Reining in Finance and the Effort to Silence a Critical UN Agency

This Real News Network segment gives a window into the efforts to squash criticism of the neoliberal orthodoxy in the world of international agencies. Even though the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) gets very little attention in the major media, its well researched and often prescient reports are enough of a threat to the orthodoxy to produce efforts by the advanced economy block in the UN to try to clip the wings of the agency. The start of this interview may seem like a bit of inside baseball, but it shortly gets to issues that are critically important.

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  1. NK

    The UN? You gotta be kidding me. That’s the worst possible organization one could give money to. No matter who’s doing this and why, I am all for it – down with the UN!

    1. MBR, f

      I have a lot of respect for your writings, Yves, but come on, the world would be a better place if UNCTAD had more than having its wings clipped. “Prescient reports”? Oh please. I can tell you from 20 years experience it is little more than a sinecure for tired Nehru economic thought, all vision funneled through an outdated and rigidly bifurcated developed-versus-developing world — when the reality is a complex spectrum of where countries sit. And then China and Brazil sit as elephants hiding among the mice, which is an endless source of unintentionally hilarious exchanges. And “advanced economy block”? You’re dating yourself.

      1. Aquifer

        Well maybe after over 30 years of tired old Friedman thought and the well documented failures of globalization culminating in global meltdown as finance was globalized, maybe its time to wake up that “tired” thought from other sources ….

        That is why UNCTAD is under fire – as the Washington consensus continues to lose hearts and minds, if it loses its last bastion – TINA – it is screwed; hence the need to squash any suggestion, let alone explication, of an alternative …

        In other words, if UNCTAD was allowed to go its merry way all these years, it was because TPTB could simply drown it out – they cannot any longer, folks are starting to pay attention, ergo it must be zapped …

        TRNN, IMO, is one of the best news outlets out there – it and NC are on my “donate” list ….

      2. Deus-DJ

        last I checked these developing nations have been saying roughly the same thing since the 50s and 60s while Washington opposed it every step of the way, and then when the 80s rolled around, FORGET IT. Look, there are these inbetween countries, but most developing nations have not been able to make the headway they have been asking for for DECADES.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        Honestly, do you know what you are talking about? Have you read a singe UNCTAD report or seen any UNCTAD senior officials speak? All you have is “yeah, it’s the UN, so it must be bad.” In case you missed it, the World Health Organization is actually good, but maybe you missed that it is part of the UN because it doesn’t have “UN” in its name.

        1. chitown2020

          It is hard to believe that the U.N. could be bad. But, they are hijackers who hide behind the guise of doing good work. Ron Paul believes we need to remove ourselves from our U.N. membership to protect our National Sovereignty. The U.N./NATO is a branch of the New World Order World Bank cabal. We have been duped under many guises. Our military is policing the world for them. We don’t need any of them. Esp. The FED. We are a fully capable of being a self sustaining nation. Yet we buy everything from our enemies….Globalization, Debt, and Wars are scams the Globalists are using to rob us of our National Sovereignty. Where has Globalization put us? We are exporting nothing but our knowledge, our jobs and our wealth. The Globalists are using our military to hijack and rob nations of their wealth and natural resources. What have the American people gained ….? Their debt.

          1. chitown2020

            I think that people are skeptical of the people hiding behind the scenes of everything. The rumors abound. Like one rumor is Bill Gates org is sterilizing African Women with vaccines. I’m not saying its true but, people are questioning more. That’s not a bad thing.

    2. rope them dogies

      Nice work with the contentless jeering, since that’s all ya got. The tension between development-as-growth and development-as-rights is not going away. Development as growth is discredited, a mordant joke worldwide. Now that your Ke**(rt) religion has flopped in corruption and chaotic drift, it’s going to be even harder to ignore the four-fifths of humanity that insist on their right to development. Their countries are acting as a bloc (the G-77, really now 131, including Uncle Sam’s creditors like China and most of OPEC.)

