A Response from Civil Society

Executive Summary
Opening Statements
> Reviewing the Millennium Declaration
NGOs as Partners in Debt Relief and Financing for Development
NGOs as Partners in Values and Public Service
NGOs as Partners in Strengthening the Family
Building Cultures of Peace and Leadership
Discussion Groups
Closing Statements

 
 
Reviewing the Millennium Declaration
 
The major points of the Millennium Declaration were then examined and evaluated by several scholars and NGO leaders. Ms. Deborah Moldow, Co-Chair of the Values Caucus, said thinking about values and principles uplifts our consciousness, putting us in touch with our sense of purpose and that which is noblest in the human spirit. Her belief is that all people share our highest values, and that a sense of shared values can be an important cross-cultural bridge to understanding and concerted action. She cited the six values and principles in the Declaration: freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility, which are reaffirmations of the principles of the U.N. Charter. The United Nations is the only repository for the world's values, and for 55 years has served as a laboratory for finding common expression of shared values, the common good. Of course, governments can sign on to a statement of values and go home to business as usual. But, in her view, governments are made up of people who have consciences, and can be prodded by the NGO community. She said that NGOs are known as the conscience of the United Nations.
 
Mr. Solo Dowuona-Hammond, President of the Olof Palme Peace Foundation, on the theme of development and poverty eradication, noted the lofty objectives in the Declaration, such as halving the world's extreme poverty by 2015. All of these goals hinge on the "recognition, promotion and protection of human rights and good governance." The right to development is an inalienable human right, and sustainable development places people at the core, viewing them as both a means and end of development, not as a means to other people's ends. Human rights and sustainable development, he said, are inextricably interwoven and mutually reinforcing. Regarding the North's apparent reluctance to implement debt forgiveness for lesser developed countries (LDCs), he suggested that the United Nations set up a committee within the Economic and Social Council that would operate an escrow account for LDC payments; from these payments, projects could then be undertaken in conjunction with LDC governments, the private sector and civil society. Thus, such an arrangement could ensure the efficient and judicious use of resources, avoiding corruption and the cancellation of debt.
 
Dr. Nicholas N. Kittrie, Chairman of the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Justice and Peace, addressed the theme of human rights, democracy and good governance by first highlighting the chasm between the Declaration's espoused values and the reality. He asked how much credibility lies behind a resolution of an international assembly which, after 55 years since its creation and the issuance of innumerable declarations, permits nearly half of the world's population to subsist on less than $2 per day. The Declaration sets out to attain seven specific human rights objectives, including upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet, for example, of the 190 U.N. member states, only 95 have signed the existing protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Thus, there are many words, promises and resolutions, but far less in the way of actions. There is little hard evidence of how many Declaration objectives are indeed being implemented. Moreover, the Declaration demands that governments not merely refrain from doing wrong and evil, but requires, in effect, "participation, sensitivity, and cooperation by people, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, [youth] organizations, labor unions, scholars, and philosophers," he said. True implementation of the U.N. objectives calls for popular support and popular vigilance, not merely governmental pronouncements. This is why, Dr. Kittrie said, that a civil response is required, and a civil mobilization needed, to build a better world.
 
Dr. Yvette Stevens, Office of the Special Coordinator for Africa and the Least Developed Countries, U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, discussed meeting the special needs of Africa. She said that in the Millennium General Assembly there was general support for a comprehensive and integrated approach to be taken toward conflict prevention in Africa, including peace-building, poverty eradication, development and democracy. The Security Council's agenda centered on how to enhance U.N. effectiveness in the maintenance of international peace and security in Africa. It spoke to the need to address pressing social and economic problems, to ensure robust African economic growth, and integration into the world economy as essential elements of conflict prevention. It also gave prominence to post-conflict peace-building, reducing the spread of disease, especially HIV/AIDS and malaria, and the problem of illicit trade in natural resources, including diamonds. At the Millennium Summit, 35 African heads of state spoke, noting that Africa is a microcosm of the challenges the United Nations will face in the 21st century. Several called for the creation of a global assistance fund to be used for poverty eradication. Many leaders also called for debt cancellation so that resources could be reallocated for pressing economic and social needs. Dr. Stevens noted that Southern African leaders said HIV/AIDS is the challenge of the millennium for their countries, and that the United Nations and the private sector must work together to seek an effective remedy to this pandemic. Leaders also complained that African countries have been unable to harness the opportunities of globalization. They advocated fair terms of trade, open markets, strengthening capacity and narrowing the digital divide. British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for a "new partnership for Africa.where all the problems are dealt.in a coherent and unified plan." Leaders also observed that, in order to reduce poverty, concrete steps need to be taken to increase official development assistance (ODA). Overall, she noted, the Millennium Summit deliberations, as reflected in the Declaration, called for a new deal for Africa to address the plight of poverty, conflicts and HIV/AIDS, based on the independent thinking of Africans and a comprehensive approach by its partners.
 
Dr. Allan Gerson, Director of the War-to-Peace Transition Project at the New America Foundation, discussed strengthening the United Nations. He observed the post-Cold War period has been primarily characterized by civil wars and internal or intrastate wars. These forms of warfare result from the vicious cycle or reactions of war and poverty: armed conflicts weaken the ability of the state to provide minimal social services and development, and this inability further fuels grievances and a readiness to take up arms. Only the creation of employment opportunities can nurture and sustain fragile peace agreements, and this will require a greater partnering between the United Nations and international financial institutions. The United Nations, he said, is essentially a political institution that does not know much about economics. NGOs can successfully act as intermediaries between the United Nations and these international financial institutions. Finally, he called for a new structure in the United Nations that gives a voice to NGOs and the private sector so that they can work better together in a collaborative way.
 
The other three major themes of the Millennium Declaration--peace and security, protecting our common environment, and, protecting the vulnerable--were addressed by a reading of the relevant article of the Declaration itself.
 
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