(Copenhagen, 6-12 March 1995)

Parliamentarians stress that social progress is imperative and possible, but a number of reference points must be taken into consideration.

The notion of interdependence must now be at the heart of our reflections. Interdependence in time between present and future generations. Geographical interdependence between continents, regions and States. Interdependence between the major problems of mankind and the environment (population growth, health, poverty, uncontrolled urbanization, migrations, instability). Interdependence between the countries of the North and the countries of the South.

We must therefore from now on reconcile concerns of development with those of environment, and concerns of equity with those of efficiency.

We must, as a matter of priority:

  • build new foundations for human security which ensure the security of people - in their homes, in their jobs, in their communities and in their environment, and therefore
  • ensure with the highest priority that no human being is deprived of food, no child goes without education, no human being is denied primary health care or safe drinking water, and that all are able to determine the size of their own families,
  • expand remunerative and satisfying employment,
  • make development more democratic and participatory,
  • thus enlarge the range of peoples' choices,
  • and do so bearing in mind the requirements of future generations,

in other words aim at ensuring sustainable human development.

Our world is experiencing deep changes. The new global context is characterized by the end of the great divide between East and West. Industrial countries are losing some of their economic dynamism and are confronted with serious problems of growth and unemployment. Several regions in the developing world constitute the emerging growth poles for the future.

Simultaneously, large numbers of the world's population live in poverty. The world over, manifestations of grave environmental degradation can be seen.

Widespread illiteracy seriously hinders the process of economic, social and political development and cultural and spiritual advancement - especially in developing countries.

The deterioration of international terms of trade and the enormous debt burden borne by the majority of developing countries cause the gap between developed and developing countries to widen even more. Debt servicing often exceeds developing countries' national budgets for education, housing, health, environment and social security, absorbs a high percentage of their annual income and is a major obstacle to their development.

Although major steps are being taken by some countries to reduce armaments, military expenditure nevertheless consumes substantial amounts of the national budgets of many countries.

Meanwhile, the Official Development Assistance budgets of some countries have regrettably declined, although very few industrialized countries have met the target of 0.7% of GNP in development aid, which was set by the United Nations.

Yet misery is the worst violation of human rights. Poverty in its most extreme forms leads to life without dignity and considerably shortens life expectancy. Moreover, it is one of the great sources of environmental degradation.

Development is sustainable only to the extent that it is human centred. It is essential to promote human development which recognizes man's physical, mental and spiritual dimensions.

In order to attain sustainable development, there is a need to:

  • intensify efforts to eliminate poverty,
  • reorder significantly priorities in the management of the world's finite resources,
  • stimulate efficient environmental management,
  • ensure developing countries' access to safe and environmentally sound technologies to developing countries,
  • reconcile growth and equity,
  • promote participatory development.

Human capital is the most valuable resource a country can possess for its advancement.

Sustained and sustainable economic growth is the driving force behind social development. Likewise, human development is a crucial determinant of economic development.

Economic efficiency can only be sustained by establishing democratic structures, improving social and economic justice and ensuring respect for human rights as well as gender equality.

To tackle and resolve the problems facing society today, emphasis should be placed on two complementary concepts: the concept of parity between men and women, and the concept of partnership.

Democracy will only have true meaning when women take part in all decision-making bodies.

The concept of human rights should be extended to include the right to work, the right to food and nutrition and the rights to education, health and shelter.

Women's rights come under the category of rights of the person and should be specifically recognized as such in the national Constitution or in any other basic text of constitutional rank.

Childrens's rights, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, should be duly protected and respected.

The rights of the elderly are an integral part of the human rights.

National accounting systems should take full account of the environmental and social costs of natural resource use as well as of the economic value of women's work at home. These factors should be integrated in the calculation of the Gross National Product which should therefore be supplemented by a calculation of net sustainable national income.

It is in the interest of the industrial countries to help developing countries and economies in transition implement socio-economic development policies likely to create enough jobs and provide acceptable living conditions for the peoples concerned.

Moreover, there is a need to define a multilateral approach making it possible to tackle the socioeconomic causes and effects of migration, particularly through preventive measures and international co-operation aimed at offering potential migrants prospects of a better life with dignity in their country of origin.

While developing countries are responsible for ensuring that their domestic policy is development-friendly, it is the task of the international community to create an external environment which is supportive of development.

We must design a pattern of economic and social development co-operation based on open global markets, not protectionism; equitable sharing of opportunities, not charity; an open policy dialogue between sovereign States, not coercion.

All countries should make a firm political commitment to human development. This must translate into appropriate national measures as well as a global compact for human development.

The Heads of State or Government gathered for the World Summit for Social Development ought to launch the drawing up of a World Social Charter in which the ratifying States pledge to provide the means to promote peace and human security.

Simultaneously, States should continue to build on the Rio Declaration by preparing a binding comprehensive charter which would include basic principles for a sustainable planet and would place greater emphasis on the notions of responsibility, equity, interdependence and complexity.

Each State must undertake to establish and develop a strategy and timetable to eliminate extreme poverty and combat all forms of poverty, reduce disparities, promote productive employment and address priority social issues.

