Sustainable Development: Fulfilling the commitments of the WSSD

JOHANNESBURG COUNCIL- The Progressive Agenda, 15-16 November 2004

Socialist International's First Semi-Annual Review on Democratic Governance for Sustainable Development in a Global Society

1. The Socialist International (SI) is strongly committed to the achievement of Agenda 21, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Implementation. At its Council meeting in São Paulo in October 2003, the SI reaffirmed this commitment in its programmatic report entitled "Governance in a Global Society: The Social Democratic Approach". The SI underlines the need for a new global partnership encompassing economic development, social progress and environmental protection as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development.

2. Two years ago, here in Johannesburg, around 100 heads of states and governments and representatives from 193 states agreed to new specific targets for action to achieve more effective implementation of sustainable development objectives and good global governance. On the occasion of its Council meeting in Johannesburg, the Socialist International wants to review the development of democratic governance for sustainable development in a global society, what has been achieved since September 2002, which commitments still need to be tackled and identify key events in 2005 towards this aim.

3. Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals

3.1 The Socialist International underlines that the most important challenge for the next decade lies in the implementation of the MDGs, which were reaffirmed in the Monterrey Consensus and the WSSD. The UN General Assembly has decided to convene a High Level Meeting in New York in 2005 as a follow-up to the Millennium Summit in 2000, the major event. The MDGs set quantitative targets for halving extreme poverty by 2015. They aim to cut poverty in its many dimensions: low income, hunger, lack of education, gender inequality, disease, environmental degradation, insecurity of shelter and lack of access to safe water and sanitation. Unfortunately, at existing rates of progress, many countries will fall short of these goals. However, if increased financial resources are made available in line with the ODA target of 0.7 per cent of GNP, concrete progress is made regarding innovative financial instruments and if developing countries take steps to improve their policies significant additional progress towards the goals is possible. The SI calls upon all governments to fulfill their commitments to international initiatives in all areas related to the MDGs. The SI expresses its hope that the major event will gather the needed political momentum for a more effective implementation of the agreements reached in Johannesburg and the attainment of the MDGs.

3.2 The Socialist International stresses the need for member countries to localise the implementation of the MDGs. This strategy suggests to drive a series of advocacy and awareness raising Millennium campaigns within countries and to involve local actors through an effective decentralisation process at the local level of the responsibilities as well as the means to achieve these goals. This process requires from local authorities the mobilisation of all human and material resources available at their level, a large participation of the population in the decisions and realisation, the empowerment of the basic social communities, the promotion of partnerships with the public and private sector, the development of city to city cooperation and the exchange of best practices.

3.3 The Council of the SI mandates the Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment to prepare a comprehensive report on the attainment of the MDGs for the SI Council.

4. In São Paulo the SI affirmed the importance of the commitments contained in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation regarding:

4.1 Education for All

Education is the key to sustainable development, democracy and peace within and among countries, and thus an indispensable means for effective social integration and participation in the societies and economies of the twenty-first century. Education is a human right.

Two years after the Johannesburg Summit the SI welcomes the World Bank's global Fast Track Initiative (FTI), which is designed to accelerate action in support of education for all and the MDG of ensuring that all children complete primary education worldwide by 2015. The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) will take place in Tunisia in November 2005. The Council of the SI mandates the Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment to prepare proposals on this very important global issue for the SI Council.

4.2 Improved Access to Water and Sanitation

Population growth coupled with rapid urbanisation, changing lifestyles and economic development has led to increasing pressure on water resources especially in developing countries. No strategy for the reduction of poverty can ignore people’s vital requirements for water and sustainable development policies must address the need for equitable and sustainable management of water resources. Improved access to water is also a key for the achievement of the MDGs concerning health, hunger and education. The SI underlines the importance of achieving the goal of halving by 2015 the proportion of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water and who do not have access to adequate sanitation. In this context the SI welcomes the EU Water Initiative that was launched at the Johannesburg Summit and the establishment of the EU Water Facility which will make available up to 500 million euros for projects providing water and sanitation services to the poor in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. The SI also welcomes the G8 Water Action Plan agreed at the Evian Summit in June 2003 and the G8 Africa Action Plan that also deals with the management of water resources.

