The undersigned global networks, expressing the views of workers', farmers', small-business, religious and other non-governmental and civil-society organizations, recognize great potential in the role of citizens around the world to design, promote and put into effect lasting programs that engender economic, social and ecological justice. We see as the major obstacle to the achievement of this goal the current management of the global economy, which, in serving the special interests of corporations and other economic and financial elites, is fundamentally anti-developmental in nature.

This particular form of global management, and the economic paradigm on which it is based, reflects values inimical to human beings, their development, their environment and their basic rights. It is driven by greed and an insensitivity to the plight of the vast majority of people on this earth. As such, it has dramatically increased poverty, unemployment, income inequality, the social disintegration of nations, and their sovereign debt. It has undermined the economic rights of workers and other citizens, food security, and the viability of small businesses, farms and other local production. It has also separated the economic from the social and society's production functions from its ability to reproduce itself in ways that are inclusive, healthy and sustainable. The result has been an exacerbation of the maldistribution of wealth globally and nationally, with wealth increasingly generated through the unregulated flow of capital and without significant links to national economies.

These results of the past two decades are not surprising, for global management has been centered in the already wealthy and powerful and their representatives in G-7 governments and carried out by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other Northern-dominated international institutions. While Southern governments must also bear significant responsibility for the deteriorating situation in their respective countries -- they have binding obligations regarding social, economic, political and cultural rights, all of which have been abridged by the imposition of unjust economic policies -- many are effectively beholden not to their own citizens as much as to the dictates of these international financial institutions, which determine their relative access to foreign capital and global markets.

In response to this mismanagement and its devastating effects, we call for a major shift to a new paradigm centered on distributive justice. At its core is a respect for the value and dignity of the human being and for her and his fundamental rights. These human rights include the right to participate in the economic, social, political and cultural life of one's country, the right to influence economic decisions that affect the individual and one's family, community, environment and nation, and the right to participate, through collective bargaining, in decisions that will ensure a fair return from one's work. They include equal rights for, and treatment of, women and men in all areas of activity.

As a necessary first step in this shift of paradigm, we call for an end to the imposition by the international financial institutions of economic adjustment policies. We oppose these policies because they have served to exacerbate economic differences within our own countries, as well as between North and South and between rich and poor, and undermine democratic processes worldwide. This conditionality is unacceptable whether it is attached to World Bank loans, IMF credits or multilateral debt relief. These economic policies have proven to be a major cause of growing unemployment, poverty and social disintegration, rather than a tool for their elimination as the IFIs have claimed.

We call specifically for the discontinuation of:

* Labor-market-reform "flexibilization" policies that have lowered wages, eliminated benefits and destabilized employment for workers by encouraging the use of temporary, part-time and contract workers, weakening respect for workers' rights, and encouraging the replacement of unionized workers with non-union employees. These polices have also increased the vulnerability of workers, especially females, and the incidence of child labor due to the need to compensate for losses in family income. In addition to contributing to the impoverishment of families, they have been responsible for increasing migration that has exacerbated social and environmental problems. We insist on respect for basic internationally recognized workers' rights and core labor standards across all sectors of the economies of the South and North, as articulated in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and Its Follow-up. Workers in all sectors, including the informal sector, must be able to bargain effectively to reverse the significant erosion of these standards and to receive a fair wage and a greater percentage of the profits that have gone increasingly to corporations.

* Trade-liberalization policies and financial-market reforms that undermine and destroy otherwise viable small and medium-scale businesses and farms and the millions of jobs they provide through essentially unfair competition and high interest rates set to attract, reward and retain foreign capital. The result has been the deindustralization and overall disarticulation of national economies, making them increasingly inequitable and unsustainable by further driving down local purchasing power and production for local needs. We call for periods of protection in the countries of the South -- in accordance with the right to development and the needs of particular countries and sectors in those countries -- to allow for the full and effective development of indigenous productive capacity and the concomitant growth of employment, as well as for monetary policies that help stimulate and sustain such production.

* Privatization programs that facilitate foreign control over national assets, undercharge purchasers for these assets and/or create virtual private monopolies while undermining workers' jobs, wages, rights and unions, gutting national production and/or reducing access by all citizens to affordable, quality services. We also have serious reservations about proposed expansion of the role of the private sector in the provision of social services and call for limiting privatization to those processes that are fully transparent and to those cases approved by majority populations as serving their needs and interests.

