A feature of the People-Centered Development Forum
Declaration of Civil Society Organizations Participating in The NGO
Forum of the Social Summit
We, representatives of social movements, NGOs and citizens’ groups participating
in the NGO Forum during the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD), share a
common vision of a world which recognizes its essential oneness and
interdependence while wholly embracing human diversity in all its racial,
ethnic, cultural and religious manifestations, where justice, and equity for all
its inhabitants is the first priority in all endeavours and enterprises and in
which the principles of democracy and popular participation are universally
upheld, so that the long-dreamed creation of a peaceful, cooperative and
sustainable civilization can at long be made possible.
In this context, we expected that the Social Summit would address the structural
causes of poverty, unemployment and social disintegration, as well as
environmental degradation, and would place people at the center of the
development process. These include not only economic, political and social
causes, but also the cultural structures of gender inequity.
While some progress was achieved in placing critical issues on the table during
the Summit negotiation process, we believe that the economic framework adopted
in the draft documents is in basic contradiction with the objectives of
equitable and sustainable social development. The over-reliance that the
documents place on unaccountable "open, free market forces" as a basis
for organizing national and international economies aggravates, rather than
alleviates, the current global social crises. This false premise threatens the
realization of the stated goals of the Social Summit.
The dominant neo-liberal system as a universal model for development has failed.
The current debt burden of dozens of countries is unsustainable, as it is
draining them of the resources they need to generate economic and social
development. Structural adjustment programmes imposed by the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank have consistently undermined economic and
social progress by suppressing wages, undermining the contributions and
livelihoods of small producers, and placing social services, particularly health
care and education, out of reach of the poor. In dismantling basic state
services, these programmes have shifted an even greater burden onto women, who
care for the nutrition, health, well-being and harmony of the family, as well as
community relations. In promoting the rapid exportation of natural resources,
deregulating the economy, and pushing increasing numbers of poor people onto
marginal lands, adjustment. has contributed to the process of ecological
This system has also resulted in an even greater concentration of economic,
political, technological and institutional power and control over food and other
critical resources in the hands of a relatively few transnational corporations
and financial institutions. A system that places growth above all other goals,
including human well-being, wrecks economies rather than regenerating them,
exploiting women’s time, labour and sexuality. It creates incentives for capital
to externalize social and environmental costs. It generates jobless growth,
derogates the rights of workers, and undermines the role of trade unions. In the
process, the system places a disproportionate burden on women and jeopardizes
their health and well-being and consequently that of those in their care.
Finally, it leads to an unequal distribution in the use of resources between and
within countries and generates social apartheid, encourages racism, civil strife
and war, and undermines the rights of women and indigenous peoples.
It is for these reasons that we also cannot accept the official documents’
endorsement of the new trade order as defined in the Final Act of the Uruguay
Round and Articles of Agreement on the establishment of the World Trade
Organization (WTO). The documents do not consider that trade liberalization
through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the WTO creates
more losers than winners and that the negative impacts will be disastrous for
poor countries, and poor and working people within all countries. The interests
of local producers, in particular, are undermined in the areas of foreign
investment, biodiversity and intellectual property rights.
We reject the notion of reducing social policy in developing countries to a "social
safety net", presented as the ‘human face’ of structural adjustment
policies in the WSSD documents. This proposal is predicated on the withdrawal of
the State from one of its fundamental responsibilities. The slashing of social
expenditures in the North as a means of reducing the budget deficit has also
undermined many of the achievements of the welfare state.
Social development can only be achieved if all human rights–civil, political,
social and cultural–of all individuals and peoples are fulfilled. We believe
that the Summit documents fail to recognize adequately the primacy of human
rights as a prerequisite for a participatory and meaningful social development
for all sectors of society, especially for children and such marginalized groups
as people with disabilities, indigenous peoples, people in occupied territories,
refugees and the displaced. It also fails to note how the undemocratic nature of
structural adjustment programmes undermine the rights of citizens and often
leads to their repression. In addition, efforts made at the Social Summit to
reverse agreements reached in Vienna and Cairo in relation to women’s rights
represent a further undermining of the possibilities for the kind of fundamental
changes required for the creation of just societies.
