Today we look at the cycle of the United Nations. The initial promise, the flawed execution, the abandonment, and then the reassessment to perhaps justify a continuation. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
This is the first United Nations stamp I have covered. It is a great period piece of a different time. Factory smokestacks spewing not pollution but streams that turn into arrows signifying economic growth. It makes one want to join Gregory Peck and don the grey flannel suit. Notice also the acronym on the stamp. It is the French acronym for the organization. The lower denomination of the stamp issue is similar but has the English acronym UNIDO. Remember French and English are the international languages of diplomacy.
Todays stamp is issue A98, a 13 cent stamp issued by the United Nations in New York City on April 18th, 1968. It was a two stamp issue that celebrated the forming of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in 1966. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents, mint or used either denomination of the issue. Sometimes with collectibles, things go up in value as they become seen as a failed period piece. This stamp may have a shot at such a revival.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization arose out of whiz kid studies done for the Secretary General’s office in the 1950s. With so many new nations forming at the end of the colonial period, a universal plan for quick industrialization of the new countries was imagined. Expert help, capital, and help meeting international standards so goods could be exported were all parts of the plan. You have to admire the audacity of thinking they could actually pull something like that off. Remember though the 1950s was a more optimistic time. The Secretary General realized quickly that the task at hand was great and a dedicated organization was required, so one was formed in 1966.
This was something that the third world was highly in favor of. A UN organization would work most easily with the kind of socialist operations that were being envisioned by the new countries. A group of 77 such countries banded together in Lima, Peru during 1976 calling for more resources and setting the specific goal that 25 percent of the worlds industrial output originate from their countries. This may seem an understandable, low short term goal to the developing world that still had great hopes for the future now that they were setting their own path. To the developed world it crystalized that production was to them a zero sum game and the goal was to take from the rich and give to the poor. Such a pose cannot be received well by the people of the developed world, who were implicitly being asked to provide resources for the effort.
A large bureaucracy was formed in Vienna that absorbed much of the rich country largesse. The work of the agency did not successfully develop any of the 77 counties. Indeed UNIDO did little to keep going the socialist enterprises as economic reality struck in the 80s and 90s. During the 90s, the USA, the UK, France, Canada, and Australia all withdrew from the organization. The organization still continues with 700 employees and a budget of 500 million Euros, paid for mainly by Germany, Japan and Scandinavia. It has refashioned itself with talk of sustainable development and renewable energy, so President Trump probably wouldn’t have much success gaining UN funding for a scheme to bring smokestack factories back to the Midwest. Even if he allowed solar panels on the roof. An office building filled with children of the rich bureaucrats in a swank, jet set, European city. Now you are talking about something more realistic.
Well my drink is empty and I am left wondering what the former whiz kids thought when reality hit later and they were more mature. Something like the executers were not as smart as the planners, or was it always just a scam to get set up royally in Vienna. A little bit of that modern pessimism seeping in. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.