PRESS ADVISORY - Social Watch Report 2009

Social investment is the key to a just and effective solution to the current economic crisis, says citizens' alternative report

PITTSBURGH, USA (September 23): Robust social investment programs should be enacted in order to effectively stimulate the global economy and mitigate the impacts of the financial crisis on workers, women and the poor, concludes the international civil society network Social Watch in its 2009 Report.  This will not only satisfy criteria of social justice but also is sound economic policy, states the Report, titled People First. The report will be launched today, September 23 at 12 noon at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Hotel (107 6th Street) in the run-up to the G-20 summit.  People First includes dozens of in-depth reports from grassroots civil society organizations, which prove that the poorest countries played no part in causing the crisis, yet they are experiencing its worst effects.  The exclusion of these countries from forums such as the G-20 creates a further obstacle to implementing socially just policies. 

The Social Watch report offers documentation from citizen organizations in 61 countries on the social impacts of the crisis and concrete policy proposals from civil society on how to counter it in a just and effective way.  Furthermore, it exhorts governments to incorporate criteria of transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness when formulating policies to overcome the effects of the crisis both on a national and international level. 

According to the country reports in People First, job cuts, falling revenues of private pension funds and lower levels of remittances are contributing to a drop in the standard of living for people in both rich and poor countries alike.  However, developing countries are once again experiencing the brunt of the impacts of the crisis, which further threatens their fragile economies and cuts off vital sources of foreign aid.   In countries such as Tanzania and Mozambique, economic recession in donor countries is putting at risk vital aid programs, which fund 42% and 50% of the respective national budgets.  In the Middle East, increasing costs for food staples and falling prices for its most important exportable commodity - oil- have pushed 43% of the Yemeni population into poverty.

The impacts of the economic crisis in the least-developed countries are more severe, as they add to the effects of institutional and political crises that plague these nations.  For example, in Somalia, the lack of a functioning central government, combined with drought, galloping inflation and spiralling levels of violence has led over 850,000 people to flee the country even before the world financial crisis hit.  Meanwhile, in Burma, the military junta continues to spend nearly half of the national budget on “defence”, despite the fact that the majority of the population has plunged into misery due to declining exports and massive destruction caused by natural disasters.

The report decries the fact that “despite the far-reaching consequences of financial policy measures, the inter-governmental bodies setting the agenda and designing financial reforms (…) limit participation from the majority of countries. The IMF and the World Bank for their part continue to be ruled by principles regarding decision-making that confine developing countries to a marginal role and limit transparency.”  Similarly it finds that measures and processes to reform the global financial structure must respect national policy space, and be consistent with internationally agreed standards and commitments including those regarding women’s rights and gender equality.

According to Social Watch, the outcome document of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impacts on Development has provided a roadmap to overcoming the crisis which truly puts “people first.” The UN conference which was held in June in New York marked the first opportunity since the crisis hit for the “G-192”- the total number of countries which are UN member States – to voice their opinions on how to find a way out of the current economic turmoil.  Now, “it is time to put those agreements into practice; to transform the words into action in order to ensure that there will be no more innocent victims of what is already a crisis of historic dimensions,” –states Roberto Bissio, Coordinator for Social Watch.

Social Watch is an international network of non-governmental organizations in over 60 countries monitoring government compliance with their international commitments to end poverty and gender discrimination. The network has published its annual report since 1996.


107 6th Street, Pittsburgh, PA

The press conference venue has been provided by Citizens for Global Solutions as part of its Network for Responsible Global Policy project, which seeks to bring together organizations and individuals who support responsible global engagement in an increasingly interdependent world.


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For more information, contact Roberto Bissio, Social Watch Coordinator,
Tel: +598 2 902 0490

or in Pittsburgh, Jana Silverman, Social Watch Campaigns Coordinator:
Tel:  1 412 721 6493

or in New York, Natalia Cardona, Social Watch Advocacy Coordinator
Tel: (215)917-0769