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Norwegian NGO Working Group Position Paper

before the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) – in Geneva, June 2000:

World Summit for Social Development and beyond: achieving social development for all in a globalizing world.

The Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development Working Group on "Copenhagen +5" here presents a selection of topics related to the 10 commitments from the Copenhagen declaration. The paper intends to provide input for participants in the preparations for the Geneva 2000 meeting, as well as provide basis for debate among other groups in the running up to the Geneva meeting.
This is by no means an extensive document dealing with all relevant issues related to the Geneva 2000 meeting. The vast, almost limitless canvas of issues and challenges to be focussed at the meeting, has led us to highlight selected, but important topics that we want the participants to pay attention to. We thus hope to add to the common global NGO input in the forthcoming negotiations for a people centred and just social development.

The document is open to further development in the running up to the Geneva 2000 meeting.

Oslo, March 2000

Organisations that have participated in the drafting of the Position Paper:

Redd Barna, Norsk Folkehjelp, Lærere for fred, Antirasistisk Senter, Atlas Alliansen, Diakonhjemmets Internasjonale Senter, FOKUS og Mellomkirkelig råd for Den norske kirke.

Abstract/Main points of this paper:

Three issues are presented as the main issues for the WSSD+5 process: poverty eradication, social inclusion and full employment. To be able to promote social development as defined by these goals, it is necessary to make efforts on all levels, from micro to macro. It is of utmost importance also to address the structural issues related to unfair trade regimes, the overwhelming debt burdens of developing countries and the lack of will and efforts to mobilise resources to social development from the international community. These issues must be addressed in the context of the WSSD+5 process!

We therefore urge all governments, and in particular the Norwegian government to:

Commitment 1: An enabling environment for social development

Today’s global economic system is closed to participation by the majority of the globe’s population. Neo-liberal economic policies promote the unfair and unequal distribution of resources and wealth in the world, threatening human security and erecting powerful barriers to social development.
Several parts of the world have faced severe economic crisis over the last years. Reasons include the dramatic weakening of state control and regulation of economic investment and production, flight of capital and irresponsible and irregular financial speculation, weak legal structures, excessive private loans and liberalised capital accounts. Reports from several UN Funds and programmes state that developing countries will suffer the most severe consequences of the 1997, 1998 and 1999 crises. Given the severity and worsening of their economic situation and quality of life for millions of the world’s poor, the pace of capital liberalisation should be slowed down, and a complete review of the effects of "liberalisation" over the last ten years and beyond should be initiated.

On several occasions the world community has introduced economic sanctions as a tool for promoting political and military goals. While this had a positive effect in South Africa where the sanctions had domestic support, in many countries, sanctions have had devastating effects for particularly vulnerable groups, like children, women, sick and disabled persons, as in Iraq. 1/5 of all children in this country suffer from chronic malnutrition, the education system is deteriorating and crime and domestic violence are increasing.

Increasing destruction of the environment and conflicts over scarce natural resources also present a grave threat to the livelihood of millions of people, especially within the poor and marginalized societies. Increased flooding and land-slides are a direct consequence of continuing deforestation and other threats to the environment. Proper administration of natural resources and the environment is a precondition for fulfilling many of the human rights enshrined in the UN Charter and the 10 Commitments, especially the economic, social and cultural rights.

Based on the understanding that sound capital regulation could both strengthen the economic stability and generate finance for development, there is a need for increased efforts to promote such regulations. There is a need to move from discussion to implementation on a tax on cross-border capital transactions. As the capital transactions far outweigh the current transactions related to import and export, such transactions might have disturbing effects on social development.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government, to:

Commitment 2: Poverty eradication

In spite of the commitment in the Copenhagen declaration on eradicating poverty, several recent reports show that poverty is increasing globally, both in industrialised and developing countries. Unequal distribution of income and wealth, does not only occur between people in different parts of the world, but also within each country.

At the dawn of the millennium more than four million children born in the year 2000 will die before they reach the age of five. Global poverty in the year 2000 is an indictment of the global political, economic and social order. More than four households out of ten in the whole of South Asia remain in absolute poverty. Absolute poverty is likely to have risen to 1.5 billion people -one quarter of the world’s population - by the end of 1999.

While the situation for increasing numbers of human beings continues to worsen, the wealth of the few continues to grow. It is a task and a challenge of all governments, citizens, NGOs, social movements, and businesses to address this global crisis, to promote greater solidarity in working to come up with solutions and alternatives, and to meet the commitments of the World Summit for Social Development.

