A Brandt New World?
In 1977, Willy Brandt assembled a group of international statesmen and leaders to take a close look at the failure of the global economy and the problems plaguing developing nations.
Brandt, the former West German Chancellor, was recipient of the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize for the Ostpolitik policies that achieved détente between the Soviet Union and the nations of the NATO alliance. With his new commission, a blue-ribbon panel of former heads of state and other prominent world figures, Brandt hoped to produce in North-South economic relations the kind of breakthroughs he'd had in the East-West political arena. The Independent Commission on International Development Issues was to produce a blueprint for the global economy of the twenty-first century.
2000 marked the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Brandt Commission's report, North-South: A Program for Survival. A sequel, Common Crisis: North-South Cooperation for World Recovery, was published in 1983. The Brandt Reports were the subject of major international publicity and discussion. They were widely hailed as the world's first internationally representative proposals on global development and economic interdependence. With sales of nearly one million copies in two-dozen languages, the Brandt Reports remain the best-selling books on international development in history.
Writes Brandt in the introduction:
"It discusses North-South relations as the great social challenge of our time. We want to emphasize our belief that the two decades ahead of us may be fateful for mankind. We want responsible world citizens everywhere to realize that many global issues will come to a head during this period. But we also raise problems to be dealt with at once, long before we have come to the end of the century" (N-S, 7).
The fundamental concern, said the commission, is that the developed nations dominate the international economic system – its rules and regulations, as well as their institutions and policies for trade, money, and finance.
At the same time, developing nations are economically dependent on the developed nations, and most are deeply impoverished and in debt. To break this stalemate, the Brandt Commission made a set of bold recommendations to governments, international agencies, and the global public. It proposed a restructuring of the global economy, along with a comprehensive new approach to the problems of development, including an emergency program to eliminate poverty in developing nations.
"Each of us on the Commission, coming from countries in five continents with very different political systems and principles, has our own perspective and historical experience. But all of us have become convinced that the world community will have to work out dynamic new approaches, both immediately and for the longer run. The debate between North and South has been continuing for some years; it is urgent that both sides should now work together in a program based on action for a rational and equitable international economic order. The journey will be long and difficult, but it must begin now if it is to meet the challenge of the next century" (N-S, 270).
Okay, the clock's been ticking on Brandt's twenty-year plan – now time is up! So it's fair to ask, how did we do? Does the prosperous world of the twenty-first century still have use for the Brandt Reports? Could they be relevant today?