The message of Social Summit for post-2015
Roberto Bissio, Social Watch
At the panel to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the World summit for Social Development, Social Watch coordinator Roberto Bissio said that “as we advance into the post-2015 agenda, some key ideas endorsed by the Social Summit are being reaffirmed. Inequalities are back in the agenda, after having disappeared for 15 years, and universality is recovered, with a strong sense of social protection floor. It is urgent, though, to make serious progress in the implementation of those agreed aspirations. Inequalities are in the title of a goal but nowhere to be found on the proposed indicators and a clear financing commitment on social protection floors (cash transfers/benefits for children, for people of working age in cases of maternity, unemployment, disability or work injury, and pensions for older persons, and other schemes) is still missing, even when now as in 1995, the resources are there.”
United Nations Economic and Social Council Coordination and Management Meetings Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development United Nations, ECOSOC Chamber 8 June, 2015, 10:30 am – 1:00 pm
Panel on “Impact of the World Social Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals and the post 2015 Development Agenda”
Talking points by Roberto Bissio / Social Watch
Juan Somavía addressing the NGO Forum in Copenhagen, 1995:
The question now before us is how to turn words into action, declarations into policies and commitments into realities?
To begin with, we seem to have forgotten three fundamental lessons of history. Firstly, successful development has always been accompanied by growing equity and solidarity. No developed society of today reached that status by increasing polarization and disparity. Unfortunately, even they have begun to backtrack on this road.
Secondly, when social tensions are not dealt with through more, not less, social integration and cohesion, the easy option is to apply more authoritarian policies in order to control the situation.
Thirdly, cohesive societies have a shared notion of a common good expressed in values and objectives that are different from, and often contrary to, the mere pursuit and interaction of individual interests in the marketplace.
Additionally, don’t let anybody tell any of us that there are no resources. Resources are there. The real issue is priorities. We need new human priorities in all of our societies and in the workings of the world economy to make different use of the enormous public and private resources available.
Twenty years after, these very same words could be repeated today in the rooms downstairs where diplomats are nefotiating the outcome of FfD3 and the post-2015 agenda. The 10 commitments of Copenhagen are not only still valid, their approach has been vindicated by reality. The SDGs clearly are inspired by WSSD and their aspiration for universality is rooted in WSSD.
The “NGO Development Caucus” that I co-chaired commented on the outcome as follows:
The Declaration and Programme of Action states that Structural adjustment programmes should include social development goals and protect people living in poverty and vulnerable segments of society from budget reductions on social programmes and expenditure (…). It is also agreed that the impact of structural adjustment programmes on social development must be reviewed, including by means of gender sensitive assessments.
A very first step is taken to create closer connections between the International Financial Institutions and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations with the request for consideration of joint meetings of ECOSOC, the Development Committee of the World Bank and the IMF. (…)
While the role of the WTO and its activities is not considered, the document recognises the required support and cooperation of regional and international organisations in the implementation of the Social Summit programme.
In that same moment the NGOs gathered in Copenhagen announced that they would not just passively wait for the United Nations and their country governments to start implementing their commitments and announced the launch of a “Social Watch” to report on how the promises were met.
Social Watch has reported every year since then and the network grew from the initial 13 NGOs that issued the first report in 1996 to over 1400 organizations in more than eighty countries at this moment. The idea that leaders should be accountable to the promises made and that citizens have a right to ask is universally inspiring.
As we advance into the post-2015 agenda, some key ideas endorsed by the Social Summit are being reaffirmed. Inequalities are back in the agenda, after having disappeared for 15 years, and universality is recovered, with a strong sense of social protection floor. It is urgent, though, to make serious progress in the implementation of those agreed aspirations. Inequalities are in the title of a goal but nowhere to be found on the proposed indicators and a clear financing commitment on social protection floors (cash transfers/benefits for children, for people of working age in cases of maternity, unemployment, disability or work injury, and pensions for older persons, and other schemes) is still missing, even when now as in 1995, the resources are there.
Twenty years ago the Uruguay Round had just concluded with the creation of the World Trade Organization and there was still hope that the end of the Cold War would bring a “peace dividend”. Now we know how much globalization, particularly the liberalization of finances, has increased inequalities everywhere and destroyed the very fabric of societies through the socialization of losses and the privatization of unbelievable profits by corporations that act with impunity because they are too big to fail or to jail.
A new sustainable development agenda that addresses the concerns of people everywhere and respects planetary boundaries is still possible. Having reaffirmed and updated the principles of Copenhagen and Rio in the SDGs, we need now to find the means of implementing it and of creating what WSSD used to call “enabling environment”. If this is partially impossible now -we know of the political limitations- a strong follow up is imperative, to keep alive the hope of the peoples and the credibility of the United Nations.
 Inaugural address by Ambassador Juan Somavía at the NGO Forum, published in: NGLS, Social Priorities of Civil Society. Speeches by Non-Governmental Organizations at the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen 6-12 March 1995, Development Dossiers, United Nations, Geneva, 1996
 Dvelopment Caucus, intervention by Roberto Bissio, ibid.