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A World Alliance against Social Apartheid

Created date

Monday, March 6, 1995 - 09:36

This text summarizes the conclusions from four "continental forums" held in February 1995: in Beijing for Asia, Rio de Janeiro for America, Paris for Europe, and Cape Town for Africa.

These simultaneous forums, which preceded the Copenhagen Social World Summit, brought together the citizens of more than 60 countries and are the image of a world citizenship in formation, rooted in specific local realities and ready to take up contemporary challenges on a worldwide scale at one and the same time.


It is impossible to act alone, occasionally or on a single level when faced by the growing social apartheid whose roots lie deep in causes common to the entire planet, in a variety of forms and intensities in all parts of the world. An overall strategy methodologically constructed over a period of time is indispensable. To begin with, this presupposes a pooling of analyses and proposals, between organizations, networks, cultures and continents.

These Forums stem from a convergence of desires and a uniting of efforts, of networks and means, between a world-wide movement, "the Alliance for a Responsible and United World", created in 1994, which brings together the people of more than 80 countries sharing a common platform, and various continental initiatives, in particular those of the Forums’ organizers: the Yanjing Group in China, the Southern African Development Education Programme in South Africa, IBASE in Brazil, Europe 99, "Coordination Sud" and " Le Réseau Européen de l'Economie Alternative et Solidaire" in France.

The text, the result of a collective effort, is also and above all a departure point for seeking to meet other desires and other initiatives, for deepening and strengthening the strategies of attack against the roots of social apartheid.
But social apartheid cannot be confronted and treated in isolation. It is only the most visible form of the threefold crisis that characterizes the end of the twentieth century: a crisis in the relations and exchanges between men, between societies and between men and their environment. It is within this wider framework that we must put all these aspects together and set to work on the changes for the forthcoming century.

Humanity confronted by its challenges

Despite economic growth cycles that have sometimes been very rapid in certain regions, social apartheid is developing in contemporary societies all over the world. The exclusive priority given to economic and material growth to the detriment of social development, the absence of any counterweight to the reductive logic of business, the rapid development of an international economy that despises or ignores all pre-existing balances, a uniform culture that glorifies money, inefficient States, corrupted or overwhelmed by the new realities, dictatorial regimes which are still too numerous: these are all factors that for various reasons encourage this apartheid and undermine social cohesion.

The rapid internationalization of exchanges, technology, the economy and information has not ensured universal prosperity, but it could constitute a threat to human survival. The field is left open to explosions of violence, to loss of identity, to trafficking and to prostitution. The most vulnerable sectors of the population (women, the young, subsistence farmers, new arrivals in towns, cultural and ethnic minorities) pay dearly for such internationalization. Social regulation, traditional thought systems and the means whereby the citizen controls his destiny have been greatly enfeebled. Here then, the great challenge that we must face up to, is to bring into being true international regulations, real areas of democracy and new projects for civilization.

A single crisis, but with different forms for each continent


Asia is not homogeneous. It is made up of a great diversity of geographical, ethnic, cultural, economic and political structures. The stages of development of the national and regional communities are very different. Overall, at present, this continent has the world’s highest economic growth. Such rapid social change and structural transformation could strengthen the evolution of world development - or break it.

The participants at the Asiatic Forum agreed on the fact that this growth had added new problems to the old. It has been carried out at the expense of natural resources, the quality of the environment, social integration and justice and local cultural values, etc.
The continent shares common problems: population growth, the exhaustion of natural resources, imitation of western consumer society, the destruction of the environment, the gulf between rich and poor, social inequality, inefficient and corrupt public administrations, modified cultural values that encroach upon traditional values, the absence of social rights for certain groups, such as women, children, ethnic minorities and the inordinate proportion of their resources that are used for military ends.

In each sub-region certain problems predominate. For East Asia, corruption and the worsening employment situation are the worst. For over-populated South Asia the main problems are access to land and famine. In South-East Asia it is the loss and bad use of agricultural land, rapid migration to the towns and an increasingly unequal distribution of income and wealth that are the main pathological effects of growth.
These problems put the survival of the continent in danger. If not dealt with immediately they will rein in economic growth and accelerate serious social degeneration.

The governments of this region must therefore radically modify policies which, up to the present, have been centered on growth and give the emphasis necessary to social development. But the governments are more or less incapable of tackling these problems alone, as their organization does not permit efficiency and the size and nature of the challenge overwhelms them. This challenge demands a radically new conception of the inter-relationships between humanity and nature, between men and women and between governments and governed.

Citizens’ groups and social movements have, therefore, an essential role to play. However, in Asia, they have two characteristics: on the one hand, their development and their organizational abilities differ from one country to another and, on the other, each country has its own specific difficulties. This is why they must conceive of and put into practice strategies adapted to each situation in order to give concrete expression to their efforts. They must build up their ability to manage their own communities and to participate in a significant way in local and national governing bodies.

What is more, citizens’ groups and associated movements must build up their links through regular communication and co-ordinate their actions as often as possible, in order to benefit to the greatest possible extent from their successes and failures. Finally, their co-operation can give rise to a new body of philosophy that would carry human well-being into a new era.


Throughout the American continent, governments and technocrats dictate a model for development founded on growth and the market, competition and comparative advantages. Thus they hope to bring to the South of the region the standard of living of the rich countries. However, little by little, the growing poverty and exclusion of large sections of the population, including those of the Northern continent, have demonstrated the hypocrisy of this policy.

The case of Mexico is exemplary: a great country, insofar as its population and cultural riches are concerned, entered into the Free Trade Treaty with the United States and Canada and is now going through an unprecedented financial and political crisis. This situation is worsened by the hostilities in the Chiapas and permanent social unrest. Brazil is another striking example: the Adjustment Plan imposed by the new political, economic and social order and advocated by the World Bank is seriously damaging the country. Thirty million starving people is the most striking demonstration of this. Such examples can be found throughout the continent.

The dominant policies in the region greatly weaken the effective area of control and the role of the States, transferring onto the market essential services such as health and education, or key policies like environmental protection.

The growth model and the regrettable lessening of the role of the State leaves a vacuum in which the new organizations of society can play a considerable role. Nevertheless, these centers of innovation have not yet to been able to propose a plan of action capable of opposing the dominant model.

The traditional organizations (parties, unions) are in free fall in an irreversible crisis. The initiatives of organizations and associations active in society express the search for new political representation, without necessarily wishing to replace the traditional structures.


In Western Europe, the balance between economic growth and social justice, achieved 40 years ago, has been upset. This society, which up to now has been founded upon productive work, is no longer able to attain full employment, nor to stop increasing massive poverty and social exclusion.

Nevertheless, European governments refuse to face up to this crisis of the development model and call into question a system of production built upon mass consumption.

The growing gap between the active population, on the one hand, and the inactive population or that in a precarious situation, on the other, has brought about an unprecedented financial crisis within the system of social protection. Under neoliberal pressure and in reaction to bureaucratic and social assistance phenomena, the tendency has been to dismantle what has been the major achievement of European society since the Second World War.

Surrounded by conflicts and wars, the European Union has more need than ever to continue its process of integration. For this, the Europeans need to develop a true social program, well beyond purely economic and financial preoccupations.

Eastern Europe finds itself at a cross-roads: its history bearing a heavy legacy but its future will inevitably be different; a Western model, in which certain pitfalls are to be observed, but which is all the same attractive, and a hypothetical, new and innovative path that must be built in the midst of present difficulties. Is it possible to conceive of a project for society based on a greater united Europe ?

For the participants of the European Forum, from the East and the West, the priority was to consider the economy as a subset of ecology and anthropology, that is to say, of nature, culture and society. Initiatives for solidarity and positive alternatives are possible even when faced with the ethos of each-man-for-himself and the logic of defense - the work to be done can be chosen and not dictated.
Next to the market and the public sector is a vast field called the "third sector" which bears the seeds of another kind of development. Within this third sector are the co-operative and alternative economy on the one hand, and the social economy on the other, both with very different weights and dynamics, but they must learn to complement each other.


The African Continent is the product of historical factors arising out of colonialism and imperialism. This, together with the present, dominant development model focused on economic growth, has brought about the dependence, the under-development and the still growing inequalities within and between African countries.
Nevertheless, Africa is determined to claim its place as a continent on an equal footing and to undertake the search for alternative forms of development that will enhance its rich and varied cultural heritage, mobilize its human and creative energies and ensure the effective use of its natural resources in a holistic and sustainable development centered on Humanity.

The manner in which history has been interpreted has created a special exclusion that deprives the African people of its collective memory and culture. This has been aggravated by the monopoly over communication held by the Northern countries, the imposition of mono-cultural education systems, weak and corrupt non-democratic governments and economic failure due to the terms of trade imposed by the Structural Adjustment Programs. These programs have, through severe cuts in social spending, caused a deterioration in the conditions of the poor, especially in the casual and agricultural sectors, disproportionately affecting women and children. Other consequences have been the poor ecological use of natural resources, exclusion from the domains of research, science, technology, plus racial, linguistic and gender exclusion.
The powers outside Africa have taken over the immense cultural wealth of their music, of African art and crafts, without profit for the artists or the continent.

In many African countries, non-democratic and corrupt political systems have arisen, with increasing militarization and bloody conflicts. For most of them, the interference of external powers and institutions has pushed the government to fail in its responsibility with regard to the well-being of its citizens. The development of corporatist States has led to increasing impoverishment, while growing awareness now shows the need to establish and improve society's ability to transform itself, establishing new systems founded upon strong, healthy governments.

Africans are working to develop a collective vision adapted to their context so that they can attack their particular common problems.
The necessary condition for an autonomous economy, self-sufficient in food and able to use science and technology, is African integration on a regional or local basis; similarly, internal industrial and agricultural co-operation would give increased commercial power to the States concerned, while continental and international agreements would protect the security and rights of the citizens.

Women's rights must be guaranteed and must include the right to hold land, to education, to work and to credit, and to be supported by an African social development fund for the equality of the sexes.

The creation of mechanisms and areas to strengthen democracy, a more participatory role for the State and the development of political, cultural and religious pluralism would stop the drift towards fundamentalism and the growing disintegration of African societies.

A security force and demilitarization are necessary in Africa, as it would financially benefit social development.

Face up to the challenge, take the initiative

The problems mentioned are facts and not fatalities, nor should we see them as such. We have the desire and the power to act as citizens of our countries and of the world. The challenges are immense, complex and world-wide. But we are many, we can be determined and we must push forward with our revolt. If total internationalisation is a threat to the old order, it is also a chance for world-wide citizenship. Without reservation, we define development as human, sustainable and social ... We must dare to invent new horizons for humanity. We must not wait for States, that are so enveloped by their frontiers, their bureaucracies and their privileges, to take the initiative, as they are overwhelmed by the globalisation that they helped to start.
We must take it ourselves.

Dare to think and to act together at many levels as an echo of the unity and diversity of the world. New international regulations and local initiatives are mutually reinforcing and indispensable, the one for the other.

Make "projects for society"emerge on a continental scale

We do not think that anything will be possible without the emergence of true "projects for society" on the scale of individual continents and world regions. The nation States, in their large majority, have neither sufficient weight or scale to be the framework of such projects. It is certainly not in making each one submit to a "world order" and to an international competition without limits, that we will get beyond the limitations of the present rules.

The European Union itself, an advanced example of regional integration, is far from providing an example: it lacks a true "project for civilisation " arising out of a wide ranging debate and an agreement on values. An ability and a desire to create a new and original model for development based upon several dimensions (economic, ecological, cultural and social) would allow Europe to relinquish its defensive strategies with regard to the rest of the world.

It is through organization, great ambition and by linking the multiple existing initiatives that the organized participants of the societies of each continent, the women, the young, peasant farmers, businesses, consumers, professional organizations and unions, etc., will be able to cross frontiers, break down barriers and give birth to such projects. The end of the model created by the old Soviet Union and the present ideological hegemony of economic liberalism leaves Europe's citizens confronted by an ideational vacuum. But their past, experiences, actions and thinking make them bringers of innovation and change. Furthermore, the setting up of continental and intercontinental networks for the exchange of experiences, dialogues and proposals must constitute a priority.

