Ahead of the Curve: A series on Development Pioneers at the United Nations

A new series in the UN Chronicle will highlight the major intellectual contributions and policy consequences of work undertaken by major researchers who worked with the United Nations system during their careers. This series of articles will profile key personalities who have made major contributions to the intellectual leadership of the Organization in the area of economic and social development.

The United Nations has often made proposals for economic policy -- national and international -- well ahead of other international organizations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Examples include the proposals for loans at concessional interest rates to developing countries in the 1950s, special measures for the least developed countries in the 1960s, adjustment with a human face and measures for accelerated debt relief in the 1980s, priorities for institutional change and more gradual transition in the countries of the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.

Several of these were initially opposed by the Bretton Woods institutions, but later accepted. Details can be found in the volumes of the United Nations Intellectual History Project (UNIHP) -- co-directed by Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly and Thomas G. Weiss -- and summarized in their book, The Power of UN Ideas (2005), downloadable from the UNIHP website (www.unhistory.org). The Project is located in the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY).

While many are familiar with the Nobel laureates in economics who have worked as UN staff members or have contributed to UN ideas and activities, such as Jan Tinbergen, Gunnar Myrdal, Wassily Leontief, James E. Meade, W. Arthur Lewis, Richard Stone, Lawrence Klein, Theodore W. Schultz and Amartya Sen, there are others who have also made important contributions to the Organization's intellectual leadership in development.

The UN Chronicle, in coordination with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), plans to regularly publish intellectual profiles,under the heading "Ahead of the Curve". In this issue, we begin the series with features on Hans Singer and W. Arthur Lewis.