Committee on Social Cohesion, Poverty and HIV/AIDS
24 May 2010
Focussing on the two main themes of (1) Strategies to combat poverty: the role of the state and public policies, and how to transform commodity revenues into real development; and (2) Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: the United Nations September Summit, the Socialist International Committee on Social Cohesion, Poverty and HIV/AIDS, convened in Accra on 24 May 2010, hosted by the SI’s member party in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress, NDC.
The Chair of the host party and Vice-President of the Committee, Kwabena Adjei, opened the meeting, warmly welcoming participants to Ghana, underlining the importance of its focus on poverty, an issue of increasing concern due to the financial and economic crisis.
The Secretary General of the Socialist International, Luis Ayala, highlighted the crucial nature of the topics to be discussed. Two years into the recession, he said, the long held social democratic demand for more regulation for the financial markets and more State intervention to benefit the most vulnerable individuals was being widely echoed and it was time that the people must come first, and re-emerge from a world where the market has had the upper hand. We should not content ourselves with finding short-term solutions to the problems, he added, but take the necessary measures to ensure change. Greater efforts needed to be made to find long-lasting solutions to poverty, but this will not be possible without the consolidation of freedom, justice and democracy.
Introducing the first main theme of the agenda, Barbara Prammer, Chair of the Committee (SPOe, Austria), reaffirmed today’s need to find a new balance between the market and the State in order that less socially and professionally integrated people may be able to meet their essential needs. Contrary to what neoliberals and conservatives advocate, politics must regain supremacy over the economy if we are to reduce poverty and hunger, increase opportunities, and have a more equal distribution of wealth. She recalled the 2008 Agenda for Action signed in Ghana by more than 100 countries, highlighting the importance of strong partnerships between donor and aid-receiving countries. These are important in order to improve the quality of assistance and to better respond to the needs of developing countries. The integration of countries receiving assistance and their different levels of decision-making were necessary in the strategies to achieve progress, as solutions should not be dictated from abroad to later be proven to be inefficient and abandoned as a result.
In the debate on this theme, participants from Africa and Europe (List of Participants) presented case points from their respective national experiences. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Party for Democracy and Socialism of Niger and a Vice-President of the Socialist International, recalled that malnutrition is, in numbers alone, a more important cause of death than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis altogether, mentioning in particular poverty in rural areas and among women, pointing out that this is caused by bad governance, civil conflicts and political instability that affect mainly the African continent. Key-note contributions to this theme were also made by Ahmed Daddah, President of the RFD of Mauritania, and Bruno Amoussou, President of the PSD of Benin. It was evident to all participants that the African position was very different from other continents, and the significant brain-drain affecting that continent had grave consequences. This handicap was aggravated by the unequal terms for African countries in agreements of economic partnerships which the extremely low levels of public aid to development could not counterbalance. It was stressed that development must be accompanied by growth in sectors such as agriculture, mining, energy and transport infrastructures. Among the key issues also highlighted in this debate was the link between poverty and the degradation of the environment which trapped many poor countries in a vicious cycle. Participants also agreed that vital to progress was the need for a democratic consciousness through the consolidation of political parties, the involvement of civil society and by democratic practices such as free and transparent elections.
Regarding the Millennium Development Goals, in discussions introduced by Léopold Gnininvi, Secretary General of the CPDA of Togo, key areas were highlighted, namely hunger, primary education for all, reducing child mortality rates, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, sustainable development and employment, and an overview was made as to the advances achieved over the last decade. With the level of progress currently underway, and in light of the recent financial crisis, participants concurred that the targeted objectives for 2015 clearly appeared out of reach. It was also noted that while there were common factors causing poverty, the strategies for dealing with the problems varied. Kwabena Adjei outlined a set of measures that must be included in any strategy for poverty reduction and for making progress towards achieving the MDGs, amongst them the adoption of the right macro-economic, structural and social policies; managing the environment in a sustainable manner, extending property rights to the poor, investing in healthcare, providing universal primary education as well as IT skills, affordable housing, modernising agriculture, investing in infrastructure and means of transport, job opportunities, improving work ethics, fair wages, gender equality, good governance, peace, conflict resolution and forging sustainable international partnerships. The Committee agreed that most importantly, significant political will was required to implement the measures necessary to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Summarising the discussions, the SI Secretary General noted that as only two percent of global trade is African, we should work for market access for these countries as this was a crucial barrier to their growth. Equally, the cancellation of debt to the poorest in the region has long been part of our platform. The creation of work and universal access to education leading to a generation of highly qualified people would diversify the economy and the production of goods and services greatly demanded by the world market. In Africa people wanted the same things as elsewhere: jobs, education, decent pensions, welfare, etc, he added, these were universal rights and priorities. The opportunity of these new times must be seized and the ideas for change laid out – for an economy that works for all. But this is not achievable without democracy, peace, good governance and the right politics.
Before closing the meeting, the Committee chair, Barbara Prammer, reminded participants that the International AIDS Conference in Vienna would be taking place in July and she proposed that a meeting of social democratic delegates to the Conference be held on 22 July. As regards future meetings of the Committee, she proposed that the next gathering take place in the first part of 2011 and the following one in the second half of the year.
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