United Nations Overview

United Nations Overview

The issue of the economic development of developing countries has been central to the General Assembly since the 1960’s, when many former colonies became new members of the United Nations. In the mid-1970’s, the developing countries in the General Assembly called for a “new world economic order”, which would be equal and more equitable and based on cooperation between states “regardless of their economic and social system”. Although a declaration was adopted on the new world order, some of the governments of the industrialized countries were negative to the demands of the developing countries and have continued to be so. The economic differences have formed a significant part of the contradictions between the industrialized countries in the North and the developing countries in the South, the so-called North-South conflict.

The growing debt crisis during the 1980’s highlighted the problems in the international economy. The foreign debt of some developing countries had then risen so sharply that they could no longer even afford to pay the interest on it.

Since the 1960’s, the General Assembly has tried to draw up guidelines for fairer and more equal international economic cooperation through development strategies for ten-year periods. However, most of the goals in these have not been achieved.

A number of bodies within the UN system deal with economic issues. The most powerful are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The World Bank’s task is to lend capital to development projects. The IMF lends money to its members if they have payment problems. The IMF and the World Bank have led so-called structural adjustment programs for developing countries, where they have been able to borrow money in return for following the organizations’ guidelines.

Both organizations have been criticized for following the interests of the market too much and not considering humanitarian reasons in their lending policy. In recent years, the institutions have taken the criticism into account and changed the direction of the loan programs.

Large debts have been a major obstacle to the development of developing countries. In 1996, the World Bank and the IMF launched a joint debt write-off program (Heavily indebted poor countries, HIPC) to help heavily indebted countries. Debt write-offs were linked to how the countries managed to implement measures to combat poverty.

The world’s leading industrialized countries within the G8 decided in 2005 that another debt write – off program would be established, the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. This would give countries that have completed the HIPC program the opportunity to have their debts to the African Development Bank, the IMF and the World Bank written off.

At the Monterrey Development Financing Conference in 2002, developing countries committed themselves to taking greater responsibility for their own development through good governance and by making use of domestic resources.

But many developing countries are too poor to be able to get out of the poverty trap on their own. They cannot afford to make the necessary investments themselves. The opportunity to generate income from exports to the outside world is also of great importance. The importance of rich countries opening up their markets for exports from developing countries is often emphasized. Helping the poorest countries to build up their export industry through investment in infrastructure is also important. At the 2005 summit, the economically stronger countries promised to provide aid to developing countries for this purpose through the so-called Aid-for-Trade initiative.

Developing countries have, dissatisfied with, among other things, how trade issues have been handled within the UN, taken the initiative for new UN economic bodies. In 1964, developing countries got through their request for a conference on trade and development (Unctad). At the conference, G77 was formed, a cooperation group for developing countries. In the same year, Unctad became a permanent UN body. Unctad’s most important tasks are to improve the conditions for developing countries’ exports and the conditions for international commodity trade. Developing countries also succeeded in pushing through the 1966 General Assembly to establish an organization for industrial development (Unido), which became a specialist body within the UN system in 1985.

Within the United Nations, the regional economic commissions play an important role in compiling information on economic developments in each continent.

Today, the consequences of increasing globalization in the international economy have become a central issue. The lack of rules for the financial markets in combination with globalization has increasingly come to the fore.

According to AbbreviationFinder.org, United Nations is also known as UN. The fact that the UN has no real influence over international economic policy has particularly engaged developing countries, which feel that they have no say in the World Bank and the IMF. Many states and individual assessors agree that social development and a fairer global distribution of resources must be taken into account more. However, the political will of many richer countries is still lacking.

In connection with the global financial crisis at the end of the twentieth century, the G20, 19 developed and developing countries as well as the EU, suddenly took on a new role in international economic cooperation since it became clear that the G7 / G8 could not handle the effects of the crisis alone.


Providing aid to needy countries is an important part of the UN’s economic and social work.

Donor countries today channel only a small part of their aid through the central UN. A large part of the assistance is provided bilaterally or through the IMF, the World Bank and the regional development banks.

The General Assembly has adopted the goal that the states’ individual aid to developing countries should correspond to 0.7 per cent of gross national income, GNI. At the 2005 summit, UN members affirmed this goal. Despite this, today only a few countries provide at least 0.7 percent: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The United Kingdom was also expected to achieve the target in 2013. EU members have promised to have achieved the target by 2015. In total, only 0.29 per cent of donor countries’ total GNI went to development assistance in 2012.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is funded entirely through voluntary contributions from member states. UNDP engages other UN agencies to carry out various aid projects and has the task of coordinating the UN system’s aid activities. It has a network of offices covering operations in 166 countries. The UNDP representative in the countries acts as coordinator for the entire UN system’s development work in the country. Every year, UNDP publishes a Human development report with an index of developments in the countries of the world. The purpose is to measure development without just looking at income.

United Nations Overview