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Twenty Years of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2009

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Twenty years have passed since the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) met for its first stormy session in the spring of 1947. The beginning of the Commission and the first five years of its existence were strongly influenced by the increasing political tensions between what would become two blocs of countries, led by the United States on the one side, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the other. How this East-West conflict, or Cold War, originated and developed I shall not attempt to clarify at this time, except by stating that it provides an example of what in my analytical work I have defined as “circular causation with cumulative effects.” As reaction followed upon action and further reaction upon that reaction, there developed a perverse but effective cooperation between those on each of the two sides who sought to solidify the blocs against each other. Circular causation does not need to be vicious, however. It can be virtuous, when once the general trend is instead turned toward a lessening of tension.

Copyright © The IO Foundation 1968

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1 See Adler-Karlsson, Gunnar, Western Economic Warfare 1947–1967: A Case Study in Foreign Economic Policy, Stockholm Economic Studies, New Series IX (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1968)Google Scholar; and Myrdal, Gunnar, “Political Factors Affecting East-West Trade in Europe,” Coexistence, 07 1968 (No. 5)Google Scholar.

3 “Opening Statement by the Executive Secretary to the 12th session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, 29 April 1957” (UN Document E/ECE/287).