It must also be recognised that poverty and social, economic and political inequalities cannot be corrected through elite-driven measures or processes imposed from above. People-centred participatory development and community participation are vital to the eradication of poverty and social exclusion.

There are certain groups who suffer particularly from the increasing poverty, for instance children and disabled persons. Reduced economic status on the household level, forces children to engage in hazardous forms of work. Liberalisation of trade policies seems to contribute to increased migration, and children are found in extremely dangerous and unhealthy work situations, prostitution and drug trafficking. When economic analysis and policies are made, the situation of these groups is rarely taken into consideration.

In order to combat poverty at local and global levels, structural causes of poverty need to be addressed, and goals and targets have to be set regarding poverty eradication. Unequal control of resources and access to land is one of the most serious forms of structural violence in many countries.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government, to:

Commitment 3: Employment

Employment is a precondition for social development. Over the last few years many developing countries have faced an increase in unemployment. Reasons for this include financial crisis, imposition of structural adjustment policies and economic reform and reduced public spending. Measures should be taken to create jobs and ensure equal opportunity to employment for women and men and people from all ethnic groups.

Governments tend to treat with suspicion the informal sector, dealing with trade, transport and general provision of services. It is important to differentiate between informal and illegal sector, and the informal sector should not be seen as illegal per se. Rather, it should be important for governments to provide an enabling environment for the informal sector where a major proportion of the worlds poorest sustain a living. The sectors flexibility is particularly important to meet the needs of women. As very formal procedures are established for granting permissions, job generation is severely hampered.
There should be two different processes; one of allowing small businesses to operate and one of registering, collecting taxes and fees and securing sufficient transparency of such economic activity. It is important that collective providing of services is secured within this more open approach to informal sector activity. The governance needed should not prevent the entrepreneurship from flourishing, providing a far greater job generating potential.

Non-participation in the labour market is one of the main reasons for inequality in living conditions and participation in the society. Increased employment for disabled people and other socially excluded groups will not only yield an increased socio-economic profit but also enhance the individual’s quality of life. Unemployment is two to three times higher for disabled people than for other groups in developed countries. In developing countries this problem is even more serious.

The world labour force also include 250 000 000 children, many of whom work in hazardous conditions. The 1999 ILO Convention on the Worst forms of child labour sets priorities in removing children from the most hazardous work, providing viable alternatives for the children and their families and ensuring basic education for these children. All possible efforts should be made to promote the implementation of this convention on national and international levels.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government, to:

Commitment 4: Promoting social integration

Social integration should be promoted at all levels. Nationally within Norway, policies regarding refugees and immigrants need to be based on humanitarian values and considerations. Fluctuations in the economy or job market should not influence this policy. Equal opportunities for all groups in labour and housing markets need to be legally ensured. Discrimination in access to benefits and other forms of support from the social protection system contributes to and compounds the marginalization of individuals from ethnic minority and immigrant backgrounds.

Ethnic racism should be linked to the penal law. However, legal instruments and punishments are not enough. To overcome racism and to strengthen multi-culturalism, greater attention needs to be placed on the role and contributions of social organisations, local communities and authorities, and all educational institutions.

To obtain social integration, accessibility for everybody is essential. It is therefore important to promote the seven principles of Universal Design. Decision makers, planners, product developers, architects should be influenced to design communication systems, buildings and outdoor areas accessible for all. To fight stigmatisation of disabled people and patient groups like HIV/AIDS and TB patients, it is necessary to develop tools for inclusion and integration in all actions and programmes aiming at fulfilling the commitments.

Indigenous peoples have their historical and inherited rights to land. All states should take these rights into consideration, and make sure they are fulfilled. Language and cultural rights are also severely threatened, with one language disappearing globally every day (UNEP).

In armed conflicts, post-war situations and in refuge, women and children are particularly vulnerable. They face several types of direct, structural, and cultural oppression, including sexual violence, both inside the camp and when they are being repatriated. The special needs of refugee women and children with regard to issues such as shelter, health, legal advice, inheritance, and land-rights must be given attention.

Prostitution and the sale and trafficking in women and children are increasing problems globally. Today there are millions of child prostitutes and every year 500 000 women from countries in Central- and Eastern Europe and countries outside Europe, are recruited to the sex-industry in Western Europe alone. Problems of migration and trafficking for sexual purposes are also prevalent in several other regions.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government, to:

Commitment 5: Equality and equity between women and men

Despite increased focus on the situation of women in the world during and after the WSSD, the feminisation of poverty is increasing as a result of gender discrimination, structural and cultural violence against women, economic globalisation and privatisation in many countries. Women still make out 80% of the world's poor, between 80 and 90% of the poorest families in the world are female headed households and two out of three illiterate adults in the world are women.

