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INITIAL DISCUSSION OF THE DRAFT PROGRAMME OF ACTION

During the initial discussion of the draft Programme of Action (A/CONF.166/PC/L.13), the Chair gave each speaker five minutes (ten minutes for regional group representatives) and used a blue light to indicate when speakers had exceeded their time limit. This procedure, in conjunction with three night sessions, enabled over 250 delegates to comment on the Programme of Action.

Most delegates and NGOs criticized the draft for being too long and too descriptive and not action-oriented enough. In spite of their calls for a more concise text, delegates identified numerous issues and actions that they thought should be included in the next draft.

Interventions generally focused on the issues covered in the chapter under discussion, although there were several recurring themes: the inter-relationship between economic and social development; the need for transparent and democratic institutions at all levels; and the role of universal access to education and health care.

I. AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT: Over 35 Government and 15 NGO and IGO delegates commented on the first draft chapter, which identified the need for favorable international economic and political environments. Several delegates from developed nations requested that the section on a favorable international economic environment also refer to the national economic environment. Many of the developing countries warned against excessive reliance on market forces to solve social problems. The issues of debt relief, development assistance and trade were of special concern. Delegates and NGOs from the North and the South called for the eradication of poverty and an evaluation of the social costs of structural adjustment programmes (SAPs). Additional matters of concern included: promotion of transparent and democratic Governments; increased employment opportunities; implementation of ECOSOC's full powers; empowerment of all groups, especially women; the special needs of African nations; and increased accountability of the Bretton Woods institutions. Delegates also proposed that the reference to human security, which focused on democracy and human rights in L.13, be broadened to include human welfare.

II. REDUCTION AND ELIMINATION OF WIDESPREAD POVERTY: The second draft chapter called for access to productive opportunities and public services, and noted the need to reduce vulnerability and to enhance social protection. Forty-six Government and 14 NGO and IGO delegates intervened during the discussion. Many delegates pointed out that various types of poverty exist, and that the poor have different perceptions of their condition. Delegates stated that the draft text emphasized the needs of the rural poor and called for additional reference to the needs of the urban poor and other sectors of society. The roles of migration, crime, disability and war in creating or exacerbating poverty were discussed, and the need to eradicate poverty was stressed. Ideas to combat poverty included: collaboration between Governments and NGOs to deliver services to the poor; the participation of women and the poor in decision-making; universal access to education and health care; reduced military expenditures; technology transfer; an increased role of the private sector; a strategy and timetable to eradicate poverty; the development of minimum basic needs indicators; and environmental protection.

III. PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYMENT AND THE REDUCTION OF UNEMPLOYMENT: This chapter included several sections: rethinking policy; stimulating employment- intensive growth; creating employment through enterprise; reviewing sectoral priorities; redefining the nature of work and employment; focusing on special needs; and enhancing the quality of employment.

Several general themes emerged during the 27 country statements and the ten presentations made by NGOs and IGOs on this chapter. Many delegates called for: the full integration of women into the labour force; the recognition of women's unpaid work; protection of children from exploitation; and combatting youth unemployment. There were also several proposals to: improve employment training and education; recognize the role of the informal sector; facilitate access to credit; and link employment with social and investment policies. Many developed countries called for the ratification of international labour agreements and for the participation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in formulating and monitoring policy.

There were, nonetheless, areas of divergence -- in terms of both form and substance. While industrialized countries emphasized productive employment, developing countries called for productive capacities. The EU and other developed countries underscored job creation, improved training, the service sector, as well as the elimination of jobs that violate human rights. Eastern European delegates emphasized the need to examine the social aspects of industrial conversion, and to address the special conditions of economies in transition. Developing countries underscored economic cooperation as a means to prevent war and conflict. They also expressed concern about the imposition of protectionist socio-economic norms that erode their competitiveness, and called for the removal of barriers to employment generation and market access. Developing countries promoted opportunities for capacity building, including self-employment, micro-enterprises and cooperatives.

IV. SOCIAL INTEGRATION: This chapter included several sections: revisiting social integration; protecting diversity based on shared values; ending discrimination in all its forms; promoting equal opportunity; education as an integrating force; establishing the principles of equal access to the institutions of the State; responding with special measures to special social needs; fair treatment outside one's country of origin; bringing government closer to the people; and creating space for civil society.

Several key issues emerged during the discussion in which 28 Governments and ten IGOs and NGOs intervened. Most delegations highlighted the goal of meeting the needs and recognizing the capacities of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society. Those who account for a disproportionate amount of the poor, the unemployed and the socially excluded include women, children, youth, indigenous people, the elderly, the disabled and the displaced. Several delegations called for a specific paragraph to address each socially excluded group. Many emphasized the role of the family and the media in teaching tolerance and respect for diversity. Socio-economic development was largely heralded as the most effective preventive -- and curative -- approach to social disintegration and conflict. Delegates also noted the need to develop national strategies for social progress.

V. MEANS OF IMPLEMENTATION AND FOLLOW-UP: This last chapter was comprised of: guiding principles for implementation; implementation and follow-up at the national level; international cooperation for social progress; the role of the UN and the UN system; and mobilizing resources for social development.

Thirty-four States and 12 NGOs and IGOs addressed this chapter. Many highlighted the WSSD as a unique opportunity to mobilize international political will and financial resources. Delegates proposed several institutional reforms to promote: greater accountability of the Bretton Woods institutions; greater cooperation and coordination within the UN System, including strengthening ECOSOC; and greater coordination at national, regional and international levels in implementation efforts. Certain delegations, such as the EU and Japan, questioned the feasibility of convening follow-up social summits every five years.

Some delegations called for a new "social development window" at the World Bank. The IMF and many States agreed on the need to address the social dimensions of SAPS. Others called for ratification and enforcement of existing international instruments related to social development -- with special emphasis on the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Developing countries called for additional financial resources and proposed several measures to generate additional funds for social development. Several Eastern European countries promoted joint ventures between Western and developing countries as well as economies in transition. Several delegates decried the effective exclusion of developing countries from international trade and proposed measures to facilitate market access. Others emphasized innovative debt-reduction schemes, such as debt-for-social- development swaps. Several proposals called for debt cancellation and a tax on international financial transactions. While many delegations endorsed the 20:20 Compact, others questioned its viability. Japan, for example, cautioned against setting a numerical value on aid at this stage of negotiations. India and Pakistan questioned the Compact's ability to yield sufficient resources. Many others noted the conspicuous absence of the long-standing target of 0.7% of GNP for ODA.

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