IS there more to development than a rising gross national
product (GNP) and a dazzling set of trade statistics?
A resounding "yes" is coming from basement conference rooms of
the United Nations where delegates of more than 150 nations, with
input from 500 grass-roots groups worldwide, are negotiating a
program for the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in
Copenhagen in March.
The delegates, taking part in a two-week preparatory session
that ends Sept. 2, are united in their conviction that the human
side of development - social progress - has been ignored for too
long. A country can produce impressive economic growth figures,
they say, even as its poorer citizens slide deeper into poverty and
face new barriers to basic services, such as education and health
"If you have growth that doesn't take social development into
account, you end up with polarization," insists Juan Somavia,
Chile's ambassador to the UN and chairman of the preparatory
committee of the summit. "The profit drive in a society is
extremely important in terms of creating wealth, but nonprofit
values are essential to a balanced society.... We need to
reestablish the balance."
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali says the issue
directly affects UN peace efforts. He told conference delegates
that social and economic problems now pose a larger threat to world
peace than conflicts between states. "Territorial security has
been largely guaranteed, but human security is in crisis," he
The Copenhagen summit is the idea of former Chilean president
Patricio Aylwin Azocar and one of seven world conferences organized
by the UN so far in the 1990s. To date, conferences have focused on
children, the environment, and human rights. Population will take
the spotlight next week in Cairo. The fourth World Conference on
Women will be held in Beijing in September 1995 and the UN
Conference on Human Settlements - Habitat II - will take place in
Istanbul in 1996.
The social development summit will zero in on three issues:
poverty, unemployment, and social integration. Conferees want to
reduce the first two and enhance the latter through new approaches.
Taking an especially hard beating in discussions are the
so-called structural adjustment policies set as loan conditions by
such institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund. In the interests of reduced inflation and a growing economy,
nations often are required to reduce or abolish price and trade
controls, devalue local currency, and cut public- service spending.
Developing nations and third world grass-roots groups say such
policies ignore the needs of poorer citizens. Lilia Rodriquez,
director of the nonprofit Center of Promotion and Action for Women
in Ecuador, says two-thirds of all Ecuadoran citizens live in
poverty, while almost 40 percent of the government's budget is
allocated to debt repayment. …