* Export-promotion policies that reward the use of national resources, often in environmentally damaging ways, for production of cheap goods for foreign markets at the expense of production to meet critical domestic needs, the achievement of food security for all, and women's production for local markets. Rather than base exports on the exploitation of workers and the erosion workers' rights, as well as on the destruction of the environment and of the livelihoods of rural and indigenous peoples, export programs should be linked to the development of the internal market.

* Restrictive budgetary policies that place quality education and health care further out of the reach of those already facing declining incomes and that deny state support for job-creating domestic production and the shift of national assets, including land, to productive use for the majority population. Limited fiscal resources should not be used to bail out bankers and investors or in other ways subsidize the more privileged at the expense of the disenfranchised.

Consistent with these positions, we also call for:

* Debt cancellation for the countries of the South without economic adjustment conditionality. While foreign, as well as domestic, debt has been crippling for the economic and social well-being of nations, so have economic adjustment programs. They have not only decimated national economies and fundamentally undermined the welfare of the poor and the majority of other citizens, they have also consistently increased the external debt of those countries in which they have been applied. Hence, the implementation of HIPC and similar debt-reduction plans with adjustment conditionality do not serve to free countries of the South from debt or from dependence on creditors intent on infringing upon their economic sovereignty. They in fact create greater leverage on the part of these creditors to determine the economic direction of our nations at a time of growing citizen action against neoliberal policies.

* Poverty eradication programs that address the economic and social causes of poverty and inequality. Poverty-reduction strategies should be designed within each country among all sectors, making use of national social summits, where appropriate, to reach consensus without outside interference. The problem of broadening and deepening poverty around the globe has arisen as a result of the economic system managed by the World Bank and IMF. We therefore regret that poverty eradication will not be achieved through current and projected national "poverty reduction" plans and programs designed and implemented under the auspices and oversight of the IFIs, for solutions are not to be found in current macroeconomic programs and in investment programs narrowly focused on social-service provision. Poverty programs being developed in accordance with IFI Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers will, in fact, create rather than eliminate poverty and inequality. What is urgently needed is the democratic development of alternatives to poverty-generating economic adjustment policies.

We seek an end to this suffering in an alternative approach that is grounded in human and women's rights, in a development process that does not disconnect economic from social considerations, and in the right of a peoples to choose their own economic and social policies. We call instead for broad, locally defined, bottom-up, sustainable job-creating programs that foster rural and farm development, income creation, living wages, and the provision of critical infrastructure for poor populations, including a framework of accessible services for the poor. These should include, but not be limited to: programs of credit and other support to foster and strengthen small and medium-scale enterprises, cooperatives, and farms; programs of support for agrarian reform, where appropriate, and for programs of increased food production and environmentally sustainable agriculture; credit and other support for the activities of poor rural women; initiatives and laws to improve the capacity of indigenous people; and protection of the labor rights of union members. Specific country plans must evolve from processes that require participation and transparency from all stakeholders, including civil-society organizations, without which effective economic and social policies and programs are impossible.

Accordingly, we call for foreign assistance programs based on the priorities, capacities and active involvement of the peoples of the South and the concomitant elimination of structural adjustment conditionality attached to the lending and programs of the IMF, World Bank and other IFIs and assistance agencies. This limitation should be applied to the IMF's so-called Poverty Reduction Growth Facility, as presently formulated, since it represents an attempt by the Fund to broaden the scope of its work and create additional bases for intervening in the economies of the countries of the South against the wishes of their citizens. We also reject attempts to amend the IMF's Articles of Agreement to require member countries to liberalize their capital accounts. The IFIs should be held increasingly accountable to the United Nations system through mechanisms and processes that include civil-society participation.

South/North civil-society cooperation in promoting these changes must be found, first and foremost, in the creation of space in each country for the participatory development and implementation of national economic policy through the effective functioning of democratic process and respect for labor and other internationally recognized human rights. Progress in achieving this goal in the South is the most effective means of ensuring economic justice in the North and around the globe.







April 2000


Other global, regional and national civil-society networks interested in endorsing this statement may do so by contacting the SAPRIN Global Secretariat by e-mail: or by fax: 202-898-1612. This statement will be used in the first instance at the Social Summit+5 conference in Geneva in late June 2000.