Preparatory Committee Chair, Ambassador Juan Somav�a of Chile, opened the first preparatory meeting for the World Summit for Social Development on Monday morning. He quickly introduced the provisional agenda, as contained in Document A/CONF.166/PC/5, which describes the organization of work. The agenda was adopted without any objections. Somav�a then invited the Committee to consider Agenda Item 2, accreditation of NGOs, as contained in Document A/CONF.166/PC/11. This document was also adopted without any objections. The Committee then approved its organization of work, as stipulated in Document A/CONF.166/PC/L.5. Somav�a then invited the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali to open the session.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the Committee's greatest challenge is to allay society's fears derived from social disorder. He outlined five issues that the Committee should address: the right connections between the causes and effects of social stress; the policy and programme dimensions of social development; the different types of attention required for different types of social groups; recognition of the need for national-level action; promotion of the common good. Boutros-Ghali hoped that the WSSD will produce concrete action and not just a declaration of principles.
Ambassador Juan Somav�a, Chair of the World Summit for Social Development, said the work the Committee has undertaken is highly political since the core issues under consideration are often the determinants of why governments win or lose elections. He called for concrete solutions with new ideas, adding that programme action relating to new ideas and listening to civil society, including NGOs, unions and political parties, is part of the process. He said the focus should be on three core issues within the framework of the available resources: the form that action should take; the desired action within the UN; and the role of international cooperation.
Nitin Desai, the Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, introduced Agenda Item 3, status of the preparations for the WSSD. The Secretariat paper, A/CONF.166/PC/7 summarizes Secretariat activities in 1993. A Trust Fund for the WSSD was established by the Secretary-General in June 1993. This Trust Fund facilitates participation of developing countries and supplements resources provided by the regular budget to undertake seminars or expert groups. Desai also urged governments, NGOs and private and public institutions to contribute to the development of information on the Summit. He then introduced Agenda Item 4 covering the S-G's overview, documents from UN agencies, regional commissions, and other parts of the UN system, as well as the national reports received thus far. The reports of the two expert groups held in the Netherlands and Sweden provide a framework for discussion of the issues. Working paper number 1, "Elements for possible inclusion in the draft declaration and plan of action," will be available this morning.
ALGERIA: Amb. Ramtane Lamamra of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that information from the Secretariat indicates that the gap between the economically well-off 20% of the world's population, and the 20% at the bottom, is increasing. The ratio between these two groups had increased from 1:20 in 1960 to 1:60 by 1990. In economic terms, the rich receive 83% of the world's financial resources while the poor 20% account for a mere 1.5%. Of these, the developing countries account for 17% of the world gross national product. He said this indicates that poverty, unemployment and social disintegration are growing out of hand. He said that national solutions cannot be attained through market mechanisms or public policy but by harmonizing state interventions with the participation of all social and economic actors.
MALTA: Amb. Joseph Cassar of Malta said that efforts at social integration should be based on the protection of diversity, non-discrimination, the promotion of equality of opportunity and ensuring access to education and information to all. He pointed out that the higher the percentage of the employed labour force, the lower the number of people living in poverty. Cassar reported that an estimated 30% of the world labour force of 2.8 billion are not productively employed; 120 million are out of work; 700 million are under-employed; and a staggering 1.1 billion people live in poverty. He stressed that efforts towards social justice and solidarity are undermined each time the media exalts or projects ideas, images or models which promote arrogance, intolerance or violence.
SLOVENIA: Amb. Ignac Golob, the State Secretary for Slovenia, outlined the efforts being made by the countries in transition to integrate social issues in economic development. He stressed that extreme poverty relates not only to material necessities, but also to the lack of productive employment. Golob said the diminishing value of ethics may be a contributing factor to poverty and suggested preparation of an international code of ethics to counter the destructive market economy philosophy of "anything goes".
US: Melinda Kimble, the US representative, underscored that respect for human rights and individual liberty are the starting point for social development. She called on the Committee to recognize the forces for change already shaping the next century and to identify actions that would modify or maximize the trends in this transformation. Kimble said that it is vital for governments to ensure that all societal costs are properly reflected in the price of goods and services. She stressed that emphasis must not only be on the protection of vulnerable groups, but also on providing the opportunity to reduce or remove the sources of the vulnerability. Within this "Agenda for People" there must also be a recognition that "women make the difference."
