275. Paper Prepared in the Department of State for President Carter 1



At the 32nd United Nations General Assembly,2 we want to advance the Administration’s commitment to constructive and mutually beneficial treatment of North/South issues. We hope thereby to sustain the generally pragmatic cooperation which characterized the Paris Conference on International Economic Cooperation3 (CIEC).

We require two policy decisions regarding the appropriate means for seeking to achieve these objectives:

1) how we should try to manage UN General Assembly treatment of the numerous economic issues addressed in CIEC, and

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2) how active we should be in attempting to influence the selection of a specific UN mechanism to serve the overview function of the North/South dialogue in the post-CIEC period.


The Administration has clearly demonstrated its concern for the real problems of developing countries. In CIEC, the US, along with the other industrialized countries, agreed to increase substantially its development assistance to developing countries and to negotiate a financially-viable common fund to stabilize commodity prices; along with the EC, the US proposed a comprehensive procedure for dealing with LDC debt problems, on which agreement was not reached in CIEC. At this summer’s ECOSOC conference, Ambassador Young announced that, in contrast to earlier positions, the US now accepts the New International Economic Order as an evolving concept, while maintaining our reservations on certain specific measures proposed by the developing countries.4

We believe the focus of the North/South dialogue in the post-CIEC period should be in the existing functional fora where negotiations on the complex individual issues are conducted among countries with an economic stake in the outcome and by persons who are experts on the issue. Trade issues should be negotiated in the GATT; commodity issues in UNCTAD; and financial and monetary issues in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and their joint Development Committee. Negotiations in general fora, such as CIEC and the UN General Assembly, have the major disadvantage of linking all issues so that political success requires concessions on most or all of them. They thus encourage a bloc-to-bloc approach to the issues and tend to increase political pressure on the industrialized countries.

On the other hand, it is inevitable that UNGA will have some substantive discussions on the specific issues addressed in CIEC. The G–77 members as a group will continue to demand a major restructuring of the international economic system through large, automatic, and often economically inefficient resource transfers (e.g., commodity price indexation, generalized debt relief). We want to begin the process of turning UN General Assembly discussions toward 1) the broader economic issues of global economic interdependence and the responsibility of all countries for the future world economy and 2) moral and political issues, in particular, human rights, basic human needs, and equitable distribution of income within countries.

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Since the conclusion of CIEC, several G–77 members have advocated the establishment of a UN mechanism to conduct a general overview of progress on North/South issues along CIEC lines. No consensus has emerged on the location of this mechanism. The Venezuelans have advocated a new, restricted-membership committee attached to the UN General Assembly for this purpose, and the President has indicated our support for this concept.5 However, Venezuela has not been able to garner substantial LDC support for this idea and has stopped pushing it. Developing countries are considering other alternatives, including assigning the overview function to the current Second Committee of the UN General Assembly6 or the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).


A. UN General Assembly treatment of specific North/South issues.

1. Seek to begin steering UN General Assembly North/South discussions toward broad issues of global economic interdependence and responsibility and gaining greater international support for human rights, basic human needs, equity in income distribution, and the importance to all of global growth. Avoid negotiations though not general discussion of the specific issues being treated in functional fora.

This option would not prejudice negotiations on the specific issues in fora most conducive to progress. It would mobilize support for our positions on human rights and other global development issues and allow us to regain to some degree the moral offensive in the North/South dialogue. It could contribute to a more pragmatic and mutually cooperative dialogue in the future. The developing countries may not favor this approach because they hope to use the General Assembly to impose guidelines and timetables on the negotiations in the functional fora. Some developing countries will resent and question our motivations for raising the broader issues of human rights and human needs.

2. Permit UN General Assembly either to reopen the CIEC negotiations on the individual issues or help pre-determine the results in the [Page 845] functional fora by adopting prejudicial guidance and timetables for them.

While the developing countries may favor elements of this option, it would hamper mutually satisfactory negotiations in the functional fora and could encourage a return to the more confrontational atmosphere of the past. It tends to “front load” political benefits by setting ambitious deadlines and goals at the cost of later castigation for inadequate fulfillment. Other industrialized countries support min-imizing the actual negotiating role of the UN General Assembly and other general fora.


That we seek to manage UN General Assembly discussions along the lines of option 1.7

B. How active should we be in selecting which UN body will have the North/South overview function.

1. To affirm publicly our support for the Venezuelan concept of a special, restricted-membership committee attached to the UN General Assembly in an effort to mobilize support for this concept.

If there is to be an overview mechanism, we consider this idea the best of the various alternatives. But it is unclear whether sufficient developing country support can be generated for it. Furthermore, our open support of the initiative would not necessarily help garner support for it.

2. Maintain our current low public profile on this issue and wait and see if the developing countries can agree on the concept of an overview mechanism and the question of where it should be located.

This option would permit us to avoid committing ourselves until the fate of the Venezuelan proposal in developing country circles is clear. While there are relative advantages and disadvantages to the Second Committee and ECOSOC alternatives, one is not sufficiently preferable to prompt an active role for the US in support of it if the Venezuelan idea is not supported by developing countries. Should circumstances later warrant, we could then assume a more active position. On the other hand, developing country failure to agree on an overview mechanism would not necessarily be contrary to our interests.


That we maintain a low profile as in option 2.8

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North/South Discussions with Latin American Leaders

We believe the most productive exchange on North/South issues would be with leaders of Venezuela, Brazil, Jamaica, Peru, Mexico, and Argentina. These leaders represent countries that were most directly involved in CIEC, are more active in North/South matters generally, and represent the most influential countries in the region.9

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 65, PRC 038 9/22/77 North/South Issues—PRM 8. Confidential. Attached is an undated note by Brzezinski that reads: “Perez recommended a working group (OECD, OPEC, and asst. states) of some 35 states at the UN to give greater focus to North-South issues. State—if I understand the paper—recommends ‘a low profile.’ I feel that some cooperative but manageable mechanism is needed (like CIEC), and I would be inclined to encourage Perez to develop his idea further—and it do so sympathetically.”
  2. The 32nd UN General Assembly session took place September 20–December 21.
  3. Carter underlined the words “Conference” and “International Economic Cooperation.”
  4. The 63rd session of the Economic and Social Council took place in Geneva July 6–August 4. For the text of Young’s address delivered on July 8, see the Department of State Bulletin, September 19, 1977, pp. 383–389.
  5. During a June 29 meeting with Pérez, Carter stated “that he was willing to accept Venezuela’s proposal to set up a group of representatives from 30–35 nations, including the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, as well as industrialized and developing countries, to work within the U.N. on North-South economic issues.Carter also expressed his hope “that the US and Venezuela would work closely in this forum to develop proposals, but it was President Carter’s preference, in general, not to set up new organizations if one already existed to do the job.” (Memorandum of conversation, June 29; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 35, Memcons: President: 6/77)
  6. The Economic and Financial Committee of the UN General Assembly was also known as the Second Committee.
  7. Carter indicated his approval of this recommendation.
  8. Carter indicated his approval of this recommendation.
  9. Carter made a checkmark in the margin adjacent to this paragraph and ini-tialed “J.”