Friday, October 11, 2013

International Institutions in a structural crisis

Opinion article by: Carolina Herrera Cano* (
International Business student at Universidad EAFIT

The development concept is one that has drastically changed through the years, different social movements and regulations have shaped its meaning and the way in which governments act in its favor. Raúl Prebisch, founder Secretary General to the UNCTAD defined a structural crisis the global economy was facing in 1981 as a result from the accelerated growth in production that created inequality, poverty, and pollution (Prebisch, 1981). The political and economic scenario has changed since the Cold War period, as the bipolar balance of power was reconsidered, but even if some of the development dynamics remain: the disadvantaged conditions of developing countries (what he calls periphery), and its contrast with the levels of consumption in developed nations suggests the existence of a structural crisis, the emergence of some international actors that are modifying how the global system functions is undeniable.

The context of the 2008 Great Recession is an evidence of this structural problem, the market imperfections that created the financial and economic crisis were described by Prebisch about twenty years before the depression: “Two centuries of belief in the regulatory virtues of the forces of the market have caused us to lose sight of the ethics of development...” (Prebisch, 1981, 568). But as it was mentioned before, there are some actors that have become more important no matter the system stagnation. This is the case of the international institutions that respond to the need of collective decision construction at the national and international levels, also proposed by Raúl Prebisch (Prebisch, 1981).

The emergence of international organisms has created an institutional framework legitimated by different countries because of its capacity for action. The role of the WTO (founded in 1995) is an evidence of this trend, in its Report of the Panel on Defining the Future of Trade convened by Pascal Lamy, Director-General, it is highlighted “the role of trade in contributing to sustainable development, growth, jobs and poverty alleviation”(WTO, 2013). And it also agrees with Prebisch’s proposal: “the challenge is to construct coherent national and international policy frameworks that deliver inclusive growth” (Prebisch, 1981).

At a national level, Colombian government has lately organized its development agenda in an international basis. Last month the OECD Council accepted the roadmap for the accession of Colombia to the OECD Convention; this organism promotes good practices towards a better society, and has evaluated Colombia in areas of health, education, environment, trade, investment and fight against corruption (Correa C, 2013). This is a great possibility for Colombia to be part of those international actors that seek a better global system. Despite the criticism about the actual effectiveness of these organisms, it is important to highlight the increasing power they are gaining in the global context, the gap between developed and developing countries is truly a structural problem, but a joint development agenda is an effort to increase possibilities for the least developed nations.


Correa C, J. (2013). En un mes comienza la adhesión de Colombia a Ocde. Available in: [October 10th, 2013].

Presbisch, R. (1981). Raúl Presbisch on Latin American development. On Population and Development Review, 7, 3, 563-568.

World Trade Organization. (2013). The future of trade: The Challenges of Convergence, Report of the Panel on Defining the Future of Trade. Geneva: OMC.