developing countries to an open trading system, a flexible but stable monetary system, and a positive climate for the free flow of resources, both public and private.

To this end the United States proposes that all nations here pledge themselves to avoid trade and payment restrictions in an effort to adjust to higher commodity prices.

The United States is prepared to keep open its capital markets so that capital can be recycled to developing countries hardest hit by the current crisis.

In the essential struggle to regain control over global inflation, the United States is willing to join in an international commitment to pursue responsible fiscal and monetary policies.

To foster an open trading world the United States, already the largest importer of the manufactures of developing nations, is prepared to open its markets further to these products. We shall work in the multilateral trade negotiations to reduce tariff and nontariff barriers on as wide a front as possible. In line with this approach we are urging our Congress to authorize the generalized tariff preferences which are of such significance to developing countries.

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Matching Physical Needs With Political Vision

All too often, international gatherings end with speeches filed away and with resolutions passed and forgotten. We must not let this happen to the problem of development. The complex and urgent issues at hand will not yield to rhetorical flourishes. Their resolution requires a sustained and determined pursuit in the great family of United Nations and other international organizations that have the broad competence to deal with them.

As President Nixon stated to this Assembly in 1969:6

Surely if one lesson above all rings resoundingly among the many shattered hopes in this world, it is that good words are not a substitute for hard deeds and noble rhetoric is no guarantee of noble results.

This Assembly should strengthen our commitment to find cooperative solutions within the appropriate forums such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the GATT, and the World Food and Population Conferences.7 The United States commits itself to a wide-ranging multilateral effort.

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, we gather here today because our economic and moral challenges have become political challenges. Our unprecedented agenda for global consultations in 1974 already implies a collective decision to elevate our concern for man’s elementary well-being to the highest political level. Our presence implies our recognition that a challenge of this magnitude cannot be solved by a world fragmented into self-contained states or competing blocs.

Our task now is to match our physical needs with our political vision.

President Boumediene cited the Marshall plan of a quarter century ago as an example of the possibility of mobilizing resources for development ends. But then the driving force was a shared sense of purpose, of values, and of destination. As yet, we lack a comparable sense of purpose with respect to development. This is our first requirement. Development requires, above all, a spirit of cooperation, a belief that with all our differences we are part of a larger community in which wealth is an obligation, resources are a trust, and joint action is a necessity.

We need mutual respect for the aspirations of the developing as well as the concerns of the developed nations. This is why the United [Page 178] States has supported the concept of a Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States8 put forward by President Echeverría of Mexico.

The late President Radhakrishnan of India once wrote:

We are not the helpless tools of determinism. Though humanity renews itself from its past, it is also developing something new and unforeseen. Today we have to make a new start with our minds and hearts.

The effort we make in the years to come is thus a test of the freedom of the human spirit.

Let us affirm today that we are faced with a common challenge and can only meet it jointly. Let us candidly acknowledge our different perspectives and then proceed to build on what unites us. Let us transform the concept of world community from a slogan into an attitude.

In this spirit let us be the masters of our common fate so that history will record that this was the year that mankind at last began to conquer its noblest and most humane challenge.

  1. Source: Department of State Bulletin, May 6, 1974, pp. 477–483. Kissinger gave the address to the Sixth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Algerian Representative to the United Nations, Abdellatif Rahal, proposed the session, held April 9–May 2, in the interest of furthering discussion and action on development and raw materials issues. The General Assembly approved two resolutions at the session: U.N. Resolution 3201 (S–VI), Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order and U.N. Resolution 3202 (S–VI), Programme of Action on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1974, pp. 324–332) For information concerning the planning of the special session and the American response to the U.N. resolutions, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976, Document 257.
  2. See Document 27.
  3. Brackets are in the original.
  4. See Document 17 and footnote 4 thereto.
  5. The Green Revolution relied on the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and improved seed hybrids to produce higher crop yields during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
  6. For Nixon’s September 18, 1969, address to the United Nations General Assembly, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 724–731.
  7. The U.N.-convened Third World Population Conference, which was the highlight of World Population Year, was held in Bucharest August 19–30. For documentation on the conference, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–14, part 1, Documents on the United Nations, Documents 116117.
  8. See footnote 5, Document 17.