Papers of Sidney Dell (1918-90)

Scope and Content

The papers are divided into four sections:  

  • files arranged by subject
  • files arranged by person
  • files arranged by country
  • speeches, articles and other writings by Dell

The files arranged by subject contain mainly photocopies of reports, articles and other papers, with some correspondence, including miscellaneous correspondence at the end of the section. The authors of reports and other papers have not been listed. The Persons section comprises mainly correspondence with people whose letters Dell kept in separately named files. The Country section contains papers referring specifically to certain countries, groups of countries, regional economic blocs and continents.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sidney Dell (1918-90) was an economist who spent more than 40 years involved in the United Nations (UN). Beginning in 1947, when appointed Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, New York, he rose to become the Secretary of the Berlin Currency and Trade Committee of the Security Council in 1948. He was then involved in the formulation of the World Economic Survey in the 1950s, first at the Division of Economic Stability and Improvement, where he was Chief of the World Trade Analysis Section, 1951-5, then at the Bureau of General Economic Research and Policies, 1955-64 (with breaks in Santiago working for the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) in 1958 and as Ford Foundation Fellow at King's College, Cambridge, 1960-1). This was followed by a period at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), where, during 1965-72, he was Director of the New York Office and Division for Financing relating to Trade. Following a spell in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and a secondment as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in a UN Emergency Operation, 1974-5, Dell joined the United Nations Centre for Transnational Corporations (UNCTC) in 1977, becoming its Executive Director in 1983. Upon retirement in 1985 he entered the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) as Senior Fellow, where he set about the task of writing a history of the economic work of the UN. His death in 1990 left the project unfinished, save for the first of a planned series of books, The United Nations and International Business (London, 1990).

Throughout his career Dell maintained that 'poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere', reminding the industrialized countries of the universal benefits, in terms of enhanced trade and economic growth, deriving from worldwide development. He tried while at UNCTAD to play a part in re-arranging North-South relations through his role in creating the International Development Strategy for the Second Development Decade. Following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s, Dell attempted to ensure that the new system's construction (by the Committee of Twenty) would be open to developing country influence, firstly by guiding the formation of the Group of Twenty Four (the counterpart to the Developed Countries' Group of Ten) and secondly by preaching the notion that trade, development finance and the international monetary system were interdependent. This idea, new at the time, culminated in UNCTAD being present at the Committee of Twenty's deliberations, as observer.

In 1974-5 he worked to assist Less Developed Countries (LDCs) caught up in international instability when taking responsibility for most of the planning of the UN Emergency Operation to relieve the developing countries most affected by the oil crisis. Then, as Executive Director of UNCTC, Dell devoted his time largely to exploring how transnational corporations could best foster development in host countries. Following his move to UNITAR, Dell produced two books, one of which, International Development Policies (London, 1991), encapsulated Dell's philosophy regarding international co-operation for development.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

The papers were given to the Library by the Dell family in 1994 and 1995.


Collection level description created by Emily Tarrant, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

A description is available in the Library.

Related Material

See also the Papers of the United Nations Career Records Project (MSS. Eng. c. 4655-748, 4797, 5229).


Corporate Names

Geographical Names