The Copenhagen Alternative Declaration 8 March 1995
This Declaration builds upon efforts meaning from the NGO Development
Caucus during the Social Summit preparatory meetings, the Oslo Fjord
Declaration, and other national and international citizens' initiatives.
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 longdreamed
creation of a peaceful, co-operative and sustainable civilization can at
long last 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-marked
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 or 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 de 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 degradation.
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 regenerates them, exploiting womens 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
and 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. The documents do not consider that trade liberalization through the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (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
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
Social development can only be achieved if all human rights -- civil,
political, economic, social and cultural -- of all individuals and people
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 womens rights represent a future undermining of the possibilities for the kind of fundamental changes required for the creation of just
Finally, we note that militarization creates enormous waste of human,
natural and financial resources. It causes future 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 the 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 womens
- 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 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 rights to self-determination is an imperative in order to
ensure their existence as peoples and cultures. Territories that are still
colonized should likewise be accorded their right to sovereignty and self-determination.
- Governments must make agrarian reform the basis of 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 consumption
- 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 combatting inequalities
among their peoples. Africa should be given preferential treatment in this
- 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 first,
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 debt 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
stimulation the levels of real purchasing power. An alternative macro- economic
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 services.
- 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 end 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 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 Bank 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
Existing power relations do not permit the realisation 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 generating.
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 that truly works. This is our common commitment as we
leave the Copenhagen Summit.
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