There can be no doubt that the World Summit for Social Development has generated a number of important results, such as the commitments on poverty eradication and full employment, socially responsible SAPs, the participation of women and civil society, and reductions in military expenditures. And while the Summit may not have spawned the Charter for a new social order that many had hoped for, it has done what Stockholm did for Rio by stimulating an important change in rhetoric. For example, during UNCED PrepCom IV, there was heated debate about "people-centered" development during the Earth Charter negotiations, with the North firmly opposed to the concept. Two years later, not a single developed country challenged the concept, which is now one of the central tenets of the Social Summit Declaration and Programme of Action.
Despite these advances, many NGOs felt that governments had failed to take the innovative steps needed to resolve the world"s social problems. They cited, in particular: weakened language on the 20:20 compact; lack of agreement on multilateral debt relief; insufficient time-bound targets; rejection of the Tobin tax; and an over- reliance of the free-market model as the economic framework for the texts.
These shortcomings aside, the Declaration and Programme of Action provide a basis for further action. Transforming the rhetoric into concrete action, however, is a question of how fast the international community is prepared to move both collectively and individually. The UN"s five-year review in 2000 will provide an important basis upon which to assess that willingness. The following analysis considers the concrete advances and missed opportunities, as well as the challenges after Copenhagen.