Finally, we note that militarization creates enormous waste of human, natural
and financial resources. It causes further inequality and pauperization,
political and social violence, including violations against women, and violent
conflict that adds to the rising global death toll and the growing number of
refugees and displaced people.
In rejecting the prevailing global economic model, we do not suggest the
imposition of another universal model. Rather, it is a question of innovating
and devising local answers to community needs, promoting the skills and energy
of women in full equality with men, and benefiting from valuable traditions, as
well as new technologies-
In the light of the foregoing, we consider that the following conditions must be
fulfilled at the household, community, national and international levels to
realize this alternative vision of development:
AT THE HOUSEHOLD LEVEL:
- The new vision of development requires the transformation of gender
relations, in which women are equal participants in the decision-making process.
- Women and men must share responsibility for the care of children, the
elderly and people with disabilities.
- Domestic violence in all its forms must not be tolerated.
- Women must be guaranteed sexual and reproductive choice and health.
- Children’s rights should be respected and enhanced.
AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL:
- The keys to effective development are equity, participation, self-reliance,
sustainability and a holistic approach to community life.
- The capacity of communities to protect their own resource base must be
- Governmental and intergovernmental decisions must be built upon the full
participation of social movements, citizens’ organizations and communities at
all stages in the development process, paying special attention to the equal
participation of women.
- Communities must gain control over the activities of all enterprises that
affect their well-being, including transnational corporations.
- The political, social and economical empowerment of youth, especially young
women, should be fostered.
AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL:
- All forms of oppression based on gender, race, ethnicity, class, age,
disability and religion must be eliminated.
- Governments must ensure the full and equal participation of civil society
in the processes of economic policy-making and other development
decision-making, implementation and monitoring.
- Education must be granted as the main instrument to empower youth to take
their rightful place in society, enabling them to take control of their lives.
Non-formal education should be promoted, drawing on the experiences and skills
of non-specialized people.
- Governments must ensure the full and equal participation of women in power
structures and decision-making at all levels.
- National accounting systems should be revised to incorporate, women’s
- Governments must commit themselves to developing national strategies and
implementation plans in order to fulfill their responsibilities under the Human
Rights covenants. They must regularly report on their progress, in particular
their efforts regarding marginalized groups’ access to legal procedures.
Governments which have not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) should do so. Governments should
work for the approval of the Draft Declaration on the Universal Rights of
indigenous Peoples at the United Nations.
- Recognition of and respect for ancestral territorial rights of indigenous
peoples and their right to self-determination is an imperative in order to
ensure their existence as peoples and cultures. Territories that are colonized
should likewise be accorded their right to sovereignty and self-determination.
- Governments must make agrarian reform the basis of sustainable rural
economies and ensure access to affordable credit for the poor without
discriminating on the basis of gender, race and ethnicity so that people can
create their own employment and build their own communities.
- Governments should develop sustainable employment programmes, in full
consultation with trade unions and employers’ organizations.
- Governments of industrialized countries should reduce their countries’
disproportionately large claim on available natural resources by implementing
the appropriate mix of incentives, ecological tax reforms, regulations, and
environmental accounting systems to achieve sustainable production and
- Southern governments have the right to protect their people from the
effects of deregulated and liberalized trade, especially in areas of food
security and domestic production. Moreover, they should be able to regulate the
market and take fiscal or legal measures for the purpose of combating
inequalities among their peoples. Africa should be given preferential treatment
in this respect.
- Governments should commit themselves to reducing military expenditure so
that it does not exceed spending on health care and education and increase the
conversion of military resources to peaceful purposes. This "peace dividend"
should be distributed equally between a national and a global demilitarization
fund for social development. There should be a conversion of the military
economy to a civilian economy.
