Popular Referendum of the UN General Assembly: For the Restructuring of the Global Economy


The Brandt Commission's proposals fall into two broad areas – an Emergency Programme for the world's poorest nations launched by a summit of world leaders (Summit of Government Leaders: For an Emergency Relief Program), and a plan for restructuring the international economy. This section explains the rationale and delineates the measures involved in the plan for restructuring the global economy.

In addition to launching the international relief programme, the conference of world leaders would also discuss the broader question of how the Emergency Programme and global development in general, can be supported by international monetary, financial, and trade policy.

"The start on reform of the international economic system must concentrate on:

• steps toward an effective international monetary and financial system, in which all parties can participate more fully

• acceleration of efforts to improve developing countries' conditions of trade in commodities and manufactures" (N-S, 277)

The discussion among these leaders would not be binding in any fashion. It would simply provide a new focus on current world economic problems, generate ideas about reforming the global economy, and settle the parameters and format for such discussion. These talks would help strike a balance between what is necessary and what is feasible, so that the world community has a clearer understanding of the major dimensions of the international economy, its inherent problems, and how they might be addressed. The conference of international leaders would offer possible solutions and forge commitments, set guidelines for detailed negotiations through international agencies, propose a timetable for results to be reached, and offer these recommendations to the UN General Assembly.


On the basis of the Emergency Programme for international relief by the conference of world leaders and their recommendations for global economic restructuring, the United Nations, its agencies, and numerous guests would begin their own review of the international economy. The Brandt Commission called for a:

"Global Round of Negotiations on international economic cooperation for development, with the UN General Assembly playing a central role, assisted by a small, representative and efficient negotiating and overviewing body, with representation at a high level of political stature and professional competence" (CC, 151).


"We believe that the UN General Assembly, being the most representative body in the international system, should play a central role in global negotiations and that this need not be inconsistent with respect for the role and competence of the specialized agencies" (CC, 147-48).

Under the watch of these high-level leaders, the UN would have the task of guiding the reformation of the international economy. The United Nations General Assembly would also host a multilateral referendum for all sectors of society, including representatives of governments, major corporations, private capital banks, central banks, the World Bank, the IMF, the World Trade Organization, and other international institutions, as well as representative input from non-governmental organizations, civic, and regional groups from across the world.

Arranging an effective conference of this magnitude may seem an improbable and unwieldy task, but sooner or later it must be created if the international economic system is to be genuinely responsive to the needs of the world's people. As the Brandt Commission noted:

"Negotiations would thus take place in smaller, but self-chosen groups; but any agreements should be endorsed, after full discussion, by the plenary session. Our world society has grown to the point where we must now consciously apply to its institutions, particularly its decision-making ones, the principles of the Committee system" (N-S, 263-264).

[The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg are precedents for such a 'global town meeting' of government leaders, business representatives, and members of civil society. No international referendum, such as a Global People's Assembly with UN affiliation, has been organized.]

  Representatives from all nations, rich and poor, would meet for a series of discussions. Extensive consultation, bargaining, amendment, and compromise would be expected. Brandt suggested that negotiations of such breadth and significance need to be guided by principles of universality, common interest, and joint responsibility, rather than advantage, concession, and confrontation: constructive dialogue on global economic issues depends on a genuine spirit of partnership and mutual interest.

Over a period of months and years, these representatives would negotiate an agenda for broad-based, fully representative management of the international economic system. The UN General Assembly, in parallel with the popular global referendum, would plan measures for restructuring the international economy, along the following lines:


I. Ensure Global Governance

1. International understanding that development reform will enable large masses of people to participate more fully in society
2. Promote social and economic reforms within developing nations
3. Build political and administrative structures in impoverished nations
4. Encourage greater cooperation among developing nations
  a) Economic Cooperation agreements on
      •  Regional integration
      •  Sub-regional integration
      •  Production
      •  Preferential trading schemes
      •  Monetary arrangements
      •  Sharing of reserves  
      •  Export credits
      •  Refinancing arrangements
      •  Environmental protection
  b) Technical Cooperation agreements for
      •  Technical support
      •  Increased bargaining power in international negotiations
5. Redefine the concept of security as development, rather than military defense
6. Negotiate disarmament measures
    a) Make the world safer for development
    b) Reduce military spending
    c) Convert capital, resources, manpower, and high tech from arms production into civilian production and development assistance, including health, transportation, and urban renewal
    d) Place restraints on the export of armaments and arms-producing facilities
    e) Require disclosure of all arms exports
    f) Create international agreements to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons
    g) Require inspection of all nuclear power plants by the International Atomic Energy Agency
7. Strengthen the United Nations system
    a) Expand the Security Council, making it more representative of the world's regional balance of power
    b) Secure greater stability for the UN budget
    c) Strengthen the economic and social activities of specialized UN agencies
    d) Allow greater input by non-governmental organizations and civil society in global decisions involving economic development and sustainability
    e) Strengthen and expand UN peacekeeping operations
8. Establish a High-level Advisory Body
    a) Monitor the various international institutions in the development field
    b) Streamline the UN System by coordinating budgets, programmmes, and personnel policies
    c) Facilitate a new negotiating framework for North-South discussion on economic development
II. Protect the Environment
1. International understanding that both industrialisation and poverty cause extreme stress on the environment
2. Commitment to making economic growth and development less destructive to resources and the environment, ensuring that economic development is within the carrying capacity of the global ecosystem
3. Transition from exhaustible fossil-based resources to renewable energy sources through mobilization of technical research and investment capital
4. A transnational environmental plan
    a) Clean up the environment
    b) Develop a long-term water strategy
    c) Expand reforestation projects
    d) Reduce industrial emissions
    e) Conserve energy and resources
    f) Reduce dependence on fossil fuels
    g) Develop clean and renewable energy sources
    h) Environmental impact assessments
    i) Subsidies, credits, resource taxes, tradable permits
5. International agreements to co-ordinate and enforce international standards on environmental protection
6. International cooperation for the management of the environment
7. An international regime for the maintenance of the global commons, protecting them from overuse, including the oceans, the atmosphere, and outer space

III. Promote Fair Trade

1. International understanding that subsidies, tariffs and other trade restrictions are damaging to the long-term interests of both developing and developed nations
    a) World trade policy must be redirected away from export markets to the domestic markets of emerging economies, so that poor nations can have better access to the markets of developed nations and increase their earnings from the production and export of agriculture and mineral commodities beyond the amount they receive in aid
    b) International policy should promote industrialisation in developing nations as a means of development
    c) Strengthening of the primary and value-added commodity sectors will also contribute to development
    d) There must be a massive transfer of appropriate technologies and training at reasonable costs to enhance development and improve the technical skills of people in poor nations, fostering the necessary expertise and trained manpower to ensure their own technological development
2. Regime for international investment to foster partnership between government, foreign investors, and local producers
3. Measures to promote and regulate foreign investment
4. Financial support and technical assistance should be given to poor countries to facilitate and improve commercial infrastructure
5. Create a new world trade organization to
    a) Promote open borders, greater transparency, individual freedom, higher standards of living, and new measures to raise global consumer demand for the world's surplus products
    b) Allow proportionate representation and decision-making by developing nations
    c) Ensure a more equitable settlement of international trade disputes
    d) Curb protectionist trade restrictions by developed nations for items such as steel, textiles, clothing, and agriculture
    e) Promote decreases in commodity subsidies in developed nations, and greater stabilization of prices at fair levels through international commodity agreements and new financing arrangements in developing nations
    f) Encourage trade agreements that include provisions for better environmental, wage, and labour standards, and improved working conditions
    g) Establish a new code of conduct and rules for international corporations, new regulations on restrictive business practices, and disclosure of information and tax liability
    h) Develop a new framework for foreign direct investment to improve wages, taxes, trade, and financial and environmental standards in developing nations
    i) Fair labour standards should be internationally agreed on to prevent unfair competition and to facilitate trade liberalization
    j) Sharing of technology for greater technological self-sufficiency in developing countries
    k) Increased development and transfer of appropriate technology to developing countries
    l) Improved bargaining strength of developing nations to negotiate international agreements
    m) Expenditure, production, and trade of armaments must be regulated by the world community, with full disclosure and new taxes on arms exports
IV. Co-management of the International Economy
1. International agreement that the global monetary system must be reorganized to stimulate balanced economic growth, encourage stable currencies, expand liquidity, maintain environmental sustainability, promote political stability, and ensure equitable representation in global economic decisions and policies
2. Exchange Rate Regime
    a) The bulk of IMF gold stock should be used as collateral against which the IMF can borrow from the market for onward lending to middle-income developing countries
    b) Staggered sales should also be undertaken and accruing profits used as interest subsidy on loans to low-income developing countries
    c) Increased stability of international exchange rates should be sought through domestic discipline and co-ordination of appropriate national policies
3. New Reserve System
    a) Inaugurate a stable international reserve currency centered on the Special Drawing Right (SDR) as the principle asset
    b) SDRs replace the use of national currencies as international reserves
    c) Increase the issuance of SDRs in clearing and settling balances between central banks
    d) New SDRs created as needed for non-inflationary increases in world liquidity
    e) Link expanded liquidity to the adjustment process in developing nations
4. Balance of Payments Adjustments
    a) The adjustment process of developing nations should be placed in the context of maintaining long-term social and economic development
    b) The International Monetary Fund should be restructured
        •  Hire more foreign nationals
         Decentralize operations with regional offices and
advisorycouncils around the world
         Allow proportionate representation and decision-making
  by developing nations
         Ease the terms of loan conditionality for poor nations
         Expand its capacity to ensure predictable international
  exchange rates, provide balance-of-payments financing,
  and mitigate cyclical economic shocks in developing
        •  Enlarge and extend the scope of its compensatory
  financing facility
        •  Avoid inappropriate or excessive regulation of the
  economies of developing nations
    c) Programme for international debt relief, supported by governments and multinational banks
        •  Measures to increase employment, raise the incomes of
  the poor, increase purchasing power, and reverse the
  net outflow of capital from developing to developed
        •  Partial debt reduction – and in some cases  
  unconditional debt forgiveness
      •  Debt relief for developing nations must be linked to
  effective domestic policy reform to create development
  opportunities through earning, spending, saving, and
  investing, without being forced to increase exports and
  reduce public spending
5. Broad-Based Leadership to Manage the International Economic System
a) International review of international financial institutions
    b) Board or council of high-level international representatives
        •  Oversee global economic interdependence and provide
  advice and co-ordination on international economic
  policies and goals
        •  Receive input from the World Trade Organization, the
World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund
        •  Report to the UN, heads of state, and finance ministers
        •  Appoint a global 'securities and exchange agency' to
  manage international mergers, and global accounting and
  auditing procedures
      •  Appoint a global 'foreign exchange agency' to oversee
  international investment, banking, and foreign exchange,
  and limit volatile global capital flows
  c) The World Bank should be restructured
      •  Hire more foreign nationals
        •  Decentralize operations with regional offices and
  advisory councils around the world
        •  Allow proportionate representation and decision-making
  by developing nations
        •  Encourage greater regulatory transparency, local
  ownership of development services, credit availability,
  societal participation, and aid effectiveness in developing
         Expand concessional aid financing
        •  Increase programme lending
d) World Development Fund
•  Co-ordinate a multilateral programme for development
  assistance in developing nations
•  Supplement the funds of existing institutions in dealing
  with periodic downturns in the global economy
•  Insure foreign investment risk in developing nations
•  Provide efficient and fair methods of raising revenues
  through a small surcharge or tax on items of income,
  production, consumption, or trade, to serve as a source
of secure and long-term funds for development
•  Automatic financing of new global programmes and
  institutions, through fees on