4.3 The Shift towards Sustainable Consumption Patterns

Changing consumption and production patterns is one of the overarching objectives of sustainable development and an essential requirement for it. The question of what would happen, if income levels, for example, in China and India were to reach the level of those, for example in Western Europe or Japan and a billion more people were to have the level and pattern of consumption which is now enjoyed in developed countries illustrates the importance of a shift towards sustainable consumption patterns. Progress in this sector has not been satisfactory. The international community should redouble its efforts to achieve a shift towards sustainable consumption patterns.

4.4 Respect for biodiversity

The SI welcomes the results from the 7th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kuala Lumpur representing a shift towards more effective action on the ground. It achieved agreement on a focused and comprehensive work programme on protected areas and on indicators to assess progress towards the 2010 target of significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss as well as further agreement on the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilisation.

4.5 Enhanced Health Education and Better Access to Health Services and the Struggle against HIV

The SI welcomes the establishment in 2002 of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) created to dramatically increase resources to fight three of the world’s most devastating diseases, and to direct those resources to areas of greatest need. As a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and affected communities, the GFATM represents an innovative approach to international health financing.

5. The SI stated in São Paulo, that regarding the following fields the results of the Johannesburg Summit were disappointing:

5.1 Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energies are a critical element for achieving sustainable development. Therefore, the SI welcomes the results of the International Conference for Renewable Energies in Bonn (1-4 June 2004). In connection with the Renewable Energy Global Policy Network, a world-wide Financing and Policy Network is being created to work on developing the potential for renewable energy in developing countries. The Chinese commitment to increase the share of renewable energies in its total installed energy capacity to 10 per cent until 2010 and 12 per cent in 2012 is a positive development. The SI also welcomes the World Ban'ks pledge to increase the amount of money it lent for renewable energy projects by 20 per cent every year for the next five years.

If the climate challenge is to be tackled successfully the world must back conservation, use less non-recyclable and more renewable energy. To avoid irreparable damage to the environment as a consequence of burning fossil fuels, energy production must become cleaner and the use of energy more effective. The huge potential that resides in increasing energy productivity is a core answer to the climate challenge.

5.2 Global governance

5.2.1 The SI reaffirms that action to build a fair and inclusive process of globalisation is urgent. In this context the SI welcomes the findings and recommendations of the ILO Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation. The Commission judges that the problems it has identified are not due to globalisation as such but to deficiencies in its system of governance largely shaped by powerful countries and powerful players. The SI reaffirms that there is a serious democratic deficit at the heart of the system. Most developing countries still have very limited influence in global negotiations on rules and determining the policies of key financial and economic institutions. The SI is supporting the proposal of the ILO Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation of an Interinstitutional Standing Forum on trade and social issues in the context of WTO involving the ILO, the IMF, the World Bank and UNCTAD.

5.2.2 The SI supports the initiative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to put the effectiveness and relevance of collective security on the world’s agenda in connection with the development challenges. The SI expects that this full range of issues will be addressed by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change in its report to be delivered by December 2004.

5.2.3 The SI underlines its proposal of a Council for Sustainable Development in addition to a reformed Security Council and appeals to the High-Level Panel and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to take this proposal into consideration.

5.2.4 The SI also supports the Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy, initiated by the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Finland and Tanzania, Erkki Tuomioja and Jakaya Kikwete. The Helsinki Process has brought together in an innovative way a very mixed group of stakeholders with the aim of developing new forms of global problem-solving and formulating concrete proposals to promote the implementation of the MDGs.

6. Global Taxation

6.1 The SI welcomes the initiative of the so-called "Action against Hunger and Poverty" to re-launch on a broad basis the idea of a system of global taxation in order to finance the goals of the MDGs. This action has established a Technical Group on Innovative Financing Mechanisms whose proposals were discussed in the context of the World Summit for Action against Hunger in September 2004 in New York. Among the multitude of mechanisms to increase aid flows, the report numbered different forms of global taxation and the creation of an International Financial Facility. The SI underlines that larger and more predictable increases in ODA can act as a catalyst for a virtuous cycle of actions to meet the MDGs. Therefore, all options to mobilise the required aid resources need to be explored. By introducing global taxation it would be possible to put the financing of poverty reduction on a sound and more stable basis. Alternatively, certain global taxes could also be used to finance the provision of global public goods. The SI welcomes the creation in April 2003 of the international Task Force on Global Public Goods mandated to assess and prioritise international public goods, global and regional, and make recommendations on how to improve and expand their provision. The SI welcomes, among others, the proposal by the government of the United Kingdom of an International Finance Facility that would frontload commitments made at Monterrey by borrowing through bonds issued in the international capital markets, against long-term pledges of Monterrey commitments.

