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UN Contributions to Development Thinking and Practice

Richard Jolly, Louis Emmerij, Dharam Ghai, and Frédéric Lapeyre

Publication Year: 2004

UN Contributions to Development Thinking and Practice is at once a history of the ideas and realities of international development, from the classical economists to the recent emphasis on human rights, and a history of the UN's role in shaping and implementing development paradigms over the last half century. The authors, all prominent in the field of development studies, argue that the UN's founding document, the UN Charter, is infused with the human values and human concerns that are at the center of the UN's thinking on economic and human development today. In the intervening period, the authors show how the UN's approach to development evolved from mainstream areas of economic development to include issues of employment, poverty reduction, fairer distribution of the benefits of growth, equality of men and women, child development, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series

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pp. v-vi

Boxes, Tables, and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

It is surprising that there is no comprehensive history of the United Nations family of organizations, either institutional or intellectual. True, a few of the funds or specialized agencies have written or are in the process of writing their institutional histories. This is, indeed, what all UN organizations should

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

All four of us are grateful for research support from a number of creative and energetic assistants. These include Severine Deneulin, who spent many hours digging up basic sources and material and helping to summarize what were the intellectual contributions in such a mass of material and contributed directly...


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pp. xv-xviii

Part I. Values and History

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1 Has There Been Progress? Values and Criteria for UN History

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pp. 3-15

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether looking back at the early days of the UN in the mid-twentieth century or looking forward half a century later, the progress one sees, or the setbacks and failures, is enormously influenced by the values and beliefs one holds. Every UN action has its political...

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2 The History of Development Thinking from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes

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pp. 16-46

Ideas do not just emerge. Many have a birth date and are born in an identifiable place. But like all children, they draw on the genes of their parents and their character and growth reflect the situation of their birth and upbringing. In this chapter we set the historical stage of this book by reminding the reader of the extraordinary richness of ideas and thinking on issues of economic

Part II. Ideas and Action

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3 The 1940s and 1950s: The Foundations of UN Development Thinking and Practice

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pp. 49-84

In the postwar period, economic development became an important, if always somewhat sidelined, theme of economic thinking and analysis. The growing concern with development among economists resulted from three different challenges: the reconstruction of Europe after 1945, the development...

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4 The 1960s: The UN Development Decade— Mobilizing for Development

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pp. 85-110

On 25 September 1961 the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, addressed the UN General Assembly and launched a proposal for a Development Decade.1 If the United States could commit itself to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, he said, it would certainly support the idea of improving the living standards of people in the poorest countries over

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5 The 1970s: Equity in Development

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pp. 111-137

Over the 1960s, a gradual shift in development thinking took place from an almost exclusive preoccupation with growth rates to concern also with equity, poverty, and employment. This shift originated in a perception that despite the relatively favorable growth rates being achieved, there often appeared...

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6 The 1980s: Losing Control and Marginalizing the Poorest

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pp. 138-168

The 1980s witnessed three remarkable changes for development. They marked a decisive turning point in development policies pursued by most developing countries. They constituted a watershed in the role the UN system played in generating ideas and influencing strategies for development. Finally...

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7 The 1990s: Rediscovering a Human Vision

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pp. 169-185

For development, the 1990s were years of backlash, adjustment, and public relations. Some efforts were made to rein in the extremes of policy prescriptions of the 1990s and strike a balance with the concerns and approaches that had dominated development policy in the preceding decades. There was...

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8 Building the Human Foundations

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pp. 186-219

The human dimensions of development have been central in the mandates of the specialized agencies from the beginning. The WHO’s constitution, for example, states, “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without...

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9 Structural and Sectoral Change

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pp. 220-244

In the first decades of the UN, the essence of development was thought to be changes in the economic and social structures of underdeveloped countries. Underdeveloped countries were those in which almost all the population was poor and rural, depended on agriculture for its livelihood, and spent...

Part III. Outcomes and the Future

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10 The Record of Performance

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pp. 247-275

As has become clear from previous chapters, the process of development in the poorer countries over the last half-century has been unprecedented— in terms of economic expansion, human development, the advancement of human rights, and poverty reduction. In the long record of human history...

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11 UN Contributions and Missed Opportunities

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pp. 276-298

We have almost come to the end of this volume. Before drawing lessons for the future, let us review where we stand. The contributions of the UN must be neither understated nor overstated. The UN has been an intellectual pioneer in issues of economic and social development, much more than is often recognized...

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12 Lessons for the Future: Development Thinking and the UN’s Future

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pp. 299-316

What has become clear, we hope, is that the United Nations has done an enormous amount of pioneering and creative work in helping to shape development thinking and practice. In the early period—during the late 1940s and early 1950s—the organization dominated the development scene, particularly with macrolevel policies. Influential reports and contributions were written by...


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pp. 317-318


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pp. 319-368


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pp. 369-384

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About the Authors

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pp. 385-386

Richard Jolly is Senior Research Fellow at The CUNY Graduate Center, where he is co-director of the United Nations Intellectual History Project and Research Associate and Honorary Professor at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. Until mid-2000, he was special advisor to the UNDP administrator and architect of the widely acclaimed Human Development...

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About the Project

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pp. 387

The United Nations Intellectual History Project was launched in mid-1999 to fill a gaping hole in the literature about the world organization. The project is analyzing the origins and evolution of the history of ideas cultivated within the United Nations family of organizations and of their impact on wider thinking and international action. Certain aspects of the UN’s economic and social...

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111012
E-ISBN-10: 0253111013
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344076

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 4 figures, 1 index
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series