      The attack on UNCTAD is one episode in a long sordid story. US bankers hijacked Bretton Woods to free it from participatory international oversight in the UN. The UN Charter directs ECOSOC to bring international organizations into relation, so that the international community as a whole gets a say in economic policy. But the IMF and World Bank ducked UN contact from the outset to give the bankers a free hand. Now the banker’s bloc is trying to enforce economic Gleichshaltung, so their orthodoxy can get through its catastrophic failure intact.

    3. Up the Ante

      Your comment speaks of a ‘slogan’ adopted against UNCTAD’s development-led globalisation vs. your Agency’s finance-led globalisation.

      Your Agency’s stance is understandable as a desire to, of course, de-fund the ‘opposition’. Kind of like the rivalry of the space program, Air Force vs. NASA. NASA has recently ‘let’ Lockheed gobble up insane amounts of NASA’s exploration budget with the James Webb telescope overruns. Is this because NASA has been ‘penetrated’, ‘taken down’ ?

      Just for instance there, loss of the shuttle in reentry, NASA claimed it lacked the inspection capability while in orbit. Was that really the Air Force not wanting to transfer AERCam/MiniAERCam technology to foreign nations, at any cost ?
      December 10, 1997 Home

      James Webb Space Telescope as a cash cow

      [and, lol, I simply don’t feel right unless I say this, FRAUD WRIT LARGE, lol]

  2. burnside

    Though they make strange bedfellows, both UNCTAD and the BIS have been known to publish sound analysis and competent reportage.

    Thanks for this, Yves. Prashad, given a chance, is a pretty good advocate.

  3. Susan the other

    Financialization and speculation go hand in hand. Whether here in the US or globally. The question is now about growth, so it is almost predictable that the US and Europe, who do all the speculating, would morph the argument against development because development rests on growth speculation. Debt. And now Europe and the US are deleveraging like a mad panic.

    I just read a Chris Whalen article linked from Barry Ritholz. Whalen surprised me with his bizarre analysis. His bottom line was that if the US is to maintain its position of world reserve currency we must control our debt. It’s the new mantra. Even Bernanke gave this little speech to congress in February. Whalen didn’t analyze the fact that debt has become capital; that growth itself needs to be redefined; that we are all being hosed by the finance industry. And he sounded like a true gold bug. But he also explained that in 1945 Bretton Woods equated the dollar to 30 oz. of gold. By fiat (or agreement). So without putting the fine point on it Whalen just told us that gold is fiat too. And with that bedrock fact in mind, why does anyone have to control spending to achieve social goals and global equity?

  4. rapazinho

    Not all agencies are the same under the heterogeneous UUNN. FAO and UNDP might be found at one extreme, while Migration and Population related agencies seem to be on safe ground. The ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR LATIN AMERICA, although dramatically underfunded (since Prebisch, U.S. State Department dislikes it viscerally) has produced excellent analysis, specially after it has freed itself its Prebish legacy. UNICEF produced excellent work and had a positive influence on children and family wellbeing and education until it ran into U.S. interests (by pointing out the miserable rate found in US infant mortality and the excellent performance by Cuba Fidelista dictatorship).

    I have had the good fortune to work with UNCTAD in different parts of the world. As usual, the quality depends on who represents the entity and their professional quality and commitment. Perhaps I was exposed to a sample biased towards excellence.

    On the issue of financialization we should trust more UNCTAD than the IMF or the World Bank. Perhaps we should trust no one, but knowledge acquisition does not work like that. So, my vote goes for UNCTAD.

  5. Frau Sexophone

    The UN is an elaborate mechanism, some of the goals are legitimately worked upon, including peace. The US famously vetoes any resolution that are “critical” of various Isreali criminal aggression, making a mockery of any implied authority.
    After the brutal take down of Qadaffi, one might assume the frog marching of Lloyd Blankfiend and other Banksters before the ICC, but instead it’s a different extension of politics, the persuit of Qadaffi’s immediate family.
    Banksters are doing what they want, including installing their own ilk in the World Bank to collaborate with the UN.

