6 - Developments in the 1980s – Form without Substance  pp. 99-114

Developments in the 1980s – Form without Substance

By Robert E. Hudec and J. Michael Finger

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THE FIRST half of the 1980s has produced no important change of direction in developing-country policy. The events of this period could generally be described as a further elaboration of the main themes laid down in the previous twenty years. At the level of formal recognition, the commitment of governments to current developing-country policy has continued to escalate. Practical elaboration of these general principles has also moved ahead slightly, but not with the same sense of progress. Indeed, there is a growing sense that the practical benefits of this policy may be very small, perhaps even non-existent.

The current situation, then, presents a rather odd picture of things moving in different directions. Even though there is an increasing awareness of problems at the implementing level, the formal commitment to the current policy continues to get stronger every year. As criticism of the policies of developing countries increases, so do the rhetorical and institutional barriers to reconsideration.

The present chapter describes recent developments in three areas which illustrate the current situation.


In 1974, the United Nations adopted two major resolutions, one calling for the New International Economic Order and the other declaring a Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States. Shortly after, legal experts in various parts of the world began working in earnest on the question of whether the principles affirmed in these documents deserved to be recognized as rights and obligations of international law proper.

Abdulqawi Yusuf , Legal Aspects of Trade Preferences for Developing States (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982)
Kamal Hossain (ed.), Legal Aspects of the New International Economic Order (London: Frances Pinter, 1980)
Marthinus Gerhardus Erasmus , The New International Economic Order and International Organizations (Frankfurt-Main: Haag und Herchen, 1979)
Mohammed Bedjaoui , Towards a New International Economic Order (New York: Holmes & Meier, for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1979)
Pieter Verloren van Themaat , The Changing Structure of International Economic Law (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1981)
Rene Jean Dupuy (ed.), The New International Economic Order: Commercial, Technological and Cultural Aspects (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1981)