World Conference for Social Development
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A Brief Introduction *
At the conclusion of the World Summit for Social Development, held 6-12 March 1995 in
Copenhagen, Denmark, Governments adopted a Declaration and Programme of Action which
represent a new consensus on the need to put people at the centre of development. The
largest gathering yet of world leaders ll7 heads of State or Government - pledged to
make the conquest of poverty, the goal of full employment and the fostering of stable,
safe and just societies their overriding objectives.
The Copenhagen Declaration
Among the ground-breaking agreements made by the world's leaders in the Declaration are
ten commitments to:
|eradicate absolute poverty by a target date to be set by each country;|
|support full employment as a basic policy goal;|
|promote social integration based on the enhancement and protection of all human rights;|
|achieve equality and equity between women and men;|
|accelerate the development of Africa and the least developed countries;|
|ensure that structural adjustment programmes include social development goals;|
|increase resources allocated to social development;|
|create "an economic, political, social, cultural and legal environment that will
enable people to achieve social development'';|
|attain universal and equitable access to education and primary health care; and|
|strengthen cooperation for social development through the UN.|
The Declaration and Programme of Action grew out of three two-week preparatory sessions
that began in January 1994, and a week of informal consultations in October. They were
finalized in Copenhagen after five days of negotiations, presided over by Ambassador Juan
Somavia of Chile, Chairman of the Summit's Main Committee and of its pre-summit
Preparatory Committee. Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen served as President of
The Summit was mandated by the General Assembly in December 1992, by its resolution
47/92. It was organized principally by the United Nations Department for Policy
Coordination and Sustainable Development.
Over 14,000 participants attended the Summit, among them delegates from 186 countries.
Included were some 2,300 representatives from 811 non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
and over 2,800 journalists. Additionally, some 12,000 NGO representatives and others
gathered daily from 3 to 12 March on the grounds of a former naval base called Holmen, for
a parallel event called NGO Forum '95.
Although the Social Summit was the first major UN conference specifically on social
development issues, it was closely linked to a series of high-level meetings which
together are reshaping the Organization's development work. The Copenhagen Declaration and
Programme of Action draw extensively on the recommendations for sustainable development
agreed at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (Agenda 21), and the 1994 International
Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, and in turn are complemented by the
work of the Fourth World Conference on Women (September 1995,
Beijing) and the United Nations Conference on Human
Settlements-Habitat II (1996, Istanbul).
Primary responsibility for implementing the Summit agreements will be at the national
level, where the UN and its development agencies are providing support for that effort. At
the international level, the Summit strongly endorsed the leadership role of the UN in
social development, assigning specific responsibility to several UN institutions as well
as to the Secretary-General, ECOSOC and the General Assembly. It also called for closer
links between the Bretton Woods international financial institutions and the UN system.
During its session in 1996, which was the International Year for the Eradication of
Poverty, the General Assembly reviewed progress in implementing the Summit pledges on
poverty eradication. A special session of the Assembly will be
held in the year 2000 to examine the overall implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration
and Programme of Action.
* Taken and adopted from:
The UN web-site "Gateway to Social Policy and Development" at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/ and http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/wssd.htm