Even if violence against women is condemned at an institutional level in most countries, girls and women are exposed to violence everywhere. Every day girls and women are victims of violence, rape, abuse, threats and killings. Few of these incidences are ever brought to court, and in very few cases does prosecution lead to a sentence.

Women from indigenous groups, immigrant women and women from other minority groups often face a situation of "double discrimination". People from these groups often have problems in attaining citizenship, and hence they lack civil and political rights. At the same time women often face discrimination and violence within the family and community.

Girls and women with disability are also often facing double discrimination, both as disabled and as women/children. Multiple simultaneous oppression can be experienced by disabled women in relation to non-disabled women and men and in relation to disabled men.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government, to:

Commitment 6: Education and health

Access to quality education and health care are two of the most vital requirements in ensuring the right to development and creating and enabling environment for all.

Universal and equitable access to quality education for all is still far away. One-third of school age children in Africa are without access to any form of education, while in South Asia, nearly 50 million children are without primary school. Women, and young girls are particularly effected, as their rights to basic and/or adult education are in many countries systematically denied or restricted. Many children do not enter school, repetition and drop-out rates are high and the quality of teaching is often poor. The growing global trend towards two-tier educational systems - one for the rich and another for the poor - is a threat to social development.

In order to improve quality in public education it is necessary to increase education budgets. The 20/20 initiative is far from being implemented, both on the part of Governments and donors.

The World Bank still puts heavy pressure on states to reduce public spending, forcing them to reintroduce or increase school fees, to reduce teachers’ salaries and to give low priority to teacher education.

While recognising the value of strengthening school infrastructure in many countries, it is crucial to secure that teachers receive decent salaries, as well as to improve teacher education. Economic contributions from parents and communities towards education must be held at a level which makes it possible also for poor families to let their children be educated. Working children must be offered an educational opportunity, which provides them with possibilities and prospects for their life and future.

Education should be accessible for all, including disabled and sick children. Access to basic health services is also essential in order to avoid development of permanent disability, as well as prevent serious consequences of established disabilities.

Eradication of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), which mainly affects poor people and marginalized groups, should be given high priority. TB is the disease that kills most people in productive age (15-49), and is one of the main killers among HIV/AIDS patients.

Diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, typhus, cholera and pneumonia are diseases that are potentially preventable, but still cause the death of million of people per year, far more than those who die in all the wars in the world put together. Lack of coordination and ineffective use of resources often counteract positive health development in communities.

Another major challenge is the progression of HIV/AIDS epidemic in the developing world, and in particular its impact on women and children. The UN estimates that six young people are affected by the AIDS virus every minute. Young women/girls are particularly vulnerable in this respect. Reproductive health, of women in particular, needs special attention, in order to combat HIV/AIDS, STDs and to reduce infant, child and maternal mortality.

We urge the governments, and in particular the Norwegian government to:

Commitment 7: Africa and the least developed countries (LDC)

Particularly towards Africa and the least developed countries, the world community has fallen far short of the targets it set for itself in Copenhagen. While in some countries the progress has been noticeably slow, the general trend for most has been more negative than positive. Africa remains a continent which is becoming increasingly marginalized and excluded from the global stage.

The African ‘renaissance’, a hope and inspiration to the lives of hundreds of millions of people, is being threatened by globalisation, the spread of wars and violent conflicts, the legacies of colonialism and present-day imposition of neo-liberal policies, trade relations, and structural adjustment plans, and the overwhelming burden of the debt, a barrier at every level to the promotion of social development and human security.

Unequal trade relations, TRIPS and the exclusion of African goods and commodities from the markets of the leading industrialised countries, are leading to an ever greater imbalance of trade. In many ways, Africa has become a source of raw materials, fuelling globalisation for the rest of the world, and being driven further and further into misery and poverty.

Another reason for the deterioration of living conditions on the African continent, is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. No continent has been hit by this pandemic like the African one.

This suffering is enhanced through a patent-right’s regime that makes it virtually impossible for African citizens to get access to AIDS medication – as well as other essential and life-giving drugs. The international community, including the WHO, UNDP, UNICEF and WTO must come together to take proper action.

