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28 June 2000

NGOs Call on the UN to Withdraw Endorsement of "A Better World For All"

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-00-18, of 20 June 2000
cf. WCC Press Update, Up-00-22, of 28 June 2000

In a joint statement released 28 June 2000, approximately 80 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and people's movements following the Geneva 2000 process expressed outrage at the report "A Better World for All", a joint document of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and United Nations released earlier this week. The Ecumenical Team following the Special Session of the UN General Assembly is one of the signatories of the statement, and additional endorsements are being gathered.

A summary of the joint statement follows:

"NGOs, peoples' organisations and movements, organised in Caucuses for the WSSD+5, are outraged about "A Better World for All", a joint document of the OECD, IMF, World Bank and United Nations. Our specific objections are as follows:

  • Process Derailed: The document is presented as a new consensus between the United Nations, the OECD, the IMF and the World Bank, thereby reinforcing Northern perspectives and disempowering the South while undermining the concept of political inclusiveness that defines the UN.
  • UNGASS Undermined: The timing of the release of these biased messages, by the Secretary-General to opening sessions of the General Assembly and Geneva 2000 forum, pre-empted the UNGASS negotiations and devalued its very process.
  • Secretary-General Surrenders to Bretton Woods: The UN Charter makes a clear distinction between the UN and its specialised agencies, including the Bretton Woods Institutions. We therefore take issue with the equal status accorded the signatories.
  • Patronising the Poor; Ignoring Poverty in the North: The document promotes an image of poor people living only in the South who will be grateful for assistance, as opposed to empowering people living in poverty to demand their rights. This is a clear violation of the recognition in Copenhagen that social development can only be achieved in an enabling economic and political environment.
  • Contradictions: The introduction of a "pro-poor growth" concept puts the responsibility of coming out of poverty on the backs of the poor in the South.
  • Backward Steps: The document not only fails to recognise the role of IFI liberalisation policies in generating poverty, but instead proposes to eradicate poverty with more of the same medicine - despite the recent failure of these very same policies in East Asia.

Bretton Woods for All?
The release of this document raises the stakes of the UNGASS outcome against the setting of new initiatives, including demands that the wealthy nations put in place measures to honour their commitments in Copenhagen. We therefore call on all Member States to:
  • Re-commit to the UNGASS process by analysing the root causes of poverty and gender inequality within the current macro-economic framework of globalisation.
  • Reverse the decline in ODA and set a target of 2005 to meet the UN target of 0.7%.
  • Pledge to immediate and full debt cancellation for the poorest countries so resources can be released for investment in social development.
  • Introduce a Currency Transfer Tax (CTT) to counter the instability of global capital transactions and mobilise further resources for social development.

Unachievable Goals
The goals of Copenhagen cannot be achieved if developing countries are marginalised in the decision-making process of international institutions, nor can national efforts to eradicate poverty succeed without an international enabling environment.

NGOS Call for 2005 Summit
Monitoring the concrete results of Copenhagen is imperative. Therefore world leaders must gather again in 2005 - the mid-point between the Summit and many of the targets set - to assess achievements and set new goals.

NGOs call on Member States to reject "A Better World for All" which does not reflect the spirit, opinion and positions of the United Nations as a whole, particularly that of civil society. NGOs further pledge to intensify a global campaign against the document."

The full text of the NGO joint statement is available on this website.

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.