We the Peoples Millennium Forum
Declaration and Agenda for Action
Strengthening the United Nations for the 21st Century
We, 1,350 representatives of over 1,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civil society organisations from more than 100 countries, have gathered at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York from 22 – 26 May 2000 to build upon a common vision and the work begun at civil society conferences and the UN world conferences of the 1990’s, to draw the attention of governments to the urgency of implementing the commitments they have made, and to channel our collective energies by reclaiming globalisation for and by the people.
Our vision is of a world that is human-centred and genuinely democratic, where all human beings are full participants and determine their own destinies. In our vision we are one human family, in all our diversity, living on one common homeland and sharing a just, sustainable and peaceful world, guided by universal principles of democracy, equality, inclusion, voluntarism, non-discrimination and participation by all persons, men and women, young and old, regardless of race, faith, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity or nationality. It is a world where peace and human security, as envisioned in the principles of the United Nations Charter, replace armaments, violent conflict and wars. It is a world where everyone lives in a clean environment with a fair distribution of the earth’s resources. Our vision includes a special role for the dynamism of young people and the experience of the elderly and reaffirms the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural.
We begin the new millennium facing grave and interconnected challenges. As actors in the struggle for peace, justice and the eradication of poverty, NGOs encounter daily the human impact of rising violence and armed conflicts, widespread violations of human rights, and unacceptably large numbers of people who are denied the means of a minimal human existence. At the same time, new and emerging diseases such as HIV/AIDS threaten to devastate entire societies.
Globalisation and advances in technology create significant opportunities for people to connect, share and learn from each other. At the same time, corporate-driven globalisation increases inequities between and within countries, undermines local traditions and cultures, and escalates disparities between rich and poor, thereby marginalizing large numbers of people in urban and rural areas. Women, indigenous peoples, youth, boys and girls, and people with disabilities suffer disproportionately from the effects of globalisation. Massive debt repayments are still made by the poorest nations to the richest, at the expense of basic healthcare, education and children's lives. Trafficking in women, sexual exploitation, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and the flow of small arms promote insecurity. States are becoming weaker, while an unaccountable, transnational private sector grows stronger. A single-minded focus on economic growth through uncontrolled free markets, combined with the adjustment and stabilisation policies of international financial institutions controlled by the rich creditor nations are crippling many national economies, exacerbating poverty, eroding human values and destroying the natural environment.
Globalisation should be made to work for the benefit of everyone: eradicate poverty and hunger globally; establish peace globally; ensure the protection and promotion of human rights globally; ensure the protection of our global environment; enforce social standards in the workplace globally…. This can happen only if global corporations, international financial and trade institutions and governments are subject to effective democratic control by the people. We see a strengthened and democratised United Nations and a vibrant civil society as guarantors of this accountability. And we issue a warning: if the architects of globalisation are not held to account, this will not simply be unjust; the edifice will crumble with dire consequences for everyone. In the end, the wealthy will find no refuge, as intolerance, disease, environmental devastation, war, social disintegration and political instability spread.
We wish to put forward a series of concrete steps to strengthen cooperation among all actors at the international, national, regional and local levels to make this vision a reality. Our Agenda for Action includes steps that should be taken by civil society, governments, and the United Nations.
(This is an edited version, for a full copy of this document go to our website: ssec.org.au or pick a copy up at the office.)
Eradication of Poverty
Poverty is a violation of human rights. With some 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty, it is the most widespread violation of human rights in the world. Poverty exists not only in the developing countries, but is also a dramatic and hidden reality in the industrialised countries. Particularly affected are disadvantaged and underrepresented groups - indigenous people, people with disabilities, women, children, youth, and the elderly. Hunger and the HIV/AIDS pandemic are also highly related to poverty. Processes of impoverishment inherent in the global economic system are resulting in increasing inequity, social injustice and violence worldwide.
Including social development debt cancellation
Eradication of poverty has become a matter of urgency. Poverty eradication is not an automatic consequence of economic growth; it requires purposeful action to redistribute wealth and land, to construct a safety net and to provide universal free access to education. We call on our governments, and the United Nations to make poverty eradication a top political priority.
Peace, Security, and Disarmament
The UN and its member states have failed to fulfil their primary responsibility of maintaining peace and preserving human life. Organised armed violence is depriving millions of people all over the world -- 95% of them civilians -- of their lives, and many millions more of their right to peace.
The victims of Hiroshima/Nagasaki A-bombs and of the century's other wars have vehemently warned us that the errors of the 20th century must not be repeated in the 21st. However, the killing is continuing. Six million people have died in over 50 wars in the last decade. There have been some successes, but many of these conflicts have lasted for decades with millions of dead. The cycle of violence begins with cultures that glorify violence and warrior virtues, and may be manifest in domestic violence.
Despite over fifty years of effort, no decisive progress has yet been made in eliminating nuclear weapons, still capable of destroying all life on this planet, and the circle of their possessors is expanding. For mainly commercial reasons, there is no adequate verification for treaties prohibiting biological weapons, while knowledge of how to produce them spreads. Rape continues to be used as a weapon of war. Space has been militarised, and space weapons are being actively developed. For the moment, the problem is centred in a small group of eight states that are claiming for themselves the right to possess weapons that could destroy all of humankind.
Disarmament alone is not the way to peace; it must be accompanied by genuine human security. It is imperative that NGOs be included in the dialogue for peace. The world community -- civil society, including younger and older people, and governments -- has the resources and knowledge to move from a culture of violence to a culture of peace.
The time has come to carry out the primary mission set forth in the United Nations Charter, “to preserve future generations from the scourge of war,” and to apply the principle of non-use of force, which is fundamental to the UN Charter. Working together, both civil society and governments can make armed conflict increasingly rare and can move, step by step, to the abolition of war.
Facing the Challenge of Globalisation
"Globalisation" needs defining. To some, it is an inevitable process driven by new technologies in electronic communication and transport, enabling information, persons, capital and goods to cross borders and reach the most remote corners of the globe at unprecedented speed. It is transforming our world into a global village with consequent political and economic changes that open unprecedented possibilities of prosperity to all its inhabitants.
Equity, Justice, and Diversity
To most, globalisation is a process of economic, political and cultural domination by the economically and militarily strong over the weak. For example, the combined assets of the top 200 corporations in the 1960s were 16% of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This increased by the early 1980's to 24% and in 1995 had risen to 34%. In this process not only does the gap between the "have's" and "have-nots" widen, the ranks of the poor are swelling, civil societies are being threatened, pushing an increasing number into extreme poverty, and governments are becoming dependent. The present globalisation process is not inevitable; it is the result of decisions taken by human beings. It can and must be redirected to become a democratic process in which the people are at the centre as participants and beneficiaries. We, of all ages - in particular our future generation the youth - claim a space for that transnational civil society that even now is rising on the world scene with unprecedented ties, networking, exchanges, and common action among peoples, groups, communities, and organisations. Before us is an emerging new consciousness worldwide that affirms shared values of peace, equity, social justice, democracy, and human rights.
Indigenous peoples are deeply concerned that the on-going process of globalisation and trade liberalisation is, in many instances, leading to the denial of indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral territories and violating their rights to the security of their land tenure, including their spiritual perspective on land and development, their traditional knowledge, their culture, and their political and socio-economic systems.
Entering the new millennium, the fulfilment of human rights is threatened by numerous challenges. The increasing economic gaps and the unprecedented increase in poverty that are the result of the existing world economic order, constitute the greatest and most unjust violations of human rights: the misery and death of millions of innocent people every year. We are witnessing some of the worst violations of human rights, including the use of food as a weapon, in the context of the armed conflicts and civil wars, which have been erupting with increasing frequency. Moreover, civilians are bearing the brunt of the deployment of weapons of mass and indiscriminate destruction in such conflicts. We are also witnessing a resurgence of racism, fascism, xenophobia, homophobia, hate-crimes, ethnocide and genocide, which impact most greatly on indigenous peoples and other disadvantaged or under-represented groups; the resurgence of patriarchy that threatens to erode the gains made by women; the persistence of the worst forms of child labour; the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of massive and systematic violations of human rights; the on-going and deepening process of globalisation which undermines internationally recognised human rights, labour rights and environmental standards; the continued insulation from human rights accountability of non-state actors, ranging from transnational corporations and international financial institutions to fundamentalist civil society organisations and criminal syndicates; an upsurge of violence, militarism and armed conflict; the increase and growth of authoritarian regimes; and the fact that human rights defenders continue to be highly vulnerable targets of repression in many areas of the globe.
The United Nations human rights treaty regime, composed of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenants and Conventions, is acknowledged to be one of the three core objectives of the United Nations -- Human Rights, Development and Peace. In the 21st century we must make advances on all three fronts simultaneously or we will put our world at great risk.
- Indivisibility, interdependence and inter-relatedness of human rights
The indivisibility, interdependence and inter-relatedness of all human rights have been repeatedly reaffirmed at the level of rhetoric. However, in practice civil and political rights have been given a higher priority than economic, social and cultural rights, often to the detriment of both sets of rights.
- The human right to development
Members states, by consensus, at several United Nations global conferences have reaffirmed the right to development as an inalienable human right and an integral part of fundamental human freedoms. Moreover, development is essential for the realisation of the capacities of boys and girls. However, obstacles continue to impede the effective realisation of the right to development. Universal ratification, without reservations
Universal ratification of international human rights treaties, which are the result of already completed international negotiations, is essential if they are truly to provide a common human rights standard for humanity.
Regional and national human rights instruments have a vital contribution to make to strengthening and complementing international human rights standards.
- National Implementation
The Forum is concerned about the hypocrisy of states that fail to incorporate into their national laws the international human rights treaties they have ratified. Moreover, even where national laws exist, implementation leaves much to be desired.
- International implementation of human rights standards
The Forum expressed concern about continuing selectivity and double standards in the international enforcement of human rights. The Forum stressed the need for the more effective adherence to international human rights standards, especially by the governments of the permanent members of the Security Council and all other members, as well. At the same time, it is essential for international organisations of trade, finance and investment, as well as transnational corporations to be held fully accountable for their policies and actions that impact on human rights and workers’ rights.
- Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Women and Girls
The goal of ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls also remains unmet. The forum affirms the universality and indivisibility of women’s rights as human rights and calls for an end to all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. The forum recognises the human rights of all women and girls as an unalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights that must be promoted and realised at all stages of the life cycle.
The forum calls on the United Nations, governments and civil society to recognise and assure equal opportunity and full participation of women in all aspects of society, including leadership, the economy and decision making.
- Promoting awareness of and support for asserting human rights
Forum participants reiterated the importance of human rights education in building a culture of human rights and empowering people to claim their rights.
- Universal realisation of human rights
Human rights will not be truly universal unless they are realised for all, including neglected or excluded groups and groups at risk, notably children, youth, older persons, women, minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants, immigrants, the disabled, the mentally ill, the unemployed, the homeless and those subject to discrimination on grounds of race, religion, caste, sex, place of birth, language, age, nationality, sexual orientation or other grounds. Economic exploitation, cultural practices and other factors continue to impede the realisation of human rights for many and diverse groups.
The unequal economic development between countries promotes forced migration to developed countries. The human rights of these economic migrants, especially those labelled as alien or undocumented, are systematically violated without consideration of their significant contribution to the host country economy.
The goal of ending all forms of colonisation in the world remains as yet unachieved and the right to self-determination is far from universally realised, especially for peoples living under occupation.
Further, in the context of the right not to be complicit in killings, we call for full legal recognition of the rights of conscientious objectors.
Sustainable Development and the Environment
Sustainable development is the recognition that environment and development issues should be addressed in an integrated manner. Agenda 21 also promoted the concept of major groups wherein sectors of society, including local governments, are acknowledged as important players in bringing about sustainable development.
Eight years have passed since Rio, and there is a feeling of frustration by civil society over the slow progress or non-implementation of commitments by national and international bodies. The spirit of Rio is diminishing. The commitment of developed nations to allocate 0.7% of their GNP to overseas development assistance to developing nations has been met by very few countries. The transfer of environmentally sound technology from developed countries to developing countries is hampered by intellectual property rights demands. The balance between environment and development is tilted towards the environmental concerns favoured by the governments of developed countries.
The dominant patterns of production and consumption are being globalised, causing more environmental devastation of life-supporting ecosystems and massive loss of bio-diversity. The Brundtland Commission recommended that sustainable development be considered on an equal footing with economic, ecological and social development. Currently, globalisation is giving priority to economic development at the expense of social development and ecological conservation. The effects of such unsustainable development has marginalised and impoverished many, including the owners and custodians of traditional knowledge and bio-diversity, indigenous peoples, older persons, farmers and women. Globalisation must incorporate local sustainability. Due to the efforts of some civil society organisations (CSOs) together with some countries from the south and the north, the issue of bio-safety has occupied centre stage in the Convention on Biological Diversity. The adoption of the Bio-safety Protocol late last year is a major breakthrough in regulating the trans-border transfer of genetically modified organisms.
Strengthening and Democratising the United Nations and International Organisations
A major task of the world community in the twenty-first century will be to strengthen and greatly enhance the role of the United Nations in the global context. Governments must recommit themselves to the realisation of the goals and mandates of the United Nations Charter. A challenging task is to firmly protect the integrity of the United Nations, counter the erosion of its role and to further strengthen and augment international institutions capable of implementing and enforcing international standards, norms and law, leading toward the formation of a new political and economic order.
The world community must be particularly concerned over the ongoing trend toward diminishing the influence of developing countries in the governance of international institutions, which will only undermine their credibility and effectiveness.
Strengthening and democratising the United Nations and other international institutions will require the broad support and involvement of member states, regional bodies, civil society, and citizens everywhere, including young and older people.