The dispute case of using, or threatening to use, the WTO judicial system to hinder parallel import and compulsory licensing for production of drugs in South Africa has been a disgrace in international relations, and steps must be taken to guarantee that this will not happen again. The current pricing practices of vital life-giving drugs to poor countries – regarding AIDS medication as well as other essential drugs - must be dramatically changed in order to secure real access for all. The world can no longer tolerate that western interests and profit seeking hinder the much-needed help to patients in Africa and the LDCs.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government, to:

Commitment 8: On the inclusion of social development goals in Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP)

The Copenhagen Declaration encourages nations to change policies, enabling poor countries to direct more resources towards social development. However, SAPs still work contrary to this through their narrow monetary and fiscal preferences over social ones. Excessive focus on economic and monetary indicators at the expense of social, cultural, and political ones have had drastic and deteriorating effects on the quality of life and right to development for many peoples of the world.

The constant deterioration of numerous poor and indebted countries, continuing after 1995, must to a large extent be seen as a consequence of the SAPs and thus also of the intervention of Northern governments. This responsibility must be taken seriously. The imposition of trade relations and forced reduction in tariffs should be halted as a severe threat to social development and human security.

There is still a net transfer of resources from the world’s poorest nations to the North, which is highly unacceptable. The relief outcome of the IMF/WB HIPC-initiative is only nominal and falls dramatically short of any just effort to assist the countries in need. This calls for an entirely new approach to development practices in which Africa and other poor regions are given full debt relief and trade preferences and enabled access to enough and proper resources to meet the requirements of a just and human centred social development.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government, to:

Commitment 9: Resources for social development

Debt cancellation for the poor countries was outlined as one of the most important issues in the Copenhagen Plan of Action. Strong commitments on further debt cancellation are essential, as the underlying challenge of the debt and the conditions of structural adjustment have yet to be properly addressed. Today, the debt crisis is spreading, affecting not only the poorest countries of the world, but also the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, whose capacity to promote the well-being and human security of their citizens are directly challenged and subverted by large debts accumulated under previous systems and regimes.

The Comprehensive Development Framework opens up for more participation, however there is still a fundamental asymmetry in the way countries have been able to take responsibility for their own development. The external conditionality should be replaced by a stronger conditionality from within, allowing the civil sector to enter into dialogue ensuring increased openness. In spite of efforts to suggest civil society participation in the design and implementation of World Bank and IMF policies no meaningful dialogue, open to input from civil society, has actually taken place so far. Increased openness also serves as an important precondition for fighting corruption. Reduced corruption will generate finances for the collective good as one of many important effects.

In the Copenhagen declaration there is a specific target that ODA should reach the level of 0,7% of GDP. The OECD countries are even further from reaching this goal today than they were in 1995.
As access to capital and legal protection for one’s productive investments are essential in all countries, there is a need to further develop micro credit schemes. Finance for development measures should be strengthened and people have access to credit, also with a view to
strengthen the social cohesion and local community structures. In this context, it is not in all circumstances appropriate to force people into a capitalist economy and by this creating vulnerable debtors. Micro credit should be sensitive to contextual factors.

Military spending increased last year, countering the tendency through the 90’s. Various buy-back agreements seem to make it far more difficult to escape this spiral of increasing military expenditures. There can be no justification for increasing military expenditures, keeping in mind the major challenges in poverty alleviation and promotion of basic social development.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government to:

Commitment 10: International cooperation for social development

As has been shown at the WTO summit in Seattle, there is no real partnership and equality between developed and developing countries. This is a problem that must be addressed internationally.

The issue of internal inequalities resulting from increased international trade is difficult to raise within the frames of the WTO negotiations. Increased trade might lead to increased revenues, but also to increased inequalities. On this background, it must be strongly challenged that global trade and internal distribution are not interlinked. Institutional structure ensuring equitable distribution should be promoted.

Increased international trade has severe environmental consequences. Transport emissions should be included in the calculation of costs, aiming to avoid the increased shipping of articles that could be bought closer to the consumers. This would also promote stronger regional integration, countering even stronger globalisation.

The vital role of UNCTAD and ECOSOC must be renewed as the only truly global bodies capable of regulating international trade, strengthening and promoting the need for social development, and addressing the more negative aspects of globalisation, unequal terms of trade, reduction in commitment to development and the social and economic needs of individuals and communities, and the growing international gap between the rich and the poor.

Armed conflicts disrupt social development in many parts of the world, as well as divert resources from social spending. All possible efforts should be made, at national, regional and global levels, to promote peace by peaceful means.

We urge governments, and in particular the Norwegian government, to:

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