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Manifesto: Solidarity and equity
Manifesto (Programme of principles) for Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, adopted at the General Assembly April 2003
1. Value Basis
Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke Statutory Preamble:
"To promote international understanding and solidarity, and thus through co-operation across national and cultural borders to contribute towards sustainable global development and an equitable distribution of the riches of the world."
Human beings have an obligation to assume active shared responsibility for how the world develops and we must have the opportunity to carry out this responsibility.
This has been an essential driving force in Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke right from the foundation of the association in 1944. The same applies to our belief that people, through co-operation across national and cultural borders, can promote international understanding and solidarity, and thus contribute towards a more peaceful and more equitable world.
Ever since its establishment, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (MS) has been part of civil society. Since 1974, the association has been a membership-based organisation. The democratic values which we consider as essential for the association’s own existence must also permeate through all the activities that we undertake in the South as well as the North.
This Manifesto is an interpretation of MS’ preamble as it applies in the world of 2003. Consequently, the Manifesto provides the fundamental political approach of the association. The principles are based on MS’ core values, international co-operation and solidarity, on the history of the association and, not the least, on our analysis of the present world situation.
The world of 2003 is in many ways different from the world of 1944. However, in spite of considerable progress, there is still a long way to go before we can live as citizens in a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world. Developments since 1944 have not shaken our belief in the necessity of international co-operation and the conviction that this can lead to concrete changes.
The modern globalised world is desperately in need of international co-operation. The implementation of MS’ preamble in the coming years will primarily be based on two ideals:
- Global Citizens
The world’s biggest problem in the 21st century is disparity between the few rich and many poor people. It is our firm belief that all the people of the world – irrespective of their place of birth – have the right to a decent life and, consequently, the right to demand the fulfilment of fundamental needs and respect for their basic rights. As long as the basic problems of poverty and inequality are not resolved, it would be futile to make any attempt to address other issues adequately.
A very essential ideal in the struggle for a more just world is the global citizens.
Equity is a question of people’s right to set goals for their own lives, right to exercise choices, and to show respect for choices made by others. However, combating inequity is also a fight against inequality and an effort for a more fair distribution of resources - at local as well as global levels. The citizenship that we wish to promote should be global in the following two senses.
Firstly, there are only a few inhabitants of the world who exercise influence on their own living situation and their local community - not to mention on their country or the world. It means that they may be ‘citizens’ and inhabitants in their own country but they are not co-citizens. In stead of exclusion and escalating social disparity, economic, political and social development must emphasise inclusion, participation and joint responsibility.
Secondly, we have hitherto been accustomed to the assumption that politics and nation states were closely interlinked. To the extent that people have been able to perceive themselves as (co)citizens, it has primarily been in relation to the nation state. Now in the beginning of the 21st century, citizens must reflect and act as global citizens. Globalisation, for the benefit of all rather than only a few, requires political initiatives stretching far beyond national borders. This depends upon active and committed people perceiving themselves as global citizens with the responsibility of finding collective solutions to problems and challenges. However, this is also a prerequisite for establishment of political and institutional frameworks for enabling these global citizens to engage in societal development.
A global citizenship leads to rights as well as obligations for all. Partly to ensure development towards a better and more just world, and partly to make active decisions and engage in this development at all levels.
2. The World Today – Challenges
MS’ vision is an equitable world. The present world is characterized by inequality – at national as well as global levels. In this respect, the core element is managing globalisation so that it benefits everyone and not only the few. Political globalisation must govern economic and cultural globalisation. In the absence of political controls, we would – with the present development – see a world of increased economic and social disparities, escalating environmental problems and cultural clashes.
Globalisation contains threats as well as opportunities. Globalisation has given rise to economic growth that has improved living conditions and reduced poverty for millions of people. However, inequality has concurrently been on the rise – between rich and poor countries – and within individual countries. We experience population groups and groups of countries being marginalized and excluded from obtaining a share in opportunities provided by economic growth and technological breakthrough. The end of the cold war did not pave the way for the anticipated – and absolutely necessary – international co-operation required for solving the global problems. Economic globalisation without political regulation intensifies the risk for conflict, and vital natural resources are administered and consumed with a short-term horizon without consideration for long-term sustainability. Regions with substantial natural resources and good potential for growth are characterised by poverty and conflicts. The economy in Sub-Saharan Africa equals Belgium although the African region has an abundance of natural resources.
