Confrontation or Cooperation - International Law and the Developing Countries (Preface to 2nd Edition)

Preface for the Second Edition

Confrontation or Cooperation?
International Law and the Developing Countries

A lot has changed in our ever-changing world since these papers were written and published. The United Nations has expanded even further to include practically all the countries of the world which emerged after the collapse of western colonialism and numerous states which gained independence after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and several East European countries. The world organization now consists of 191 members, a vast majority of them being still poor, so-called developing countries, struggling to survive in a treacherous world.
With the collapse of communism during the last few years and the disintegration of the Soviet Empire and the Soviet Union itself, the cold war, waged relentlessly since the Second World War, has subsided and there is some respite. But the world is still deeply divided. The “great divide” today is between the rich and the poor. As the former Finance Minister of Pakistan, Dr. Mehbood ul Haq pointed out:
“A poverty curtain has descended right across the face of our world, dividing it materially and philosophically into two different worlds, two separate planets, two unequal humanities – one embarrassingly rich and the other desperately poor. This invisible barrier exists within nations as well as between them, and often provides a unity of thought and purpose to the Third World countries which otherwise have their own economic, political and cultural differences. The struggle to lift this curtain of poverty is certainly the most formidable challenge of our time”.[1]

It is important to remember that due to their diverse historical, geographical, political, social, cultural, and other factors, these underdeveloped or developing countries exhibit wide differences not only in their way of life, but even in their thinking and practice. Though widespread poverty is a problem that afflicts most of the underdeveloped and new states, it is not a homogenous group. They range from China and India, with more than one billion peoples each, to 20 nations whose combined population scarcely adds up to 10 million. They cover a whole range of economic, political and cultural diversities, even antagonisms. The family of underdeveloped countries include both producers and consumers of energy, importers and exporters of raw materials, nations which can feed their populations as well as those which almost always face the spectre of famine. They differ among themselves so greatly in economic promise that they are sometimes divided into ‘third’, ‘fourth’ or ‘fifth’ worlds. In fact, for many purposes it is more misleading than illuminating to lump together Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  And yet, for a variety of purposes all these countries perceive themselves as a group, a perception made more impressive because it overcomes an underlying, undeniable diversity.
            It is also important to mention that, despite the expansion of the international society and all the changes that have occurred since the collapse of western colonialism and Soviet hegemony, the economic and even political conditions of the developing countries have not changed much. One need not dwell in the past only when the Asian-African countries, under colonial domination, had no choice. Unfortunately, the exploitation of the poor countries still continues through subtle and sophisticated means and under an economic order which is merely a continuation of the hated colonial era. Although colonialism has died a natural death, the international framework of the old order has been kept intact by the more pragmatic and self-confident colonial powers. The “white man’s burden” in respect of the impoverished, conquered and humiliated natives of the Third World still continues through the developed countries’ superiority and dominant voice in the international economic system. The division of labour between developed and underdeveloped countries, imposed in the colonial era, still continues and it is difficult to escape from it. Developed countries, or rather their business interests and transnational corporations, are unwilling to share their technology. Trade secrets are jealously guarded and markets are dominated by companies of the developed countries, and it is difficult for newcomers to enter them. The prices charged for manufactured goods are largely monopoly prices, and in any case they rise steadily over time.
The international monetary system and the international economic institutions, created after the Second World War by the Bretton Woods Agreement amongst the industrialized rich countries, established the basis of progress in the industrial world while completely ignoring the needs and demands of the developing countries. The poor nations have hardly any participation in the economic decision-making of the world. Their advice is never solicited when the big ten industrialized nations get together to take key decisions on the world’s economic future. Their voting strength in the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank and I.M.F.) is less than one-third of the total; and their numerical majority in the UN General Assembly has meant no real influence on international economic decisions.
Underdeveloped countries, still producing mainly primary commodities and raw materials for the developed economies, have several problems. The prices for their primary commodities and raw materials fall not only in relative and sometimes in absolute terms, but they fluctuate widely from year to year; their economies are highly dependent on exports and many of them are highly dependent on the export of new, sometimes just one or two, commodities. The fluctuations in commodity prices can be dramatic and are accentuated by speculation in commodity markets in London, outside the control of the underdeveloped countries.
In these papers we have tried to understand the feelings and aspirations of the new states which affect their attitude towards international law in no uncertain degree. It is only natural that hostility toward colonialism should spill over to influence their attitude toward certain other aspects of international law and these views much be understood in this  light. Thus, they rebel against some of the economic and political rights acquired during the period of their subservience which they have felt and still feel are unreasonable and inequitable.  Since the problems of the developing countries and their struggles continue unabated, we have not made any changes in the papers as they were originally published except to substitute one paper on “International Police Force” with
”South Asia and the Law of the Sea: Problems and Prospects” published originally in Thomas Mensah (Editor), Ocean Governance: Strategies and Approaches for 21st Centurey (Honolulu, 1994), pp.331-353.

R.P. Anand

[1] M. Ul Haq, The Poverty Curtain: Choices for the Third World, New York, (1976) p. xv.

Vision for this website

Dear academics and students of International Law,

We are creating this website in honor of Professor R.P. Anand who left us recently. He has left behind a vision and a lot of rich material and writings which we hope to share with you to keep the cause that he stood for alive. Professor Anand published over 20 books on the subject and over 100 articles in various journals which we will also try to share with you. His latest 2nd edition of "New States and International Law" will also be available soon and we will share that with his colleagues and students as well as distribute it to libraries as he would have wished. This vision is to evolve this site into a useful forum for research and discussions on international law especially from an Asian and "Third World" perspectives. Your comments, ideas and contributions will be most welcome as we develop this site further.

Vivek Anand, Sanjay Anand & Kavita Anand (children of RP Anand)