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The World Summit for Social Development (WSSD), which was held in Copenhagen from 6-12 March 1995, brought together over 118 world leaders to agree on a political Declaration and Programme of Action to alleviate and reduce poverty, expand productive employment and enhance social integration.

The Summit consisted of three parts: a Plenary from 6-10 March for statements of high-level representatives; a Main Committee from 6-10 March for final negotiations of the Declaration and Programme of Action; and the Summit of Heads of State or Government on 11-12 March. Statements during the Plenary were organized around suggested daily themes: "enabling environment" on 6 March; "eradication of poverty" on 7 March; "gender and participation of women" on 8 March; "employment and problems of unemployment" on 9 March; and "social integration" and "implementation and follow-up" on 10 March.

The Main Committee and its subsidiary contact groups negotiated the outstanding issues in Declaration and Programme of Action that were left bracketed at PrepCom III. In the Declaration, the outstanding issues to be resolved included: debt cancellation; new and additional financial resources; increased ODA; respect for ILO conventions and workers" rights; human rights and national sovereignty; access to health care services; and countries with economies in transition. A new commitment on health and education was also negotiated in a separate working group.

In the Programme of Action, the outstanding issues to be resolved included: reorientation of agricultural policies; debt elimination; increased ODA; speculative gains; collective bargaining rights; self-determination; poverty vulnerability indicators; traditional rights to resources; health care access for low-income communities; social safety nets; ratification of ILO conventions; employment needs of indigenous people; social integration of migrants; arms trade; ratification of human rights treaties; impact of structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) on vulnerable groups; new and additional financial resources; the 20:20 compact; and countries with economies in transition.

Despite difficult debates and some delegates" desire to reassess agreements reached during the Earth Summit in Rio, the Human Rights Conference in Vienna and the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, delegates managed to reach agreement on all these issues, some of which represented new approaches to the problems before the Social Summit. For example, this is the first time that the international community has expressed a clear commitment to eradicate absolute poverty. In addition, UN documents have not previously addressed the need for socially-responsible structural adjustment and greater accountability by the Bretton Woods institutions to the UN system. Despite qualifying language, there also was movement on the debt question and on the 20:20 initiative. Finally, where the Earth Summit legitimated the participation of NGOs in UN negotiating processes, the WSSD highlighted the fact that the empowerment of civil society is a sine qua non for sound social development policy.

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