      · International corporations
      · International investment
      · Foreign exchange transactions
      · International trade
      · International airline tickets
      · Maritime freight transport
      · Ocean fishing
      · Sea-bed mining
      · Offshore oil and gas
      · International oil trading
      · Satellite parking spaces
      · Electromagnetic spectrum use
      · Military spending and arms exports
      · Toxic wastes
      · Hydrocarbons and exhaustible resources
      · Energy consumption
      · Durable luxury goods

You are currently viewing
– Brandt 21 Forum –
a project of the
Centre for Global Negotiations

The Brandt Equation: 21st Century Blueprint for the New Global Economy
Table of Contents
PDF download (257KB)

About the Brandt Commission
Biography: Willy Brandt

Members of the Independent Commission on International Development Issues (ICIDI)
Willy Brandt (Chair)
Abdlatif Y. Al-Hamad (Kuwait)
Rodrigo Botero Montoya (Columbia)
Antoine Kipsa Dakouré (Upper Volta)
Eduardo Frei Montalva (Chile)
Katherine Graham (USA)
Edward Heath (UK)
Amir H. Jamal (Tanzania)
Lakshmi Kant Jha (India)
Khatijah Ahmad (Malaysia)
Adam Malik (Indonesia)
Haruki Mori (Japan)
Joe Morris (Canada)
Olof Palme (Sweden)
Peter G. Peterson (USA)
Edgard Pisani (France)
Shridath Ramphal (Guyana)
Layachi Yaker (Algeria)

Ex officio Members
Jan Pronk
Goran Ohlin
Dragoslav Avramovic

Contact Us · Site Map · Search · Help
Centre for Global Negotiations, Copyright © 2007 | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice