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UN: NGOs to Voice Concerns at Development Summit

Agence France Presse
June 22nd, 2000

GENEVA -- Nearly 100 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) are gathering here to make their concerns and criticisms heard ahead of a United Nations summit starting Monday to assess global social development.

Five years after UN members drew up 10 key and ambitious commitments in Copenhagen -- including eradicating poverty -- heads of government, state and ministers will meet here for five days to review progress.

And NGOs, many of them vehemently against globalisation, plan to make the most of the chance to remind UN delegates of their commitments to reduce the inequalities in the world.

Parallel to the UN summit, Switzerland is hosting the Geneva 2000 Forum giving non-governmental organisations, parliaments, unions, business and industry, academics and civil society groups the chance to meet and exchange their views.

"We want to remind states that these commitments must be effectively honoured," one of the organisers of the so-called 'alternative summit', Christophe Aguiton of the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions to Help Citizens (ATTAC) said.

Geneva hosts the UN's European headquarters and is also the seat of the 137-member World Trade Organisation (WTO) which has led to plans for an anti-globalisation demonstration here Sunday.

After protestors' spectacular disruption of last year's WTO ministerial conference in Seattle -- the so-called "Battle of Seattle" -- demonstrators will hope to again press home their demands while denouncing globalisation as "capitalist, liberal and sexist" as is claimed by one of groups representing women's interests.

The Seattle protests contributed towards the failure of the WTO conference, called late last year to launch a new round of trade liberalisation talks.

Since then demonstrators have taken every opportunity to make their presence felt at major international gatherings, including the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) meeting in Bangkok in February, and the spring meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Their programme also focuses ahead to the July summit of the G-8 industrialised nations in Japan, and an IMF meeting in Prague in September.

But in Geneva the 'alternative summit' plans to adopt a final resolution demanding the cancellation of the debt of poor countries and denouncing the damaging effects of globalisation.

A draft of the text highlights issues such as the reduction in the role of the state, the fact that jobs are increasingly in jeopardy and the growing number of armed conflicts.

Fearful of a repeat performance of Seattle, the Swiss authorities are calling in 800 troops to bolster the police presence in Geneva during the summit.

The UN Social Summit will take stock of what has been achieved since 1995 when UN members laid down some ambitious objectives.

They included commitments to alleviate poverty, promote employment and ensure social integration, but progress five years on has been disappointing.

Some countries have seen gains in social conditions while others have faced setbacks, hampered by limited resources, natural disasters or the global financial crisis, and the gap between the rich and the poor has widened.

In a document, the International Labor Organization said that nearly three billion of the world's population -- almost half the planet's inhabitants -- will have less than two dollars a day to live on this year.





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