ZIMBABWE: C. Utete, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet in Zimbabwe, said that while income is the most common measure of poverty, the state of affairs should be reflected by other non-financial indicators such as nutrition, life-expectancy, child mortality, literacy, illness and education. Other social ills such as violence, insecurity, political and cultural prosecution and other limitations on human rights are as much causes as they are symptoms of poverty. With regard to the creation of employment, policy attention must focus on the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises and the acceleration and diversification of rural economic development. Social integration must address the question of exclusion from the control of capital, technology and information, and deprivation of culture and integrity. He said that sustainable social development must address questions relating to economic growth, international trade, commodity prices, transfer of financial resources and technology and external debt crises.
ARGENTINA: Emilio Cardenas spoke on behalf of Argentina. He stated that comprehensive analysis should be embodied in the declaration. He also affirmed the important role of NGOs and noted that the substantive decisions of this process must be correlated with public information regarding the important work that is currently being done.
AUSTRALIA: John Langmore, M.P., Chair of the Australian National Consultative Committee for the WSSD, called on governments to develop new policies in order to meet those needs that are identified as actual rights in the UN Charter. He also identified the four pillars that should be incorporated into the Summit's outputs: recognition of the historic setting of the Summit; statement of the global community on the importance of social development; enumeration of the national measures to ensure poverty eradication; and policies and actions to be undertaken within the UN. Langmore also identified several criteria for the success of the Summit: necessary changes to multilateral organizations; use of social indicators; and enhancement of ECOSOC to ensure it plays a central role in the implementation phase.
RUSSIAN FEDERATION: The Representative of the Russian Federation commented on the need to start the practical work of preparing the draft final documents, including a plan of action containing action-oriented and verifiable measures leading to concrete results. He urged that special attention must be paid to the most serious problems of developing countries. He noted that it was the duty and direct responsibility of the international community to find solutions so all populations have a chance at a better life. He added that countries in transition are facing economic changes accompanied by new social problems such as massive unemployment and widespread poverty.
ICFTU: Beatrice von Roemer spoke on behalf of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. She noted the ICFTU recommendation that the public sector should undertake a major programme of active labor market policies to provide better education, training and retraining. She added that huge contributions could be made to global recovery by effective measures to raise purchasing power in developing countries. She said that the section on civil society in the Secretariat's document failed to mention the trade union sector and its important role in the institutional reform for the integration of social and economic development.
NOVIB: The Netherlands Organization for Development Cooperation (NOVIB) outlined several measures needed to ensure the full participation of NGOs including: accreditation review procedures and broader dissemination of information and resources. She expressed hope that each country would have already analyzed its own social development in full partnership with NGOs. She also urged that the WSSD provide the necessary resources and monitoring mechanisms to ensure that real progress is made in reaching the stated goals. She said that the PrepCom must not disregard the importance of fully integrating women's realities in all aspects of the Summit.
AAJ: The American Association of Jurists said that poverty alleviation must be an immediate goal, noting that one of the roots of poverty is unfair terms of trade and structural adjustment policies. He said that the IMF, the World Bank and all other international economic institutions must be democratized. He added that the WSSD must pay attention to the participation of women in social development decision-making, as well as the importance of protecting cultural rights.
BAH"'": The Bah '� International Community said that "fresh thinking and a unified spirit" must be brought to bear on the Summit's core issues. He said that only by embracing the principle of the "oneness of humanity" can the PrepCom ensure that deliberations will center on the well-being of the entire human family, thereby extending the concept of social welfare beyond national boundaries.
IAAE: The International Association for Adult Education said that it is necessary to define development in terms of an integral concept involving economic and social dimensions, bearing in mind the significance assigned to development in different countries. Underdevelopment, poverty and marginality are world security issues. Under-development is not caused solely by actions of the developed North, but are also caused by an incapacity to propose and execute creative development alternatives. Poverty, one of the Summit's main concerns, should be seen as a result of civil and ethnic wars and environmental deterioration. The NGO agenda for the Summit includes: i) the promotion of equity and social justice; ii) strengthening civil society; iii) promoting people's sovereignty; iv) targeting the structural causes of poverty; and v) stimulating pluralism and cultural identity. NGOs can also link and harmonize different and sometimes opposing interests.
IISD: Naresh Singh, of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), noted that the IISD position paper, to be distributed today, will contain: contributions towards an "Agenda for People -- an Action Agenda"; policy actions directed at the national, regional and international levels; a strategy for making structural adjustment programmes more people-centered and consistent with sustainable development principles; and a list of job categories in which new employment, consistent with sustainable development and social cohesiveness, might be created.
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