International institutions, international legal norms, and the millennium development goals.

Author:Nahtigal, Matjaz
Position:Law and Development: Problems, Perspectives, and Prospects - Proceedings of the One Hundredth Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law: A Just World Under Law


In this article I analyze the causal link between international institutions, international legal norms, and the Millennium Development Goals. While the link may appear tenuous, even precarious, it does nevertheless exist. International institutions and international legal norms help to shape the international environment in which developing countries try to attain proclaimed goals. In considering the Millennium Agenda we should bear in mind two important observations: that the goals set in the Agenda are rather modest in scope, and as the UN Millennium Development Goals 2005 acknowledged, many of the important interim goals are not on track. Moreover, certain of the goals are farther off track today than they were at the time of the adoption of the Millennium Declaration.

I will also discuss the formal and practical possibilities for improving the position of developing countries at the bargaining table within multilateral institutions. Improved representation in favor of the developing countries, and transparent procedures and decision-making processes, are among these possibilities. Better arguments and stronger cooperation could also help in completing the Doha Development Round. What seems more important than the debate on improving market access to the developed countries as an end in itself, however, is to secure an international legal environment conducive to strengthening domestic public institutions and the development policies of developing countries. The sequence of steps toward liberalization must be carefully balanced and work toward improving domestic capabilities for development. (1)


Since 1980, we have seen examples of countries in the developing world that have managed to embark on a path of rapid economic and social development. On balance, however, the performance of the developing world in this last quarter of a century remains rather slow, and contrary to initial hopes and expectations. In fact, two of the countries with the highest growth rates in the past two decades, China and India, remain among the most protected markets. Their gradual, partial, and piecemeal approach to various forms of liberalization run counter to the propositions of the international financial institutions on how to improve and develop economies in the era of globalization. It is paradoxical, therefore, to claim that the present context of globalization is conducive to development and the alleviation...

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