To ensure effective follow-up, a series of special sessions of the UN General Assembly is being held to assess implementation of each Conference's action plan at the five-year mark, and to set future priorities.
However, apart from all the mechanisms and institutions which have been established at governmental and inter-governmental levels, it takes the universal participation and strong commitment by all stakeholders to make the Global Plans of Action a reality.
The Challenges Ahead
The world conferences reaffirmed many long-standing principles and helped articulate new ones that reflect the experience both the successes and failures of the past 50 years of work in the principal areas of the UN mandate. Both the conferences and the parallel work on An Agenda for Development, the evolving proposal for a new approach to development, currently being revised by the General Assembly, have focused attention on problems of development and reflect the new thinking that has emerged over the past decade in the face of ever-changing circumstances. The Agendas call for a common framework for the various initiatives for development and the emphasis placed on integrated follow-up have been echoed in the conferences. The conferences also linked the themes and action plans to each other in a deliberate way. Although there is no universal prescription for successful development, the conferences reflect the growing convergence of views that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. There is also concern that the top-down approach to development be countered by genuine input from the community level to the policy-making process. These are concepts that mark major shifts in thinking, not simply among some development specialists or academics, but by government leaders and policy makers who are setting policy at the highest levels. These can be expected to have a far-reaching impact at all levels of society.
There is increasing acceptance of a common concept of development, which is centred on human beings, their needs, rights and aspirations, fostered by sustainable global economic growth and supported by a revitalized and equitable system of multilateral cooperation. These major international conferences have played a key role in building this consensus and in identifying the actions needed to fulfill common goals.
New approaches to development
A variety of guidelines and principles reflecting the new thinking about development are highlighted in the action plans of the world conferences. The action plans call for their integration into policy and programme formulation at both the national and international levels. These constitute the bases for evaluation of the Conference accomplishments over time.
Development should be centred on human beings. Because an individuals well-being is multifaceted, a multidimensional approach to development is essential. Therefore, any formulation of strategies, policies, and national, regional and international actions has to be based on an integrated and comprehensive approach.
Central goals of development include the eradication of poverty, the fulfilment of the basic needs of all people and the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, the right to development among them. Development requires that governments apply active social and environmental policies, and the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on the basis of democratic and widely participatory institutions. Goals of economic growth and social progress in larger freedom must therefore be pursued simultaneously and in an integrated manner.
Investments in health, education and training are critical to the development of human resources. Social development is best pursued if governments actively promote empowerment and participation in a democratic and pluralistic system respectful of all human rights. Processes to promote increased and equal economic opportunities, to avoid exclusion and overcome socially divisive disparities while respecting diversity are also a necessary part of an enabling environment for social development.
The improvement of the status of women, including their empowerment, is central to all efforts to achieve sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions.
Diversion of resources away from social priorities should be avoided and, where it has occurred, be corrected. The formulation of structural adjustment policies and programmes should take these considerations into account.
An open and equitable framework for trade, investment and technology transfer, as well as enhanced cooperation in the management of a globalized world economy and in the formulation and implementation of macroeconomic policies, are critical for the promotion of sustained economic growth. While the private sector is the primary motor for economic development, the importance of an active role for governments in the formulation of social and environmental policies should not be underestimated.
An acceleration of the rate of economic growth is essential for expanding the resource base for development and hence for economic, technical and social transformation. Economic growth generates the required financial, physical, human and technological resources and creates a basis for sustained global economic growth and sustainable development as well as for international economic cooperation. It is also essential to the eradication of poverty.