6:18 AM Oct 26, 1994


New York, 25 October l994 (TWN/Martin Khor) -- An intersessional meeting preparing for the World Summit for Social Development discussed Tuesday a new 62-page draft of the Programme of Action in plenary session, whilst a smaller group worked on a draft Declaration for the conference.

The new Programme of Action had been put forward by the Group of 77 as an attempt to make the Secretariat draft more orderly and more action-oriented in presentation.

It retains the original scheme of dividing the document into five broad areas (an enabling environment, eradication of poverty, productive employment and reduction of unemployment,social integration, and means of implementation and follow up).

It has however rearranged the structure of the previous document; every issue is now dealt with through an overall goal and an accompanying set of objectives. In turn, each objective is accompanied by sections on "basis for action" and actions proposed.

In the first chapter on "an enabling environment", the overall goal is "to give the highest priority at the national and international levels to social development and betterment of the human condition."

This goal is backed by nine objectives, including the creation of a favourable international economic environment. The actions here include references to the Uruguay Round, external debt, international cooperation, structural adjustment and gender equality.

On the Uruguay Round, the text says whilst the agreements represent a step forward, policies should be elaborated to enable developing countries to take advantage of expanded trade opportunities. "It should be recognised that a number of countries are not able to benefit from the liberalisation of the world economy," it said. "Such countries should receive special attention by donor countries and international agencies."

On debt, the draft action programme calls for the immediate reduction or cancellation of the external debt burden. The obligations of indebted countries with multilateral organisations should be examined. In the case of Africa and LDCs, the cancellation of outstanding bilateral official debts should be considered.

Another objective is "to make structural adjustment programmes socially oriented and without adverse consequences for the vulnerable groups." As an action, these programmes should be designed and implemented to ensure macroeconomic stability and the fulfilment of social development objectives. "When budgetary adjustments are necessary, the first priority should be to protect public expenditure programmes and policies designed to meet basic human needs and reduce poverty."

The second chapter on poverty eradication has an overall goal "to eradicate poverty in the world, in the shortest period possible, by decisive national actions and international cooperation as a moral, political and economic initiative of humankind."

The four objectives under this include: to develop an integrated approach; develop the poor's potential through access to economic and social infrastructure; provide access to productive opportunities and resources; and ensure adequate living standards through growth with social justice and promotion of the right to food, work, education, health and shelter.

This chapter contains 5l proposed actions to back up the objectives. Most of the proposals relate to measures to empower poor communities and their support groups; the provision of basic facilities to ensure universal access to health care, education, water, housing, etc.; provision of production-related resources, including land, marketing facilities, credit; development of social security and welfare; special provisions for children, women and young people, indigenous peoples and the disabled.

The third chapter on employment has the overall goal "to promote and protect the right of all people to earn livelihoods through freely chosen productive employment and other forms of work with full employment as the general goal."

Its five objectives are to: put employment creation at the centre of policies of governments and international organisations; to adopt a mix of technologies that encourage labour absorption and job creation; create policies and access to resources for all and diversify economic activities; enhance employment opportunity for groups with special needs; and upgrade the quality of employment in the spirit of ILO Conventions.

The document emphasises the global crisis of unemployment in the South and economies in transition and the "jobless growth" phenomenon in the North. "In all countries, a strategy for full employment is a key to the achievement of all other objectives for social and economic development".

There are 47 proposed actions in this chapter, dealing with measures to increase employment-generating investments, adopt technologies that maximise employment and plan to offset job effects of new technologies, job creation through infrastructure development and regeneration of ecologically affected resources, promoting the interests of small enterprises, upgrading labour standards and strengthen the recognition of workers' rights.

The fourth chapter on social integration has the overall goal to "promote social integration by fostering inclusive participatory, just, safe and stable societies for all people, while maintaining and promoting respect for diversity."

Its five objectives are to eliminate discrimination; ensure universal access to basic education and equal access to advanced education; integrate disadvantaged and marginalised groups whilst responding to their specific needs; promote institutional arrangements that enhance integration; promote integration of migrants in host societies.

The 37 action proposals mainly deal with the promotion of policies and laws promoting tolerance and respect for all individuals; the ending of discrimination; the peaceful resolution of conflicts; measures to provide equal access to education; support for the organisations of the disadvantaged and marginalised, including indigenous peoples, minorities, the disabled and the elderly; encouragement of civic institutions; greater accountability of government; and policies to assist refugees and recognise the rights of migrants.

The fifth chapter on means of implementation and follow up is divided into follow up at national and international levels, and also contain crucial sections on the role of the UN and on mobilising resources. At national level, governments are to have national strategies for social development and create mechanisms to review institutional arrangements for an integrated treatment of the core issues (poverty, employment, integration) within a context of macroeconomic stability and adequate governance.

The UN should improve coordination among relevant agencies including the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO; it should establish a high-level inter-agency committee to coordinate social development activities; and the Commission on Social Development be strengthened.

The final section on mobilising resources include the following suggestions: resolving the debt problem through debt cancellation and debt-for-social-development swaps; establishment of a special fund, "International Fund for Social Development" for additional resources to implement the Action Programme; redistributing resources away from armaments; UNDP, World Bank and IMF should prepare reports by l995 on a global policy on social development and coordination of the activities of these agencies to implement this policy.

Whilst most of the objectives and proposed actions in the present document originate from the earlier Secretariat draft, a number of them have been added on by the G77 and China. In effect the plenary is now discussing the general aspects of a G77-China draft text of a Programme of Action. A line-by-line negotiation of the text will be conducted only at the next Prepcom meeting in January.

Meanwhile, the "Friends of the Chair" grouping of countries was working worked through the chairman's text of a draft Declaration, containing nine commitments which the Summit participants are expected to adopt.

According to a participant at this meeting, eight of the nine commitments have already been discussed, with quite a number of disagreements, including over the wording of the commitment on structural adjustment, and on the desirability of retaining a separate commitment on meeting the needs of African countries.