UNCTAD’s future threatened for dissenting against financial orthodoxy

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This come's from Nick Shaxson's blog - and is important, so I reproduce it here:

"I have been sent a remarkable letter published yesterday by senior former staff members of UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, including some very big names in economics, such as Dani Rodrik, professor of International Political Economy at Harvard, and Robens Ricuperio, Brazil’s former Minister of Finance. Essentially, the letter is arguing that developed countries are trying to silence UNCTAD because its analysis of global financial and economic issues has stood out too far against the prevailing orthodoxies. The letter begins:

Silencing the message or the messenger …. or both?

Statement by former staff members of UNCTAD Geneva, 11 April 2012

“Since its establishment almost 50 years ago at the instigation of developing countries UNCTAD has always been a thorn in the flesh of economic orthodoxy. Its analyses of global macro-economic issues from a development perspective have regularly provided an alternative view to that offered by the World Bank and the IMF controlled by the west.

Now efforts are afoot to silence that voice.”

John Burley, who worked for UNCTAD for many years in senior positions, and who coordinated the letter, gave a presentation in Geneva in which he provided some background information:

“The next conference, UNCTAD’s next conference, is going to be held end of next week in Doha, Qatar. An attempt is going to be made there, on the basis of what we hear … at the moment, to change UNCTAD’s mandate by denying the organisation the right to continue – and I emphasise: to continue – to analyse and report on global macroeconomic issues, including the role of global finance in development.

UNCTAD has always looked at these issues in the context of interdependence . . . meaning the realtionship among the various flows of trade and finance and technology, and how that interrelationship affects development. This aspect of UNCTAD’s work has never been popular with the developed countries.
. . .
But in the end, all counties have accepted that a full understanding of the development process requires inclusion of this aspect of macroeconomic analysis. What is now at stake is a continuation of that acceptance. In other words, in plain English, part of UNCTAD is to stop what it has been doing.”

The letter continues:

Why is the UNCTAD message so unwelcome? The fact that UNCTAD has no formal responsibility for the global management of the international economy and none of its own funds to dispense means that its analysis is free of vested interests. No organisation correctly foresaw the current crisis, and no organisation has a magic wand to deal with present difficulties. But it is unquestionable that the crisis originated in and is widespread among the countries that now wish to stifle debate about global economic policies, despite their own manifest failings in this area.

Because of the crisis, we do now have a better explanation of the inter-relationships between the real economy and the world of finance. Those explanations are now a good deal closer to what UNCTAD has been saying for nigh on three decades about the dangers of finance-driven globalization.

And it is precisely in its analysis of interdependence that UNCTAD brings added value to an understanding of how the functioning of the global economy impacts on the majority of the world’s population who live in developing countries. Given the current pressure on the organisation and its secretariat, that contribution could now be gone for good (our emphasis).
. .
The developed countries in Geneva have seized the occasion to stifle UNCTAD’s capacity to think outside the box. This is neither a cost-saving measure nor an attempt to “eliminate duplication” as some would claim.”

The full letter is here."

Nothing surprises me about this.

But the world should be outraged that an economic system that supposedly espouses competition will tolerate no alternative thinking.