Dr Sinclair argues in his latest paper that the United Nations (UN) was deeply complicit in the entrenchment of neoliberal practices in international law and governance during the last quarter of the twentieth century. This argument runs against a widely shared view which draws a sharp contrast between the activities and ideology of the UN and those of international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. Envisaging the UN as an assemblage of heterogeneous entities in diverse and shifting relationships with one another, this paper traces the transformation in its aims and activities through three broad and somewhat overlapping stages. First, the energies of the New International Economic Order were diverted and channeled into procedures for reform of the UN itself. Second, UN entities responded in diverse ways to the rise of neoliberal orthodoxy in the IFIs, sometimes compromising with the latter and at other times attempting various forms of resistance against it. Finally, UN entities’ efforts to link social and human development to programs for economic growth contributed to the convergence towards a new “consensus” on development among the UN and the IFIs.
Guy Fiti Sinclair is an Associate Professor and the Associate Dean (Pasifika) at Auckland Law School. He was previously Associate Professor at Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Law and Associate Director of NZCPL. Before undertaking his doctoral studies at New York University School of Law, Guy worked for over 10 years as a corporate and commercial lawyer in leading U.S., English and Australasian firms, and in a variety of in-house roles. Guy's principal areas of teaching and research are public international law, the law of international organisations, and international economic law.