However, globalisation has also created new opportunities. Respect for human rights is the focal point in development debates - and in many countries in the South crucial results have been achieved in the struggle for political rights. Organisations and movements in civil society all over the world co-operate in new ways – both in relation to involvement of local communities and with regard to democratising global institutions. In international negotiations, regional intergovernmental actors like the EU have, in certain instances, played important roles. However, agendas are often set by the smallest common denominators.
Poverty and Inequality
GNP figures show that during the past 25 years the rich countries have constantly become richer. GNP has virtually not changed in middle-income and poor countries. On the contrary, GNP has fallen in Africa. There is every indication that this tendency will continue, and that the gap between rich and poor in the North and the South will, therefore, grow wider.
Concurrently, there is increasing inequality within many countries. Poor people are further marginalised when dramatic reforms are forced through without considering the consequences for weak and vulnerable groups. Privatisations and economic cutbacks have undermined poor people’s possibilities of exploiting opportunities that were to be created by political and economic liberalisation.
In recent years, international NGO campaigns have successfully laid focus on the need for debt cancellation and the necessity of development strategies that accord high priority to the fight against poverty. At the same time, our knowledge of poor people’s needs and interests has improved – including our knowledge of the role that development aid and reform programmes can play. However, there is still a long way to go before decision-makers and reform programmes, to all intent and purposes, involve the poor and vulnerable groups.
Poverty and Inequity in Health Sector
The global diseases aggravated by poverty such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are still not under control. On the contrary, they pose a continued obstacle to welfare and development among poor people in the South – especially in Africa south of Sahara. Existing effective treatment is not accessible here due to high prices, and under-funded and poorly functioning health sectors. By ensuring that poorest are also offered equal access to effective treatment and prevention, we could lay the foundation for a morally responsible as well as financially profitable development in these societies.
Security and Development
Security traditionally deals with military hardware and soldiers but a growing number of conflicts have underlined the need for long-term international support and preventive measures. Shortage of food and water, and restriction of access to natural resources give rise to conflicts in local communities, within individual countries as well as between nation states.
Enormous resources are spent on armed forces – an amount that alone in the case of USA constitutes more than six-fold of total development aid provided by the western world. The world is marked by increasingly complex conflicts, which requires sustained and balanced interventions. Nevertheless, we experience that military hardware is seen as the only response to civil wars, ethnic conflicts, clashes as a consequence of shortage of natural resources etc. Fear of terror, prejudice and enemy images dominate the world of military strategy. In the past few years, it has become evident that a number of countries with USA as the only super power in the world wish to place development policy and consideration for democracy, human rights, poverty and UN institutions under its overall security policy, military and economic agenda. MS insists that development policy must not be dictated by security-policy interests. A new agenda on security policy requires a completely different global political realisation.
What’s Happening to Sustainability?
If the current policy continues, the number of poor people, who at present live on one to two dollars a day, will increase to approximately six billion by the year 2030. On the other hand, we are totally dependent upon and extremely vulnerable in relation to the environment. However, unmanaged access of transnational companies to resources of the poor world can reduce availability of natural resources and knock the world’s poorest people off their feet. Globalisation has meant paying far greater attention towards social responsibility of companies. However, there is a long way to go before effective regulation mechanisms ensure that private investments live up to basic environmental and labour standards.
Global and binding strategies can change this development which is i.a. evident from the success with ozone layer agreements. A decade ago, the disintegration of the ozone layer was considered as the greatest global environmental threat. Through the so-called Montreal-protocol, we succeeded at the global level in curbing the emission of substances that are destructive to environment. Consequently, the ozone layer is expected to be restored around the middle of this century.
However, current international agreements are not sufficiently ambitious. There is lack of political determination for seriously changing the current non-sustainable course. This would require new international conventions, increased economic resources as well as technology transfers from North to South. At the UN-conferences in the 1990’s, inter-linkages between poverty and environment were acknowledged. Now there is an urgent need for transforming this into political practice at national as well as international levels.
Cultural Multiplicity and Intensified Cultural Clashes
Globalisation has brought rapid changes all over the world and new types of marginalisations have emerged in many societies. International migration and growing influx of refugees means that to an increasing extent, the Danish society – like the rest of the world – has become multi-cultural.
This development is obviously not without conflict. It is important that conflicts are encountered with an equal amount of dialogue and respect for individuals. This approach contains potential for a positive development for democracy and international understanding. Otherwise, it can result in increased nationalism, racism and fundamentalism.