For "governing " the world anew

The necessary reform of the international system and the invention of new regulations adapted to today's challenge will become possible if the citizens of the world get together to negotiate and impose the principles. In particular we are thinking of:

* the opening of world institutions to the representatives of citizens’ organizations.
* the evaluation through public debate of the social and environmental consequences of international decisions,
* the equal participation of all continental groups in world management,
* the rules for the intervention of world financial institutions that respect the interests of the countries and the development programmes conceived and put into action by the populations concerned,
* the regulation of world financial markets and more generally technical and commercial exchanges and new rules for money, to turn the financial flow, as far as possible, towards social development (the Tobin tax, ecotax etc.),
* the conditions under which international business can function or intervene,
* the legal right of each continental or regional area to preserve its culture and its tools of production,
* the promotion of development programs that really respect the human and ecological wealth of the planet, including opportunities for women to manage their own reproductive health and policies to halt the depletion of world resources,
* the setting up of regional collective security, the only form of security likely to result in a real reduction of spending on arms by countries to the benefit of increasing efforts towards human development.

Toward a new role for the state

The last decade may give the illusion of an irresistible and almost universal progress of democracy at the level of the State. This is a mirage for the most part. Too often such democracy is reduced to occasionally exercising the right to vote. The votes themselves are sometimes subject to massive tampering and citizens have little control over their governments. In many countries the State is both authoritarian when dealing with the civil society when it should be entering into a dialogue and weak or incompetent when it should be launching initiatives and being the organizer. Weak States cannot ensure social justice as they are incapable of imposing the necessary solidarity. Finally, we all too often find a crisis of political representation in the older democracies.
We want strong, healthy States, but above all we can conceive of and promote a new type of State. We have to leave behind the idea of a dichotomy between the State and the market and push the idea of an organizing state" that would ensure the non-bureaucratic regulation of local community interests in relation with those of the State. Some partial, positive examples already exist in a number of places and give reference points for State transformation strategies. Here, as well, the development of networks for the exchange of experience is a priority for spreading such strategies.

There are many principals that can serve to guide us in promoting this new type of State:

* a healthy state has need of an organized society: the desire to divide the citizens is, on the contrary, the sign of weak and authoritarian States which are unsure of their legitimacy;
* democracy must be participatory: the State must in myriad ways facilitate the taking of initiatives and responsibility, and ensure that citizens can exercise actions of solidarity themselves;
* It is indispensable that public actions should be transparent and permanently subject to evaluation by the citizens;
* legal and social rights for all must be ensured and in particular for women, and ethnic and cultural minorities;
* the decentralisation of government towards the provinces, whose size enables real and everyday economic and social solidarity, is the condition for efficient adaptation between public action and active citizens.

From the civil society to an organized citizenry

Citizens’ initiatives must be helped to emerge, for they are confronted by the burdensome processes of social destructuration that menace the old forms of solidarity. Citizens are increasingly able to link their own action to world-wide action. This ability gives them the strength to confront world issues. It is through global action that local action makes sense. But civil society must stop defining itself negatively (Non-Governmental Organizations). Still poorly organized, society must define its identity and the values it shares. This preliminary work is indispensable to the structural task which must be carried on continuously and independently of the high moments of public debate such as world summits.

Certain organized actors within civil society do not consider themselves as "social or humanitarian emergency services" but as true and responsible political actors. Their responsibility is different and complementary to that of the traditional intermediary services (parties, unions etc.). They refuse to play the role of buffers to social conflict and sub-contractors of public services: at the same time as playing the inevitable role of repairers, they want to attack the structural causes of social derailing and create an effective body of proposals for all contemporary challenges.
This assumed responsibility can give rise to a new relationship with institutions and States. These latter, often overwhelmed by their tasks, increasingly delegate their essential functions (the struggle against exclusion, humanitarian aid, etc.). Without letting themselves be taken advantage of, citizens’ initiatives must obtain a recognition of their autonomy and an access to public decision-making that befits the importance of their role.

This search for a new organization and the sense of responsibility of citizens’ initiatives implies:

- thinking about their own internal democracy, without which their claims for democracy elsewhere will not make sense,
- building up a new dialogue with the media, founded upon mutual responsibility,
- the development of educational action and information regarding citizenship,
- the use of new technologies (information highways) for the benefit of experiments in democratic participation,
- the creation of common agenda, to follow up the work initiated around world summits, independently of the official agenda,
- finally and above all, the systematic mutualisation of actions so that they can flourish. This work undertaken during the Forums, will be followed through permanently while remaining open to other actions.