AT THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL:
- A new partnership in South-North relations requires placing the cultures,
development options and long-term strategies of developing countries and not
those of the North.
- It must be recognized that cultural diversity is the principal source of
new strength, new actors new social systems and sustainable development,
creating an alternative globalization from below.
- There should be an immediate cancellation of bilateral, multilateral and
commercial debts of developing countries without the imposition of structural
adjustment conditionality. In the longer term, the international community
should institutionalize equitable terms of trade.
- Policy-based-lending and the interference of the World Bank and IMF in the
internal affairs of sovereign states should be discontinued.
- The Bretton Woods institutions must be made transparent and accountable to
civil society in both the South and North; their policies and programmes should
be made people-centered; and participation of social movements and citizens’
organizations at all stages in the negotiation of agreements, project
implementation and monitoring should be ensured.
- Global macro-economic policy should address the structure of poverty and
stimulate the levels of real purchasing power. An alternative macroeconomic
policy will have to meaningfully address the distribution of income and wealth,
both between and within countries, leading to a democratization of consumption.
This policy would require curbing lavish luxury-goods economies and redirecting
resources towards the production of essential consumer goods and social
- Global production and consumption must stay within the limits of the
carrying capacity of the earth. Political regulation is mandatory in order to
prevent the global market system from continuing to reward irresponsible
behaviour that cares nothing for the household, community, nation and humankind.
- Regulatory institutions and instruments of governance and law that are
truly democratic and enforceable must be established to prohibit monopolistic
structures and behaviour and to ensure that transnational corporations and
financial institutions respect the fundamental rights of all peoples. In order
to make this possible, TNCs must be reduced in size. Work to complete the Code
of Conduct for TNCs should be urgently resumed.
- An international independent body and accountability mechanisms should be
set up to monitor, evaluate and effectively regulate the behaviour of
transnational corporations and their impact on individual nations, communities,
peoples and the environment.
- The international community should enforce the application of a tax on all
speculative foreign exchange transactions (Tobin tax) of about 0.5 %, the
revenue of which should go into a global social development fund with adequate
- Effective international machinery to promote renewable energy should be
installed in the UN system.
- Regional and international organizations should encourage diplomacy,
peaceful negotiations and mediation and promote institutions for research and
training in non-violent conflict resolution.
- In the 180 days between the Copenhagen Summit and Beijing Conference, we
demand an independent investigation and audit of World Band and IMF performance.
In the aftermath of the financial collapse in Mexico, it is essential that the
international community prevent future disasters that result from the refusal of
the Bretton Woods institutions to depart from the agenda set by the financial
and corporate communities, the U.S. government, and Northern financial
Existing power relations do not permit the realization of these goals. We,
representatives of civil society, call upon governments and political leaders to
recognize that the existing system has opened the most dangerous chasm in human
history between an affluent, overconsuming minority and an impoverished majority
of humankind in the South and also, increasingly, in the North. No nation so
dramatically divided has ever remained stable; no frontier or force can
withstand the despair and resentment that a failed system is now actively
We do not have much time. We are at the point of leaving to our children a world
in which we ourselves would not wish to live. But we do find a tremendous
inspiration and hope in the fact that the global NGO community taking part in
the Social Summit in such a massive way can forge a common understanding of and
strategy for the lasting improvement of humankind and nature. With shared
responsibility, we can draw from the present crisis the creativity needed to
make a world community truly works. This is our common commitment as we leave
the Copenhagen Summit.
This declaration was prepared by participants in NGO Forum of the United Nations
World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen, Denmark, 6-12 March 1995
to reject the neoliberal economic model of economic growth, unregulated markets,
and free trade embraced by the official declaration. By the end of the
conference more than 620 civil society organizations had signed it. For further
information or to sign on contact Cheryl Brown, DGap, 927 Fifteenth Street, NW,
4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005, Fax (202) 898-1566 or Internet: email@example.com