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New Directions for the Third World

FOR more than two decades, gatherings of the ``non-aligned'' nations have been dominated by sets of rhetorical demands on the developed world: for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and a New World Information Order (NWIO). In an era of global change, these ``orders'' are becoming relics of the past - although the underlying causes of the demands remain. The latest manifestation of the changed attitudes among the ``non-aligned'' came in a speech by Budimir Loncar, foreign minister of Yugoslavia, at the opening of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on third-world development in New York April 23. According to press reports, Loncar ``disparaged the third world's past calls for the NIEO, calling the idea `unrealistic.''' This indication followed earlier efforts by member nations to tone down the pressure for the new information order in order to encourage the United States to return to the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The NIEO and the NWIO reflected the deep feelings in the immediate post-colonial period that the developed nations of the world had an obligation to correct economic and informational imbalances that inhibited third-world development and offended the national pride of the new states.

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The economic order called for redistribution of global resources, free transfer of technology, forgiveness of debt, and establishment of a common fund to protect the export prices of commodities produced in the third world. The information order sought to shape the information that was gathered on the newer countries of the world through the creation of new press agencies and limitations on the activities of reporters from the West.

Both ``new orders'' encountered serious resistance from the developed countries. The industrialized nations were not prepared to acknowledge an obligation to transfer resources to the developing world, especially in the absence of conditions that encouraged investment and sound development policies. As the debate went on in UN organizations and, especially, in meetings of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, support for foreign assistance diminished, and the economic circumstances of the third world deteriorated. As the 1980s closed, the developing world began to abandon the policies of central planning and the resistance to outside investment.

In UNESCO, Western countries, led by the United States, resisted efforts to endorse the licensing of journalists and the right of governments to control the flow of information. The unrelieved pressure for the New World Information Order was one of the causes for the withdrawal of the United States and Britain from UNESCO. Opposition to the new order and the general lack of third-world success in creating alternatives to the major world news agencies have lessened the pressure for this new order.

The failure of the developing nations to wring concessions from the industrial world through such rhetorical campaigns should not, however, be a cause for satisfaction among the Western nations. The sensitivities and the circumstances that brought them about still exist; in many of these countries conditions are worse than at the time of independence. The new element, however, is that poorer nations are now turning to adopt the free market and democratic measures urged upon them by the West.

The success of new political approaches in the third world depends upon the capacity of these nations to resolve their crushing economic burdens of debt, bloated civil services, extravagant arms purchases, and their traditions of corruption.

The industrial nations also have a responsibility; however marginal to global power politics many third-world countries may seem, the consequences for the West of a collapsing, overpopulated developing world cannot be ignored.

Greater realism in economic policies and in political philosophies may be emerging in the nations that gained their independence in the middle of this century, but opportunities for developing both could be fleeting. The diminishing demand for ``new orders'' should be seen by the West, not as the end of a challenge from the third world but as the beginning of an opportunity. Many of these nations are now prepared to try the economic policies and the freedoms of the Western democracies; on the latter rests a major responsibility to see that these new efforts succeed.

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