  6. chitown2020

    IMHO…all skeptism is well deserved. The elite caused the mistrust. After all when they control the 5 corps that run the world they must be somewhere in the mix of everything.

  7. Clemenceau's moldering corpse

    Some backstory:

    But there’s another reason why the US and its satellites might be out to get UNCTAD:

    “UNCTAD XIII should strongly urge States to refrain from enacting and
    implementing unilateral economic, financial or trade measures that are not in accordance with international law or the Charter of the United Nations and that hamper the full achievement of economic and social development as well as trade, particularly in developing countries.”

    It’s a sore point for the US that its Iran sanctions violate the noninterference principle and UN Charter Article 41. Watch, five years from now the ICJ will rule that the sanctions were internationally wrongful acts liable for reparations – though Americans in their hermit kingdom will never know it.

    So while panicking about the budget deficit, don’t forget to add ICJ reparations for our illegal economic warfare against Iran to the reparations for our illegal naval attack on Iran (as adjudicated in Case concerning Oil Platforms.) Adds up, you know. Ask Germany.

  8. steven andresen

    MBR said,

    “… Oh please. I can tell you from 20 years experience it is little more than a sinecure for tired Nehru economic thought, all vision funneled through an outdated and rigidly bifurcated developed-versus-developing world — when the reality is a complex spectrum of where countries sit….”

    I’d say, if the question is whether this U.N. body should remain unfettered by the U.S. and Europe, then, it doesn’t matter whether it is at this time hampered by outmoded thinking about the world. It’s reason for being is as the one international organization that has some institutional loyalty to a broader sector of the world than the U.S. and Europe. And, as a representative of the rest of the world, it doesn’t matter if they think the north is run by space aliens. Who gets to define the mandate or the understanding that this body has about the world except the member states who have been contributing their work to it, and in whose interest the body works.

    Yes we know the U.S. doesn’t like democratic institutions because they tend to oppose its voracious appetite for the world’s valuables. But, I think the U.N. is a fine place for those few representatives of their people to make a stand.

  9. Fiver

    G77 should dig in and make as much noise as possible. Do NOT give anything away now.

    I think we’re seeing the rollback, all over the globe, not of the real bad guys, i.e., the US-based globalized financial/multinational (and military) complex, but of the gaggle of far right puppets used in their faux-partisan political programming since the crisis first lit up.

    In France with Hollande, the Irish Referendum (indications are “No” so far) in the US with Obama over the intentionally unelectable Republicans, Netherlands and Czechs up for grabs, Netanyahu out in the fall, and more.

    I believe we are about to enter a phase that, relative to its preceding stages, appears much more appealing to the MSM, Democrats, Independents, even some Republicans together with some varieties of “liberals” or “progressives”. This will all be touted as some wizardry wrought by a “tough, determined” and “battle hardened” and “shrewd” and “deep” Obama team, of course, at least in the US, the truth rather being it’s time for TPTB to change out their various puppet heads for a round or so. Same game, but this time the cast is soothing, relaxed, and laden with a nice big whack of – well, pork as it doubtless turns out, there being not a chance in blazes of concerted action aimed at actually solving anything. And if something goes wrong? Well, who better than Obama the Nobel Prize Winner to fire up the full planetary coverage drone grid for the first time and put an end to that little spat?

    I smell a big, fat, false dawn coming, a temporary, for most convincing, flush of “better times” that is again ensnared by the very “failures” UNCTAD, and the huge numbers of people with which they are concerned, would like to ward off. They won’t be “failures”, though, and especially as regards the Global South. It will again be US/UK/Western Europe/Japan doing the pillaging – just back to the big wide smile and a whole lot of promising sounding puff just like old Bill Clinton while the WTO knife went in. Some Gates and Buffett and Bono and Obama touring Africa spreading dreams while the World Bank quietly overseas making legal the globalized theft. That sort of thing.

    Make a big stink now and get that funding. You are going to need it.

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