Its aim is to diminish the distance between the rich nations and the poor nations of the world, but so far the so-called North-South dialogue has been unable to decide on the means for reaching this goal.
The problem remains abundantly clear this weekend as foreign ministers of 22 countries, including US Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., gathered in the posh Mexican Carribean resort of Cancun to prepare for an October summit session called to redesign the international economic order.
While the bulk of their work centered on designing the October session, which President Ronald Reagan will attend, the nagging quandary is how to realign world resources.
no one in Cancun overlooked the fact that most of the wealthy nations are north of the equator and most of underdeveloped, south.
The ministers also were made aware of the need to improve the standard of living for 800 million destitute people in the third world -- about one-fifth of humanity -- and to give their governments more control over the international economy.
Those attending heard a good deal of political and ideogological rhetoric from some third- world nations. These countries demand the immediate realignment of world resources and recognition "by the rich countries of their obligation to give up some of what they have to assist the less fortunate nations achieve a parity," said one of their working papers.
The US does not have a well-defined position on the North-South talks. Mr. Haig was prepared to listen to what the other delegates have to say, but not to go much further. Indeed, US participation is part of the Reagan administration's effort to maintain good relations with Mexico. There is some question about whether the US will look with favor on issues relating to giving the poorer countries a greater voice in the management of internati onal lending institutions.