PCDForum Column #75, Release Date March 6, 1995
by Peggy Antrobus,
General Coordinator, DAWN
The Social Summit in Copenhagen has served mainly to exposes the unwillingness
of our governments and international institutions to confront the contradictions
in the current socioeconomic and political structures that are perpetuating and
deepening poverty, injustice, and environmental degradation everywhere in the
world. Some of us dared to dream that this Summit might open the door to a
recognition that strategies adopted to deal with such problems over the past 30
to 40 years have not worked and that it is time for a new approach. However,
after tremendous effort to get a document acknowledging this obvious fact, we
are left with a declaration that despite progressive rhetoric promises only a
continuation of the neoliberal policies that many of us have come to see as the
core of the problem.
Since 1985, women have been at the forefront of the critique of the neoliberal
development model. More particularly, in the past five years we have seen many
feminists move beyond concerns with what might be defined as "women’s"
issues to address other critical global concerns from the perspective of women’s
experience and aspirations. In so doing, we have become clear that the current
model of economic growth does not create an enabling environment for the
elimination of poverty, the creation of productive employment, or the promotion
of social integration. Rather, it has concentrated power, including control of
the media, in institutions of global capital that place the interests of
corporate and military establishments before those of people. The security of
people and the planet has deteriorated accordingly.
Furthermore, the present global system places the South at a significant
disadvantage in trade and imposes conditionalities through structural
adjustment programmes that victimize the poor, especially women. The systems of
national governance that neoliberal policies have advanced increasingly protect
the privileges of the few and promote the interests of financial capital over
those of social capital with a resulting decline in public services for the
marginalized and excluded. To maintain the economic hegemony of the privileged
few, resources that should be devoted to development are diverted to the
military to keep the system’s victims in line.
In the resulting climate of economic instability, drug trafficking and crime
thrive unabated– underpinned by an environment of increasing intolerance,
fragmentation of communities, and ethnic violence. As their individual survival
is threatened by deepening poverty, large numbers of women, men, and children
are being forced to sustain the economic interests of a profit-motivated elite,
at the cost of their individual and family security.
As our understanding of the underlying causes of these conditions has grown,
members of the women’s movement have come to conclude that it is not enough to
work only at micro or sectoral levels. We must as well enable grassroots people
to make the link between their daily experiences and the macroeconomic policies
and global trends behind these experiences. The need for this link is
underscored by repeated examples where constructive and otherwise successful
efforts of grassroots people have been undermined by the macroeconomic policies
of governments and the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and World Bank.
We now see the need for a three-pronged approach: reform the state to make it
more accountable to people, challenge the market to be more responsible, and
strengthen the ability of the institutions of civil society to hold both
governments and markets accountable to the human interest. We must speak out
against the contradictions and build public awareness of their implications.
In each instance, of course, women must ensure their equal representation and
active participation in the processes of defining priorities, implementing
solutions, and monitoring results. To this end, women are increasingly taking
on leadership roles in their communities, countries, and in global institutions
to advance priorities that are in the interests of both women and the broader
community. It is only through a true partnership between women and men that we
can expect to accomplish the changes necessary to safeguard both our livelihoods
and the environment.
Peggy Antrobus is a founder and the general coordinator of Development
Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), c/o Women in Development Unit,
University of the West Indies, Pinelands, St. Michael, Barbados, West Indies,
fax (809) 426-3006, and a contributing editor of The People-Centered Development
Forum. This column was prepared and distributed by the PCDForum based on
various of her presentations on the Social Summit.