My Research at the Archives of The United Nations Office at Geneva – A Field Trip

Jonathan Pugh |

My two-day field trip to the United Nations Library & Archives Geneva, funded through a UACES-JMCT Scholarship, had the added benefit of being the site of the long-deceased League of Nations and was truly a wonderful location for one to conduct archival research at.

The research I conducted in Geneva was focused on material from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). My research project is Scandinavia in Global Politics: Staffing International Organizations and Seeking Influence (1970-2020). Thus, the aim of my trip was to find out more about the Scandinavian states’ (in my thesis this is defined as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) activities in the two UN sub-agencies stated above in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The archival evidence demonstrated that the Scandinavians, especially Sweden, were the funders of the first resort for ad hoc projects within UNCTAD. The archives also showed that UNCTAD staff were careful to add a gender component to their funding bids in an effort to placate and gain the financial support of the progressive Scandinavians. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) were also involved in multiple projects to educate and train individuals from the Global South in areas such as Port Management and Industrial Planning and much more than any other Western aid agency within UNCTAD. This ties in with Sweden’s support for the Global South’s New International Economic Order (NIEO) agenda in the 1970s and early 1980s and the pivotal, albeit doomed, role that the Scandinavian states played in supporting the NIEO agenda in the West, especially within the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In addition, the archives helped to trace the early efforts of the Scandinavian states to combat air pollution, which led to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). Altogether, the evidence found at the UN Archives in Geneva has proven vital for the development of my research project (forming the basis for two chapters) and as hugely complemented the several dozen semi-structured interviews I have done with both Scandinavian and non-Scandinavian practitioners.

More about the UACES scholarship: The scholarships are travel bursaries designed to provide mobility to existing postgraduate students so that they can undertake research in another country.