FCO paper, PC (70)12, ‘North V. South’, December 1970

Cover note states: this “considers the future of the gap between the developed and the developing countries and its implications for British policies”.

Paper. It is unlikely that a general coordinated North/South struggle will take place but “countries or organisations in the South might succeed in disrupting ordered life in the developed world and in bringing pressure to support their own interests by various tactics, including one or more of the following: (a) alliance with powerful friends [ie SU or China]…(b) world-wide guerilla warfare [including attacks on world communications and trade]…(c) Denial of strategic products. Strong bargaining positions on oil and other supplies will be exploited, but there will be no general economic campaign. The developing countries need their revenues too badly. (d) regional conflict [eg in Southern Africa]”.

“The most likely situation is one in which the North/South gap, while not leading to actual hostilities, will provoke continuing unrest and dissatisfaction and remain an important adverse political phenomenon”. Therefore, these predictions “underlie the importance of generous and effective British (and Western) trade and aid policies towards the developing world”.

“The promotion of the ideal of development has tended to establish in the non-Communist ‘North’ a sense of common worldwide responsibility for the fate of the world’s poor. With varying degrees of cant and prevarication, this responsibility has been recognised by the governments of the industrialised nations; this recognition in turn tends to put a limit to the readiness of any government to refuse to make some contribution to the betterment of the developing world. There is an analogy with the inequalities between rich and poor in the new industrialised England of the 19th century. Despite a measure of self-righteousness among the rich the belief prevailed that so wide a gap between wealth and poverty was intolerable, and numbers of the wealthy themselves worked for its (albeit partial) reduction”.

“Implications for British policy”. “There are strong arguments on grounds of humanity as well as of enlightened self-interest” to support “liberal British policies” on aid. “If we fail to play a responsible part in efforts to improve the lot of the South, the most dangerous reaction may come from within British and industrialised society as a whole (both from minority groups of ‘Southerners’ and from other supporters) rather than from external conventional attacks. This emphasises the need, in our aid policy, to ensure generous treatment for those countries with which our British minorities are most closely identified; as also for the dependent territories for which HMG remains responsible and where developmental or political failure will be laid at the British door”.

National Archives: FCO 49/293

Leave a reply