For an economy that serves humankind

Integration into the world economy will not provide salaried work for all on any continent. Additional means must ensure the equal participation of all in collective prosperity and the sharing of its fruits. In particular, we think it indispensable:
- to support, through an institutional framework and appropriate aid, initiatives that combine social and economic objectives, especially those that come from the least wealthy areas and which bring with them alternative economic forms.
- to promote everywhere, on the basis of many successful experiments, alternative co-operative financing without which the right to initiative remains merely a slogan,
- to make possible and if necessary to protect, as a complement to the international trading systems, local systems of exchanging goods and services,
- to develop, along with work sharing, activities leading to new social bonds in regions where growth no longer creates employment
- to ensure that the public instruments used to measure development examine the totality of human development and not simply that of economic growth; that they take into account the reality that all contribute to national prosperity and not only those who trade; and that they promote sustainable development and not growth achieved to the detriment of human and ecological riches.

The meetings for the coming months and years

The Copenhagen World Summit provided the dynamic framework for the first meeting to result from the four continental forums. It is the beginning of a process. We will follow it through in the years to come. To this end we must create articulated local, national and continental initiatives, which will be the embryo of world citizenship. The alliance for a United and Responsible World is one dynamic instrument that can help carry us towards this goal.
With this dynamism, we will set ourselves a timetable for enriching and adding precision to the perspectives which are for the moment simply outlines. We shall make our experience mutual and as a priority construct the necessary exchange networks.
We shall translate the projects rooted in the wealth of different civilizations into regional platforms.


1 . Give the proposals depth and draw up an operational strategy

Behind each line of this text there are analyses, local or national innovations, concrete proposals coming from the participants at the Forums but also from numerous other initiatives. During the next three months, we propose to put into order the reflections made on these proposals and to formulate them collectively over the next three years.

2 . Formulate "continental platforms"

Working from the material brought together in the continental forums and in the light of this common text, we shall spend the next three months establishing an initial synthesis, per continent, of the challenge presented by social apartheid. Then, in the following year, benefiting from the advances made on the occasion of the Copenhagen World Summit, we shall continue exchanges with the participants of the forums, the members of the Alliance and other citizens’ initiatives and we shall draw up the "continental platforms" which will detail the changes to be made in the decades to come, taking into account the special needs of each continent.

3. Identify and link up local initiatives

Many networks for the exchange of experiences are already in place. They try to link local initiatives to global dimensions, whether they be regional, national, continental, or indeed world-wide. We all feel the need for a common effort to identify these initiatives and innovations. To do this there are regular exchanges and encounters using, among other things, new technologies like Internet, which are of great help.

4 . Contribute together towards preparing a meeting at the dawn of the 21st century

We want the diversity of these initiatives to be a source of shared wealth and not of dispersion. With this in view, we must schedule joint meetings. It is in this spirit, after having made an inventory of the initiatives that comprise a global rationale and envisaging a civic response to the threefold crisis of exchange mentioned in the foreword, that we propose a world meeting, a Peoples’ assembly, a Jihui of the communities, a Panchayat of the world's citizens, where we shall meet together at the dawn of the 21st century.

Copenhagen, 6 March 1995

To participate in this enterprise, you may contact:

The Yanjing Group
_ Research Center of Culture and Development
_ 116, bldg. 28, Wei Xiu Gardenj, Pekin University
_ Beijing 100871 CHINA
_ fax: (861) 256 9479

_ Rua Vincente de Souza, 29
_ 22251-070 Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL
_ fax: (5521) 286 0541

Europe 99 projet de civilisation
_ 21, boulevard de Grenelle
_ 75015 Paris FRANCE
_ fax: (331) 45 78 34 02

South African Development Education Programme
_ University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17
_ Bellville 7535 SOUTH AFRICA
_ fax: (2721) 959 3242

and the Fondation pour le Progrès de l'Homme
_ 38, rue Saint Sabin
_ 75011 Paris FRANCE

Attached files

By Gustavo Marin

Ex-Director of the Forum for a New World Governance.  PhD in Political Economics.