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Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly on the Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives - New York, 3-14 April 2000

                                                                                                                                                                                                    April 2000

Statement submitted by the following Non-governmental Organizations in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations: CIDSE (International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity), in collaboration with CARITAS INTERNATIONALIS and FRANCISCANS INTERNATIONAL

Putting Copenhagen Commitments into Practice

CIDSE, Caritas Internationalis and Franciscans International monitor decision-making processes and, in line with faith-based principles, promote an ethical approach to tackling socio-economic problems. Our networks aim to promote among others the idea of ‘preferential option for the poor’, redistribution of wealth, and participation.

The purpose of our statement is to ensure that the commitments made at the Copenhagen Summit in 1995 are fully implemented. Since Copenhagen, the marginalisation of large segments of the population (both in the South and in the North) continues to increase. The assets of the 3 richest people in the world are more than those than the GNP of all of the 48 least developed countries. A yearly contribution of only 1% of the wealth of the 200 richest people could provide universal access to primary school education for all.

Pope John-Paul II stated: "There is a ‘social mortgage’ on all private property… The law of profit alone cannot be applied to that which is essential for the fight against hunger, disease and poverty."

Social exclusion, for which poverty is a key indicator, has worsened over the last 5 years and is being considered by some an inevitable consequence of development. But it is obvious that policies to stimulate economic growth do not automatically improve income distribution. Therefore studies and action are needed to stimulate a pro-poor growth.

To measure and fight poverty

We acknowledge that some progress has been made recently to solve the debt crisis of Southern countries. However, it is not enough. There is still a need for new and additional resources to provide faster debt relief for more countries, including a human development approach to debt sustainability. The establishment of an international bankruptcy procedure could contribute to achieving durable solutions that allow these countries to release their financial resources for primary public services, such as education and health.

We view the emergence of the Poverty Reduction Strategy initiative as a significant turning point in the development approach of the IMF and World Bank. Certain instruments such as participatory poverty assessments and social impact assessments could help guarantee greater coherence with the goal of social development. The Special Session should, therefore, adopt a decision on establishing a participatory mechanism for social impact assessments of adjustment programs and reform packages before, during and after their implementation (see: text L5, Rev.2, 106).

A common set of human development indicators is needed in this respect and our networks welcome recent UN activities in collaboration with the World Bank and OECD. Such indicators should include developing quantitative and qualitative methods for assessing the social and gender impact of policies. They should relate to the measurement of internationally agreed 2005/2015 targets to reducing extreme poverty, to assure universal primary education, gender equality and reduce maternal and infant mortality (see: text L5, Rev.2, 115).

To curb excessive financial speculation

Speculative currency crises have become a major form of human disaster. Preventing them involves reforms that extend beyond domestic financial institutions. Therefore, our networks support paragraph 10 in text L5, Rev.2, and ask for:

Recent studies state that a currency transaction tax could now be enforced on foreign-exchange markets through the system of inter-bank foreign exchange netting and settlement, provided at least that the governments issuing the four or five main currencies agreed to cooperate in imposing it. By the same means, such a tax could also be collected unilaterally, by any national authority on transactions in its own currency. By the device of a two-rate currency transaction tax, with the upper penal rate applied only in circumstances of a currency crisis, countries could prevent rapid speculative runs on currencies. At the same time a much lower rate would be applied as a means of raising revenue for development.

To keep the promise on 0.7 per cent for ODA

In 1997, the overall official development assistance (ODA) of all Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries reached 48.3 billion USD, i.e. an average of 0.22 per cent of their gross national product (GNP). Only four countries, i.e. Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden, meet the agreed target of 0.7 ODA per cent of their GNP. Our networks are urging all major donor countries which have not yet done so to fulfil the agreed target of 0.7% ODA of GNP as soon as possible (see: text L5, Rev.2, 112.c).

We also appeal for the inclusion of the above mentioned topics (debt relief, financial speculation and ODA) in the agenda of the high level UN event on financing for development which is to be held in 2001.

We regret that little progress has been made so far to fully implement the commitments made in Copenhagen. Therefore we call governments to actively participate in the Copenhagen+5 Special Session in June 2000. Further initiatives must be adopted and implemented if time-bound targets related to poverty eradication set in these international agreements are to be reached. We are deeply concerned that the review process has so far been very slow. We call for a decisive step forward here and now, in the hope that it will lead to a really promising outcome in Geneva. It is high time to put the Copenhagen commitments into practice.

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Contact: CIDSE (International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity) - http://www.cidse.org - 16 rue Stévin - B-1000 Brussels, Belgium (Tel.: 32.2/230 77 22 - Fax: 32.2/230 70 82)
Franciscans International
http://www.franintl.org – Central Office – 211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017-4707 (Tel.: 1.212.490 46 24 – Fax: 1.212.857 49 77)

CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis have been working together for several years on the issue of social justice. They are networks representing large sectors of Christian civil society. CIDSE "International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity" brings together fifteen Catholic development organisations located in Europe and North America. Caritas Internationalis is a federation of development, social service and relief organisations present in 198 states and territories throughout the world. Franciscans International is a General Category ECOSOC NGO Consultant to the United Nations in the priority areas of peace-disarmament, care for the poor and concern for all creation.

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