Between North and South: The World Bank and the New International Economic Order

The New International Economic Order (NIEO) was among the more notable aspects of the 1970s, a decade that scholars have begun to view as a critical period in contemporary history.Although anticolonial leaders, dependency theorists, and others had long advocated reforming the international political economy to spur more rapid development of the global south, the attempt to enumerate and codify these proposals under the auspices of the United Nations was unprecedented. So too was the fact that, for a time, northern governments entertained some of the demands.

A unique confluence of events created the conditions for the NIEO. The success of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in increasing world oil prices convinced many developing country leaders that the time was right to demand changes to the international system, at the same time that higher energy costs made economic restructuring a necessity for many oil-importing developing nations. Cracks in the Western alliance, the cooling of East-West tensions that accompanied détente, and a desire to curry favor with postcolonial states also created space for northern governments to engage in discussions over global economic reform.

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