Rights and Democracy under Pressure
Through the 1990’s, there had been a tendency to equate new constitutions, national elections etc. with democracy in developing countries, and East and Central Europe. Although it is true that considerable political changes have taken place, there is still a long way to go before we can accomplish the goal of involving the ordinary people in decision-making processes.
Therefore, there is a pronounced disproportion between the existing focus on political processes and the lack of democratic results at the local as well as the international level. Extensive reform programmes are implemented in numerous countries in the South these days. However, citizen participation and the possibility of holding officials and politicians accountable for their actions still leave much to be desired. At the regional and global levels, reforms have been carried out by a number of intergovernmental organisations but they often suffer from serious lack of democracy, and accountability to the general public is obstructed as a consequence of bureaucratic manoeuvres and vested national interests.
However, at local, national and international levels, globalisation has also offered organisations like MS new opportunities for engaging in partnerships with organisations fighting for the rights of poor people. These interventions can now be undertaken at various levels, and political barriers are challenged by establishing alliances and networks through which experience and resources are utilized in a more effective manner. Local demands for good governance can be supported by international campaigns, and civil society organisations can learn from the experience of others in relation to participatory methods and democratic systems of governance.
3. The World of Tomorrow – Objectives
People's influence over their own lives is a precondition for an equitable world.
An equitable world presupposes that poor, marginalised and oppressed people demand and work for their own development. Therefore, civil society must be mobilised and strengthened to resist – internally as well as externally – exploitation by élites and oppressive regimes. Organisations and people expressing solidarity should support individuals and groups in civil society, who still do not have a voice.
In order to accomplish this goal, co-operation is required at all levels of the global society, e.g. between individuals, between groups and societies, among civil societies, within and among nation states, within the various regions of the world and at the international level.
Redistribution to Secure Sustainability
Fight against poverty should be launched through a fair global redistribution of resources. This is the demand from civil society at all levels. This requires: providing access to markets for developing countries and ensuring their right to initially protect their own agriculture and industry; programmes for cancellation of debts - including cancellation of all official debt to the most indebted poor countries – which in return should commit themselves to poverty reduction. Further demands are the removal of export subsidies in the West, a fundamental change in the rich countries’ agriculture and fishing subsidies, and a continuous and generous development aid with special emphasis on Africa.
The western world must live up to the agreed goal of providing at least 0.7% of GDP in development aid. There is a need for increased Danish development aid in the approaching years - including additional grants and renewed efforts in international fora, especially in the EU. Aid from the western countries is a necessary part of the required global redistribution which must also comprise expertise and technology - particularly in the health sector - to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria irrespective of who is infected.
The UN as well as individual governments should commit themselves to secure redistribution of resources in order to contribute towards global equality and equity. On the basis of the UN Millennium Development Goals, MS will focus on the following objectives:
- adequate and healthy food as well as clean water for all
- access to health services for all
- securing sexual and reproductive rights - especially for women
- free education for all children
- noticeable reduction in income disparities
- the right to societal participation for all citizens
- good governance and equity based on legislation and independent judicial systems
Binding international rules and regulations are necessary for exerting pressure on reluctant countries to comply with this redistribution, and to a sustainable utilization and exploitation of the earth’s resources. It is only through redistribution that we can combat poverty, secure appropriate utilization and protection of environment and natural resources. This is in the interest of poor as well as rich countries.
Peace and reconciliation
Development leads to redistribution of resources which again implies changes in existing social relations and power structures followed by new clash of interests and conflicts. Therefore, clash of interests and conflicts are an inevitable part of the dynamic of development in various societies. They can lead to social development and greater understanding among people or to enmity and stagnation depending on how they are experienced and addressed.
The best way to resolve violent conflicts is through dialogue and reconciliation. Social, cultural and human aspects of reconciliation should be given highest priority because poverty is often the reason for conflict. We must emphasise preventive measures before conflicts unfold in a violent direction.
Peace-keeping and peace-making efforts are an international task and should be implemented according to the UN charter. These can be undertaken at regional as well as at international levels. Ultimately, the international community is also responsible for securing reconstruction and rehabilitation in the wake of reconciliation. The UN Security Council must play a decisive role in association with regional organisations.
Terrorism as well as state terrorism poses a threat to international peace and stability. State terrorism inflicts massive oppression against a whole nation. Terrorism strikes at random and must be condemned. However, the term terrorism is also used indiscriminately and as a pretext for exerting national interests at regional as well as global level.