6.2 The SI advocates the appeal of the British Government to IMF members to cancel up to 100 per cent of the debt owed to multilateral lending bodies by poor countries and its proposal that the IMF revalue its massive gold holdings to help finance debt relief for poor countries.

7. Economic Growth in the Developing Countries and the WTO Development Round

Developing countries are facing two challenges which are at odds with each other. Firstly, there is the need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Secondly, there is the necessity to reach the target of reducing debt to a level that is sustainable for these countries in the long term. If the MDGs are to be achieved, additional external funding for the developing countries will be required. Without a boost to the economies of the developing countries and a resultant major increase in economic growth, it will be impossible to ensure debt sustainability in the long term or to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The most important prerequisite for this is improved market access for developing countries and, in general, the creation of a fair world trade regime. The WTO framework agreement of 31 July 2004 is a good step in the right direction. It promises, among others, the complete elimination of subsidies for agricultural exports, a significant reduction in other trade-distorting agricultural subsidies, a reduction in tariff peaks, which have a detrimental impact on development, and tariff escalation and a rapid solution to the cotton issue. The forthcoming negotiations must now focus on making these agreements ready for implementation by setting concrete reduction rates for tariffs and subsidies and a deadline for the elimination of export subsidies. This is what will ultimately decide whether the aim of a development round, as formulated in Doha in 2001, will be achieved until the Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Hong Kong in December 2005. The SI welcomes the emergence of the G-20 on the global scene and expects it to play a positive role in the attainment of a multilateral trading system that provides opportunities to all partners, especially the developing countries.

8. The State of the Global Economy

The situation of the global economy is brighter than it was a year ago. Since growth in world’s gross product and trade recovered in 2003, there is now widespread optimism that the world economy may enter an extended period of growth. However, large disparities in the strength of domestic demand persist among the major developed countries, and increasing trade imbalances between the major economic blocks could lead to new protectionist pressures by developed countries and increase instability in currency and financial markets, with adverse implications for developing countries. The sharp increase in oil prices and uncertainty about their future development, as well as their possible impact on inflation and interest rates, are an additional reason for concern. Moreover, income growth is unequally distributed both within developing and developed countries and among developing countries, where fast and sustained growth continues to be concentrated in East and South Asia. At the same time, per capita income in most of sub-Saharan Africa is stagnating, and the basis for sustained growth in Latin America is still very fragile. Generally, governments in developed states should reflect on the question, whether their economic policies in the context of the dominant neo-liberal system do not only have negative consequences within their own states, mainly related to the distribution of income and wealth, but also for developing countries.

9. Kyoto Protocol

In São Paulo, the SI underlined global warming as the greatest threat to the environment and called for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by all the players involved. Russia’s ratification is a key step to finally enabling the Kyoto Protocol to enter into force despite its rejection by the United States. Therefore, the SI warmly welcomes the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in October 2004 by the Russian Duma.

10. Beijing +10

The fundamental right of women to equality has been affirmed and reaffirmed repeatedly by governments in international treaties, declarations and conferences, as well as in domestic constitutions. Nevertheless, discrimination against women in its most blatant forms continues in states around the world. In anticipation of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and their review by the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2005, the SI calls on all governments to abolish laws promoting or perpetuating women’s inequality. Without equality under law, women have no recourse when they face discrimination that affects all aspects of their lives.

11. Cairo +10

Ten years after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, the SI welcomes the progress achieved towards the aim of a more balanced population development. In many countries fertility rates are decreasing and life expectancy is rising. Under these conditions the ongoing population growth is a result of the second factor. The decrease in fertility rates is linked with an increase of literacy. If this process continues during the present century the rapid population growth will come to an end. Nevertheless, the SI is deeply concerned about the situation in single countries especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where fertility rates remain high and life expectancy decreases as a result of the dramatic dissemination of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, resulting in an extremely unbalanced population development. The SI appeals to the world community to address this inhuman situation.