COMMITMENT TO ERADICATE POVERTY: One of the more significant results of the Summit was the commitment on poverty eradication and the national-level commitment to prepare time-bound strategies. Despite the lack of global monitoring by the UN system, or a timetable for the international commitment, the Declaration represents the first time that political leaders have committed, on a global level, to the eradication of poverty. Moreover, the texts encompass a comprehensive set of parameters to define poverty, which can be used as a basis for the development of indicators to measure the eradication of poverty. There is also explicit mention of the fact that poverty is aggravated by unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.
RECOGNITION OF THE CENTRAL ROLE OF WOMEN: Another important gain is the strong language on the importance of enhancing the participation and leadership roles of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life and in development. Despite efforts during the last PrepCom to dilute gender language, there has been a discernible shift away from addressing gender issues in a narrow context, to considering the empowerment of women in society as a key pre-condition for social development. Many NGOs and delegates felt that the language in Commitment 5 provides a strong platform to press for equally strong language in the Beijing Platform of Action, which many NGOs feel is weak.
SUPPORT FOR FULL EMPLOYMENT: The commitment on employment represents an immense step forward. After a decade of debate on the issue, the international community has finally articulated a political commitment to promote the goal of full employment as a basic priority of economic and social policies. The irony with this commitment is that while it could not have been agreed to 10 years ago, the language is perhaps weaker than what could have been accepted during the 1950s, when the social democratic consensus saw full employment as the stated goal of most industrialized countries.
RIGHTS ISSUES: For the first time the international community has affirmed the principle that social development and human rights form part of the same continuum. In fact, the Declaration and Programme of Action contain many firm references to key human rights standards, including economic, social and cultural rights, core ILO conventions and the rights of the child. Measures to protect the rights of development-displaced people, as well as refugees and asylum seekers, are also upheld.
REDUCTIONS IN MILITARY EXPENDITURES: The debate on military expenditure reductions has evolved considerably since Rio. Although the texts call for reductions in spending "as appropriate," and give recognition to "national security" requirements, the issue has been placed squarely on the international agenda.
PRESERVATION OF CAIRO LANGUAGE: At points during the negotiations on the Summit texts, there was concern about the efforts of the Holy See and several delegations to re-open and retreat from Cairo language on the family and reproductive rights. Despite the heated debate on these issues, Cairo language was finally preserved.
RECOGNITION OF THE SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF SAPS: Agreement was also reached on the socially disruptive nature of SAPs, and the related need to balance budgets without destabilizing the social fabric of society. The Declaration and Programme of Action recognize for the first time in UN history that SAPs should include social development goals and protect people living in poverty from budget reductions on social programmes and expenditures. The language also refers to the need to review the impact of SAPs on social development by means of gender sensitive assessments.
PARTICIPATION OF CIVIL SOCIETY: The Social Summit negotiations have demonstrated that NGOs, more than ever, are exerting their democratic influence on global processes. Governments have accepted that the full involvement of civil society is critical to achieving social development goals. This acceptance is reflected in the language of the Programme of Action, which encourages the creation of mechanisms for involving civil society in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of social development strategies and programmes.
CLOSER COORDINATION BETWEEN THE BRETTON WOODS INSTITUTIONS AND THE UN SYSTEM: The UN has been marginalized consistently vis-a-vis the work of the Bretton Woods institutions. For the first time, governments have called for closer connections between these bodies, in the form of joint meetings of ECOSOC and the Development Committee of the World Bank and the IMF. Although the texts are silent on the role of the World Trade Organization, there is reference to the required support and cooperation of regional and international organizations in the implementation of the Programme of Action.
THE 20:20 COMPACT: Despite the voluntary nature of the commitment to direct 20% of development aid and 20% of the national budget by donor and developing coutries, respectively, to social programmes, and the lack of definition of the priority social areas, many delegates and NGOs felt that the inclusion of the concept in the Programme of Action was a modest gain. This was especially true given the considerable opposition to the compact within the different regional groups. Nevertheless, as Prime Minister Brundtland has noted, the formula highlights a basic floor of support for basic human needs. It also provides a basis upon which the quality and quantity of development assistance can be guided, assessed and monitored.
[Return to start of article]