5:51 AM Aug 29, 1994


New York (TWN) -- A coalition of Southern and Northern NGOs attending the second session of the Preparatory Committee for next year's UN Social Summit have demanded that the Summit must address the structural causes of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion and call for revision of the Structural Adjustment Policies being promoted by the International Financial Institutions (the IMF and the World Bank).

The coalition representing over 60 NGOs at the Prepcom have said that unless these issues are addressed by the Social Summit, it would be a failure.

The NGOs also wanted the Summit to ensure that UN expert bodies examine the implications of the new trade regime under the proposed World Trade Organization, for a full cost assessment of the Uruguay Round and compensation for losers, and to bring the world's transnational corporations who are "major actors" of the macro-economic system but unaccountable as well as the Bretton Woods Institutions into full accountability within the UN system.

The statement drawn up by leading Northern and Southern NGOs, and acting together with the Development Caucus and the Women's Caucus, also called for actions to address the continuing debt burden of the Third World countries and particularly of Africa, by writing off the multilateral debt, and for the OECD countries achieving the 0.7 percent of GNP UN target for official development aid (ODA) and for devoting 50 percent of such aid for social sectors.

The coalition said that the only way to achieve social development is to increase spending on primary health care, reproductive health, education, shelter and water and sanitation.

In what they described in their statement as twelve points to Save the Social Summit, the NGO coalitions said: "The World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) must not be allowed to fail. Nor must its objective of forging a new development consensus continue to be regarded with a mixture of indifference or scepticism by the international community. There is too much at stake for us to allow that to happen."

But "unless the structural causes of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion are adequately defined and properly addressed.. (and) unless a new paradigm for authentic, sustainable social development giving highest priority to the work of caring for and nurturing families in communities as the true national wealth emerges the Summit will be judged a failure," the NGOs warned.

The Summit must also take steps to ensure that all forms of oppression or discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, class or religion are eliminated.

The NGOs said that SAPs focused on export led growth and which disregard wealth distribution and environmental sustainability have failed to create employment, and have deepened social inequality and poverty, and thereby feeding social dis-integration, with the impact of these policies fell most heavily on women and children.

"Trickle down economics is not working - in the North or the South," the NGOs said.

"The Summit must urge adjustment policies be fundamentally revised. Through its expert Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ECOSOC should investigate the underlying premises of World Bank and IMF policies, and measure their impact against the criteria established for the Social Summit: namely, do they exacerbate or alleviate the forces which exclude and deprive poor people from their enjoyment of their basic rights.

"The International Financial Institutions should be willing to provide the relevant UN treaty monitoring bodies with regular reports explaining what steps they are taking to assist governments to comply with their economic, social and cultural obligations under the treaties. They should also provide these committees with evaluations of the effectiveness of their poverty alleviation measures and provide disaggregated data on the impact of their programmes on women, children and other vulnerable groups."

On the trade front, the NGOs said "the UN expert bodies on economic and social rights should also examine the implications of the new trade regime and the operations of the WTO.

"There is a need for a social audit to gauge their impact on human welfare in the South. The right of Nations to establish national food and agriculture policies in order to eradicate hunger and ensure food security should be explicitly recognized. There should be no patenting of life forms.

"The full costs of the Uruguay Round must be assessed and as promised at the start of the negotiations, compensation for those nations and sectors within nations which experience net loss must be made to ensure social development is not hindered."

For a number of countries the debt burden remains one of the most important obstacles to social development. "The Social Summit should promote debt reduction initiatives that go beyond the existing package of options including the writing off of multilateral debt, especially in Africa," the NGOs said.

The major actors of the world's macro-economic system, the NGOs said, remained unaccountable. Recognizing this, the Summit should include as a condition for an enabling economic environment the international monitoring and a code of conduct for the operations of the Transnational Corporations and call for a reform to make the Bretton Woods Institutions accountable within the UN system.

The NGOs also called all OECD countries to commit themselves at the Social summit to the UN ODA target of 0.7% of GNP and ensure that at least 50% of ODA is allocated to social areas to enable effective spending of public resources to invest in the economy of the poor.

Such expenditures on social sectors should cover a broad range of fundamental human needs, including income that would guarantee provision of basic needs in primary health care, reproductive health, education, shelter, water and sanitation, income transfers to the people living in poverty, work guarantee schemes, credit for the poor - particularly women, agricultural extension and support for small-scale farmers, fishers, support to small-scale market production, institutional support - on behalf of cooperatives, farmers' organisations and women's organisations, information services, etc.

The NGOs also asked the Social Summit to call on all governments to ratify the six core Human Rights Treaties, the International Convention Relating to the Protection of Migrant Workers and their families, and the relevant ILO conventions by the year 2000.

The WCSD Programme of Action should call on governments to recognize legally binding obligations to ensure economic and social rights, and to establish a means for vindicating those rights.

The Programme of Action should insist on governments to commit themselves to provide legal and regulatory frameworks for the contribution of different actors so as to involve local, regional and national civil society in social development. The WSSD should draw on the contribution and respect of the unique cultures of people and integrate sustainable indigenous and traditional practices which do not violate women's rights into social development.

The MGO statement also called for establishing effective mechanisms to curb the arms trade as a contribution to minimising violent social disintegration and for gender-specific aspects of each issue addressed by the Summit to be explicitly identified in the policy analysis and commitments taken by the Summit.

The principal responsibility for monitoring of the commitments undertaken at the Summit should vest in the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Committee's mandate and methods of work should be adjusted to accommodate such responsibilities, the NGOs said.