Economic Cooperation and Integration among Developing Countries: A Brief History

Phase 1: The 1950s and 1960s

Economic Cooperation and Integration among Developing Countries (ECIDC) has a long history going back to the Asian-African Conference (Bandung Conference) held in Indonesia in 1955.

A number of groupings emerged over the coming decades boosting political, cultural, economic and technical cooperation. Coordination of these countries at a multilateral level was advanced with the establishment of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961 and through the Cairo Conference in 1962 on the Problems of Economic Development which led to the creation of the so-called Group of Seventy Seven (G77) and UNCTAD in 1964.

UNCTAD was the first agency to recognize the need to promote ECDC as part of its regular work programme.

Phase 2: The 1970s and 1980s

Subsequent work by UNCTAD focused on a global system of trade preferences among developing (GSTP), financial and monetary cooperation (with the G24), as well as technical support for interregional cooperation programmes.

The UNCTAD III held in 1972 in Santiago de Chile, prompted the transformation of the Working Programme on Trade Expansion and Economic Integration among Developing Countries into a Division status. From 1974, much of this work was linked to the efforts to establish a New International Economic Order (NIEO) adopted in the United Nations General Assembly resolution A/RES/S-6/3201.
In 1978, the UN Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) was held in Buenos Aires adopting the Buenos Aires Plan of Action on TCDC a blueprint document boosting south-south technical cooperation. This effort was cut short by the debt crisis of the early 1980s. However, closer regional integration did continue, although in a very uneven fashion, raising new policy challenges for developing countries.

The rapid development of the East Asian region involved particularly strong regional ties which have been extensively examined by UNCTAD. UNCTAD was also called upon to support a number of monetary cooperation schemes drawing lessons from experiences in other regions and prompting a platform for dialogue between delegations of different parties of the developing and developed world.
In 1983 the ECDC Committee re-formulated UNCTAD´s ECDC programme securing that work on this project was approved.

Phase 3: The 1990s and 2000s

Subsequent work on South-South cooperation has continued in UNCTAD albeit on a much more decentralized and ad hoc basis through the work programme of each division.
UNCTAD IX in Midrand, South Africa lead to a commensurate restructuring of the Secretariat and the abolition of the Division on ECDC. The Conference felt that this cross-sectoral issue could be best addressed by introducing an ECDC emphasis in the work of each of the substantive Division of UNCTAD with an overall coordination role given to the Development Policies Branch of the Division on Globalisation and Development Strategies.
UNCTAD XI held in Sao Paulo lead to a new momentum in south-south cooperation which was later crystallized at UNCTAD XII in Ghana.
The Accra Accord of UNCTAD XII recognized the growing importance of South-South cooperation and the potential role that UNCTAD could play in supporting this trend.
In 1995, General Assembly with its resolution A/RES/50/119 on Economic and technical cooperation among developing countries had called for a United Nations conference on South-South cooperationwhich was only held in Nairobi in December 2009.
UNCTAD Secretary General Panitchpakdi decided to establish a unit on ECIDC in July 2009 aiming to revitalise its work on this issue. The unit was implemented with posts provided by the development pillar endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/63/260 of December 2008.

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