For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/GA1663
Release Date: 4 July 2000
Geneva Special Assembly Session on Social Development Offers Bold
Solutions to Reduce Poverty and Create Jobs in Global Economy

  GENEVA, 1 July (UN Information Service) -- Agreement was reached on a wide array of initiatives to reduce poverty and spur job growth in the global economy at the United Nations General Assembly special session on social development that ended today in Geneva.

 At a time of widely diverging interests between developing and developed countries over trade and economic issues, countries managed to agree on a series of measures to promote social development while mitigating the adverse effects of globalization. 

 The resulting agreement provides specific targets and strategies that will have major ramifications for national governments and international institutions in setting and achieving social development objectives.

 Noting that globalization and rapid technological advances offer unprecedented opportunities and benefits, the special session found that a growing number of people in all countries and regions remain marginalized by the global economy.

 Reducing poverty, promoting job growth, and ensuring the participation of all people in the decision-making process were the main objectives of the agreement.  To achieve these goals, countries endorsed actions to ensure improved education and health, including in times of financial crisis. 

 The special session marks the fifth anniversary of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, that was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, a conference that decidedly promoted the social development agenda as an international and national priority.  Yet in reviewing developments since Copenhagen, countries agreed that progress in reducing poverty and unemployment had not materialized, and that countries were still far from reaching internationally set goals on health and education. 

 Without renegotiating the outcome of the Social Summit, the special session managed to go beyond Copenhagen to reach agreements on ever more sensitive issues, such as national taxation, new and innovative sources of finance and on the need for greater openness, transparency and accountability in national governments and in international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

For the first time, an internationally negotiated target was set to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.  Countries also agreed that they would work toward adopting a global employment strategy and a global campaign against poverty.

 The outcome of the special session, as a consensus agreement, provides a strong political statement that provides internationally recognized standards for implementing the social development agenda.  The special session called for deeper and improved debt relief, for greater technical and financial assistance for developing countries and for open, transparent and effective government at both the national and international levels.  

 Among the achievements of the Special Session were:

 -- Agreement on a target of 2015 to reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty. 

 --  Agreement to consolidate the gains from the Social Summit and the special session to launch a Global Campaign Against Poverty.

-- Agreement to encourage creditor countries to implement debt relief arrangements for African and least developed countries, while stressing that the debt relief go for national development objectives, including poverty eradication.

--  Agreement that new standards were necessary to measure productivity and efficiency that show the true cost of unemployment and poverty which will allow countries to set strategies for job creation and poverty eradication. 

--  Agreement on a series of measures to empower people living in poverty through macroeconomic policies integrating employment growth and poverty reduction goals, skills training and micro-credit schemes, encouraging the growth of small and medium enterprises, and ensuring universal access to basic social services even during financial crises. 

--  Agreement to improve social protection systems through the sharing of best practices.

--  Agreement to provide technical assistance to developing countries and countries in transition to defend and promote their interests more effectively in international economic and trade negotiations, including the WTO dispute trade settlement mechanism. 

--  Agreements aimed at combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and setting a target of reducing the infection level among young people in Africa by 25 per cent by 2005.

--  Agreement on the need to provide low-cost medicines to people in developing countries. 

--  A commitment to protect basic social services, especially health and education,  when dealing with international financial crises. 

--  Recognition that providing universal primary education will require $8 billion a year.

--  Agreement that countries should establish open and transparent consultative mechanisms when formulating economic policy to allow input from civil society. 

--  Agreement that developing countries should have more effective participation in international economic deliberations, including those of the international financial institutions, by applying principles of good governance, transparency and accountability, which could eventually lead to new voting patterns in those institutions. 

--  Agreement to encourage corporate social responsibility by promoting awareness about the relationship between social development and growth, and provide a legal, economic and social policy framework to promote corporate social responsibility. 

--  Agreement that policies that promote employment generation should be balanced with policies to maintain low inflation rates.

--  Agreement to promote a dialogue among government, labour and employer groups to achieve broad based social progress.

--  Agreement to promote an international strategy to increase access to employment. 

--  Agreement to promote post-conflict management strategies to address trauma recovery, reconciliation and reconstruction. 

--  Agreement that countries should use positive affirmative action and empowerment programmes to ensure gender mainstreaming.

--  Agreement to study the advantages and disadvantages of new and innovative sources for financing development.

--  Agreement to combat the use of tax shelters that undermine national tax systems.

--  Agreement to work to prevent corruption, bribery, money laundering and illegal transfer of funds.

 Calling the special session a success, General Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) said, “Let us now turn away from this hallowed place of ideas and recommitment and act”.

 In assessing the overall impact of the special session, Nitin Desai, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, drew attention to the greatly strengthened framework of cooperation for poverty eradication, the clearer connection between globalization and its social impact and the focus on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 

 John Langmore, Director of the United Nations Division of Social Policy and Development called the outcome “an international policy pact that can make the world economy less turbulent, less cruel and much more fair”.  He added, “Although governments disagree on many issues, there is a broadening and deepening political consensus that governments must look out for the weaker members of society, and that strong nations have a comparable responsibility to pay much closer attention to the needs of weak ones”.

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