Human Rights Hijacked by Market Forces


by Non-governmental Organizations to the International Conference on Financing for Development

NGO Caucus for Financing for Development
January 22, 2002

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the United Nations correspondents press corps. I am Hellen Wangusa of African Women's Economic Policy Network in Uganda and the Ecumenical Team.

My colleagues are Martin Khor of Third World Network; Martin Koehler of the Campaign to Reform the World Bank; and June Zeitlin of Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO).

We speak on behalf of the NGO Caucus at the Fourth Preparatory Committee meeting of the International Conference on Financing for Development. The NGO Caucus comprises more than 50 non-governmental organizations working in all countries of the world.

We are deeply concerned about the direction of these deliberations. It is clear that the rights of poor and working people have become secondary as governments negotiate the Monterrey Consensus, to be signed in Mexico this March.

Early commitments to reform the international financial and economic system are being whittled away as governments cling to the policies of the Washington Consensus: deregulation, privatization, cutbacks in social services, and trade and financial liberalization. These failed policies have led to massive job losses, increasing environmental degradation, and the escalating impoverishment of millions, while a very few are becoming richer than ever.

The crash in Argentina is merely the latest example of a national economy destroyed by these policies: Remember the Asian crash and the Russian crash? Like workers at Enron, whole populations in developing countries have suffered from the rapid rise and fall of bubble companies that are unaccountable and speculative capital seeking a quick deal.

The Financing for Development Conference was initiated by the UN General Assembly to fulfill the commitments of the UN Charter and agreements of the Millennium Summit and past UN development conferences on themes including environment, women, social development and labour, housing, human rights and population.

To achieve this goal, the Monterrey Consensus must put people before profits. The NGO community calls on governments to urgently change the course of this meeting to deliver equitable and sustainable policies to eradicate poverty, and to create a consensus based on justice, international cooperation, the realization of human rights and dignity, and development within secure and sustainable communities. The Monterrey conference must make the following basic commitments:

First, donor governments must establish a timetable for meeting the 0.7% ODA target. They should start with the Secretary General's challenge to double contributions to $100 billion USD within the next two to three years in order to reduce by half the numbers of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

Second, governments must ensure the broad participation of civil society, particularly of women, in economic decision-making.

Third, this conference must establish the primacy of the UN in addressing the lack of institutional democracy in the international financial and trade institutions, namely the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organization.

Fourth, governments must ensure that trade rules are fair, people-centered and gender sensitive. In particular they must reverse the trend that protects businesses at the expensive of workers.

Finally, we call for the immediate cancellation of the debt of the most impoverished countries and the establishment of a fair arbitration process for the future.

We applaud the establishment and continuing process of Financing for Development. NGOs will stay engaged, representing and reporting to our constituencies—millions of ordinary citizens worldwide in both the North and the South—but we shall continue to insist that the goals that inspired this conference are met here, in Monterrey and beyond.

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