To that end, it can seek the necessary financing through the reallocation of existing resources, and from such new and additional resources as may be obtained from, inter alia, the peace dividend or the redirection of military expenditures, and fair and efficient taxation.

There is a need to implement a “20-20” compact which is setting out essential and minimum targets for human development over a 10-year period (1995-2005): universal primary education, reduction of adult illiteracy rates (with sufficient emphasis on female illiteracy), primary health care for all, elimination of severe malnutrition, safe drinking water and sanitation for all, credit for all and family planning services for all willing couples. Developing countries and donor countries would earmark, respectively, at least 20% of their budget and at least 20% of the amount of their aid to these efforts.

Industrial countries should also meet the target of 0.7% of GNP for official development assistance by the year 2000 and ensure that a significant proportion of such aid is earmarked for human priority areas indicated above, as well as meet the incremental costs of developing countries in addressing global environmental problems. This should be seen as an international obligation, vital to the management of the world economy.

A large percentage of Official Development Assistance funds should be earmarked for programmes and projects which promote the participation of women and are managed by women. Girls' access to schooling must also be facilitated, under legal and practical conditions identical to those for boys.

Violence against women should be eradicated as it jeopardizes their opportunities for full and equal participation in economic, social, cultural and political development.

The Declaration and Plan of Action drawn up at the 1990 World Summit for Children should be promoted and support should be given to measures aimed at alleviating child poverty.

Account must be taken of the implications of demographic change in developing economic and social policy with special emphasis on older people.

High priority must be given to improving the planning and management of human settlements, in particular through innovative strategies for land management, the mobilization of human and material resources required to provide adequate shelter for all inhabitants, and sustainable energy and transport policies.

As far as migratory flows are concerned, source and receiving countries must seek long-term regulatory measures, particularly with regard to planning, professional training, financial aid and investment, as well as mutually acceptable solutions in order to better regulate the legal status and living conditions of immigrants in the light of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Family (1990).

States must also reformulate economic policies that result in discriminatory trade practices, restricted access to markets, unstable prices for commodities, inappropriate subsidies for agricultural production and restrictive trade practices. In particular, non-tariff barriers must be removed as quickly as possible, and there is an urgent need for greater transparency in all economic transactions, particularly those between nations.

Granted that a rise in production does not necessarily lead to a rise in employment, governments and multilateral institutions must examine the relationship between trade and employment, to ensure that job creation is given high priority.

A lasting global solution to the problem of developing countries' external debt must be sought, in particular through the streamlined rescheduling of that debt, the cancellation of a part thereof, especially for the poorer countries, and a significant reduction in interest rates.

The reform of the United Nations must also be promoted, in particular through the creation of an Economic Security Council where developing countries would be adequately represented, and which would have protected voting mechanisms, so as to make the Organization the principal custodian of global human security.

At any rate, the UN should be strengthened in the social, economic and environmental field. More effective co-ordination and greater integration of activities within the United Nations system are needed.

Beyond such reforms, consumption patterns must be changed in order to reduce their adverse impact on the environment and population growth.

In order to reach all these objectives, wider ratification of international instruments on human rights by parliaments is also necessary. They could, for example, press for the ratification of the two United Nations International Covenants of 1966, and the 24 specific conventions of the UN, ILO, UNESCO and the Geneva Conventions of 1948.

Finally, it is important to stress that these objectives are the business of States, but also and above all of individuals.


The above analysis and proposals are drawn from parliamentary resolutions and other documents which can be obtained from the Inter-Parliamentary Union:

  1. Resolution of the 92nd Inter-Parliamentary Conference on “International co-operation and national action to support social and economic development and efforts to combat poverty” (adopted in Copenhagen on 17 September 1994)
  2. Resolution of the 90th Inter-Parliamentary Conference on “The health and well-being of the elderly” (adopted in Canberra on 18 September 1993)
  3. Resolution of the 88th Inter-Parliamentary Conference on “The international mass migration of people: its demographic, religious, ethnic and economic reasons; its effects on source and receiving countries, its implications internationally; and the rights of migrants and refugees” (adopted in Stockholm on 12 September 1992)
  4. Resolution of the 86th Inter-Parliamentary Conference on “Human development: economic growth and democracy. The role of parliaments in ensuring the necessary links between freedoms, citizen involvement, economic growth, and social investments” (adopted in Santiago de Chile on 12 October 1991)
  5. Results of the Asia and Pacific Inter-Parliamentary Conference on “Science and Technology for Regional Sustainable Development” (Tokyo, 13-17 June 1994)
  6. Illustrated brochure on the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on “North-South Dialogue for Global Prosperity” (Ottawa, 18-22 October 1993)
  7. Results of the Inter-Parliamentary Symposium on “Parliament: Guardian of Human Rights” (Budapest, 19-22 May 1993)
  8. Final Document of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Environment and Development (Brasilia, 23-27 November 1992)
  9. IPU Plan of Action to correct present imbalances in the participation of men and women in political life (adopted in Paris on 26 March 1994)

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