Civil society at MDGs+10 Hearings

Several speakers from the Social Watch network and its member and allies intervened during the UN General Assembly hearings with civil society and the private sector in New York last June 14 and 15. The hearings were convened in preparation of the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals that will take place next September.

Aldo Caliari from the Centre of Concern, CIDSE said civil society representatives are alarmed at the absence of human rights and right to development references in the draft outcome document. "Let us remember we always said the MDGs are a minimum stepping stone in the struggle towards ensuring human rights for all" he remarked.

He also mentioned the need for a fresh look at the sources of financing for the MDGs. Financial transaction taxes (FTTs), are one of these tools that is currently actively discussed. Caliari argued in favour of reaching a global agreement to implement FTTs in September 2010, with the revenues being used for funding development needs, including the MDGs and responding to climate change. Similarly, Special Drawing Rights are a tool whose potential is underutilized so far.

He stressed the need to re-establish the link between trade and development finance as well as a focus on taxation policies that can provide substantial revenue gains. On debt, Caliari thinks MDG costings, and not mere repayment capacity, should be the guiding principle to assess debt sustainability and, therefore, debt cancellation needs of countries. "We cannot afford to reach 2015 without a plan for what we do the day after" he concluded. Read his statement in fullSee the video of his participation

On another presentation, Charlotte Bunch from the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) on behalf of the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR coalition) urged Member States to strengthen the United Nations Gender Equality architecture by creating a strong invigorated women's agency before the Millennium Summit. “Achieving gender equality is not simply a function of MDG 3, but an underlying aspect of all of the MDGs" noted Bunch, and since women comprise two-thirds of the people living in extreme poverty, any attempt to alleviate poverty must examine and challenge the gender discrimination underlying this first MDG goal.

She also pointed out the inadequate commitment to universal access to reproductive health by most Member States even though its importance in development has been widely acknowledged. Equally critical is the worldwide problem of violence against women though it is still not a target and receives only passing mention in the draft Outcome document, said Bunch. Read her statement in full (PDF)Watch the video of her presentation

Bumika Muchhala, speaking on behalf of the Third World Network focused her presentation on the need for fundamental reforms in the International Financial Architecture. She said development-oriented macroeconomic policies, debt mechanisms and innovative financing measures are critical to achieve the MDGs.

"There is a fundamental mismatch between the ambitious framework of the MDG targets and the predominant economic model in many developing countries, including the least developed countries (LDCs)" she said. In the current context of an imbalanced global financial and trade system the challenge is formulating a policy strategy to achieve the MDGs. 

Muchhala mentioned three key areas in the international financial architecture that are impeding the MDGs: 1) the pro-cyclical and deflationary macroeconomic framework that has dominated policymaking; 2) the absence of an international debt resolution mechanism and 3) the liberalization of financial services. Read her speech in full (PDF) or watch the video of her presentation

On another intervention, Sanya Reid Smith, also from the Third World Network made the case against intellectual property provisions considering its impact on the health MDGs: goals four (reduce child mortality), five (improve maternal health) and six (Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases). “One of the clearest lessons that we have learnt is the way in which competition by a generic version of medicines can lower medicines prices” she said, and explained that donations can stop or be limited at any time. Reid Smith calls for the Outcome document to recognize that intellectual property can make it harder to achieve the MDGs. “There should be no stronger intellectual property protection requested or agreed to” she concluded. Watch the video of her presentation.

Michel Roy, representing the Research and Information Centre for Development (CRID) focused on MDG 8 (A global partnership for development). “We need a new planetary social contract in September”, said Roy, that will help countries to emerge from the economic crisis and deliver on the goals. Such a framework requires action by developed countries that must respect civil society pledges in terms of foreign assistance by adopting budget laws for example.

He also mentioned there should be an ongoing multi-actor dialogue on cross-cutting issues such as policy coherence, for example because trade policies in the WTO are not so much in sync with the MDGs. A transparent monitoring system should also feature in the Outcome document to ensure accountability. "The MDGs should be seen not so much as goals but as rights" he concluded. Read his presentation in French (PDF)Watch the video of his presentation.

Finally, Roberto Bissio, coordinator of the Social Watch international network spoke at the event and called for justice, not business as usual. To face the dramatic social and environmental impacts of the current multiple crises, more aid money and better trade terms are an ethical imperative now even more than before, he argued, and called to move beyond a “business as usual” approach and start work towards a comprehensive justice programme that includes: 1) Climate justice; 2) financial, fiscal and economic justice meaning the financial sector should pay for the crisis they created; 3) Social and gender justice and… 4) Plain old justice to demand the basic social rights.

The General Assembly in September is the right place to reclaim control over those wild financial forces of enormous destructive potential says Bissio and to establish fair debt workout mechanisms for developing countries burdened by a crisis they did not create. Read his speech in full. Watch the video of his presentation.


More information:

NGLs page on the June 2010 Hearings

Social Watch Statement