Therefore, it is a task for all states to join in combating terrorism in accordance with the rules of the UN. All people are covered by fundamental human rights – including those who are prosecuted for alleged terrorism. MS will continue to support the struggle which freedom movements through democratic objectives and means launch for securing self-determination and the right to determine their own development. Such a struggle based on democratic principles and respect for human rights must not be mistaken for terrorism.
Rights and Obligations for all People
It requires energy and vision to think and act as global citizens: a reasonable living standard, social security and education. Intensified efforts are required for extending these benefits to all sections of the population – especially in developing countries.
The rights contained in the UN Human Rights Charter must be respected by everyone irrespective of cultural, economic, political and social position. Civil rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights are essential. Rights must contribute towards securing the necessary redistribution of world resources and the respect for a continued cultural multiplicity. All poor people have a right to benefit from these advantages – social, economic, and ecological as well as scientific. Apart from this, it is important that special rights of women and children are respected and promoted.
Fundamental rights must apply in all situations of life and be given higher priority than consideration for culture and fellowship. Besides, the right to multiplicity should be a fundamental element in all societies. Weak, oppressed and marginalised groups should be aware of their rights – including the rights of indigenous people and the right to organise - and should be accorded shared influence. It is only through shared influence that rights and obligations can be exercised.
Along with rights, a set of obligations applies for individuals and social groups. The obligation to contribute - according to ability and possibility - towards the undertakings of the society and the state. This set of obligations also applies at the national level. Thus, the state provides the framework both for securing rights of individual citizens and for solutions to economic and social tasks within any society. The state undertakes these tasks in association with citizens and groups in civil society.
Global actors have responsibilities
The UN is an absolute necessity for creating a just and peaceful world. Therefore, the UN must be strengthened and have real possibilities for enforcing sanctions against countries violating the agreed rules and regulations – especially in the event of cross-border environmental and economic crime, and war. The UN, WTO as well as the IMF must ensure observance of international rules and bear shared responsibility for resolving world poverty and environmental problems. The UN must be the cornerstone in global democracy. As the basis, the WTO, the World Bank and IMF must observe standards and norms set in the UN system.
The UN as well as the IMF must be democratised to secure proper representation of all countries. Wealth, military strength or any other advantage must not dictate decisions regarding which populations and states should be involved or favoured. International policies should work for liberal world trade and for globally binding rules and standards for equity. It is vital that civil society is provided the possibility of influencing the elaboration of these rules.
Multinational companies undermining societal significance and authority must be held accountable by global organisations with real possibilities of enforcing sanctions.
Regional co-operation must be strengthened
The work of the UN is essential for solving the many problems existing in the world but UN cannot solve all problems. In this respect, we should open the possibility of addressing many tasks at regional levels. Existing regional organisations must be strengthened so that they are able to play a role in weighing global considerations.
Regional co-operation ought to be uplifted and intensified particularly among developing countries. This provides a necessary strength to their capacity to negotiate. It is essential to establish a level between the UN and individual governments to strengthen weak actors in a global world. On the economic front, regional co-operation could be instrumental in protecting fragile agricultural sectors and emerging industries in developing countries and equipping them better to compete on the world market.
European co-operation is not unproblematic but Europe is required as a clear counterweight to US world dominance and must be an obvious support for strengthening developing countries at the international level – financially as well as politically. EU must demonstrate leadership, for instance, by eliminating all distorting subsidies on the agriculture and fisheries sectors – areas, which form the basis for survival of poorer developing countries. The EU must provide substantial development aid in order to drastically reduce world poverty.
EU should be strengthened and made more democratic and transparent – it should reflect European, global citizens. Individual member states ought to contribute towards creating a popularly rooted and globally responsible EU in order to give greater impact to solidarity with poor countries. Denmark should make active and constructive efforts to strengthen EU global responsibilities.
However, intergovernmental actors are not a guarantee for public debate and democratic influence. Therefore, civil society and, especially global citizens, are essential for an equitable and just world.
Global citizens in an equitable world
All people have a right and obligation to play an active role in their own development – irrespective of who they are and where they were born. All those, who already have this opportunity, have an obligation to secure the same right for others so that all people become global citizens.
Equity and justice in a globalised world require that the peoples of the world have rights and obligations to influence and shape it. We are no longer just citizens in a particular nation state but, to a larger extent, in fellowship across conventional borders.
There is a need for strengthening such efforts at local as well as international levels. Large and dominant actors cannot alone secure humane globalisation. People must possess knowledge and co-influence to participate in local, national and regional political initiatives as key actors in a globalisation by people.