PAWSSD Chapter 1

Chapter 1: An Enabling Environment for Social Development

Basis for action and objectives

4. Social development is inseparable from the cultural, ecological, economic, political and spiritual environment in which it takes place. It cannot be pursued as a sectoral initiative. Social development is also clearly linked to the development of peace, freedom, stability and security, both nationally and internationally. To promote social development requires an orientation of values, objectives and priorities towards the well-being of all and the strengthening and promotion of conducive institutions and policies. Human dignity, all human rights and fundamental freedoms, equality, equity and social justice constitute the fundamental values of all societies. The pursuit, promotion and protection of these values, among others, provides the basic legitimacy of all institutions and all exercise of authority and promotes an environment in which human beings are at the centre of concern for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

5. The economies and societies of the world are becoming increasingly interdependent. Trade and capital flows, migrations, scientific and technological innovations, communications and cultural exchanges are shaping the global community. The same global community is threatened by environmental degradation, severe food crises, epidemics, all forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia, various forms of intolerance, violence and criminality and the risk of losing the richness of cultural diversity. Governments increasingly recognize that their responses to changing circumstances and their desires to achieve sustainable development and social progress will require increased solidarity, expressed through appropriate multilateral programmes and strengthened international cooperation. Such cooperation is particularly crucial to ensure that countries in need of assistance, such as those in Africa and the least developed countries, can benefit from the process of globalization.

6. Economic activities, through which individuals express their initiative and creativity and which enhance the wealth of communities, are a fundamental basis for social progress. But social progress will not be realized simply through the free interaction of market forces. Public policies are necessary to correct market failures, to complement market mechanisms, to maintain social stability and to create a national and international economic environment that promotes sustainable growth on a global scale. Such growth should promote equity and social justice, tolerance, responsibility and involvement.

7. The ultimate goal of social development is to improve and enhance the quality of life of all people. It requires democratic institutions, respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, increased and equal economic opportunities, the rule of law, the promotion of respect for cultural diversity and the rights of persons belonging to minorities, and an active involvement of civil society. Empowerment and participation are essential for democracy, harmony and social development. All members of society should have the opportunity and be able to exercise the right and responsibility to take an active part in the affairs of the community in which they live. Gender equality and equity and the full participation of women in all economic, social and political activities are essential. The obstacles that have limited the access of women to decision-making, education, health-care services and productive employment must be eliminated and an equitable partnership between men and women established, involving men’s full responsibility in family life. It is necessary to change the prevailing social paradigm of gender to usher in a new generation of women and men working together to create a more humane world order.

8. Against this background, we will promote an enabling environment based on a people-centred approach to sustainable development, with the following features:

  • Broad-based participation and involvement of civil society in the formulation and implementation of decisions determining the functioning and well-being of our societies;
  • Broad-based patterns of sustained economic growth and sustainable development and the integration of population issues into economic and development strategies, which will speed up the pace of sustainable development and poverty eradication and contribute to the achievement of population objectives and an improved quality of life of the population;
  • Equitable and non-discriminatory distribution of the benefits of growth among social groups and countries and expanded access to productive resources for people living in poverty;
  • An interaction of market forces conducive to efficiency and social development;
  • Public policies that seek to overcome socially divisive disparities and that respect pluralism and diversity;
  • A supportive and stable political and legal framework that promotes the mutually reinforcing relationship between democracy, development and all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • Political and social processes that avoid exclusion while respecting pluralism and diversity, including religious and cultural diversity;
  • A strengthened role for the family in accordance with the principles, goals and commitments of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and those of the International Conference on Population and Development, as well as for community and civil society;
  • Expanded access to knowledge, technology, education, health-care services and information;
  • Increased solidarity, partnership and cooperation at all levels;
  • Public policies that empower people to enjoy good health and productivity throughout their lives;
  • Protection and conservation of the natural environment in the context of people-centred sustainable development.


A. A favourable national and international economic environment

9. The promotion of mutually reinforcing, broad-based, sustained economic growth and sustainable development on a global scale, as well as growth in production, a non-discriminatory and multilateral rule-based international trading system, employment and incomes, as a basis for social development, requires the following actions:

(a) Promoting the establishment of an open, equitable, cooperative and mutually beneficial international economic environment;

(b) Implementing sound and stable macroeconomic and sectoral policies that encourage broad-based, sustained economic growth and development that is sustainable and equitable, that generate jobs, and that are geared towards eradicating poverty and reducing social and economic inequalities and exclusion;

(c) Promoting enterprise, productive investment and expanded access to open and dynamic markets in the context of an open, equitable, secure, non-discriminatory, predictable, transparent and multilateral rule-based international trading system, and to technologies for all people, particularly those living in poverty and the disadvantaged, as well as for the least developed countries;

(d) Implementing fully and as scheduled the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations; 1/

(e) Refraining from any unilateral measure not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that creates obstacles to trade relations among States, impedes the full realization of social and economic development and hinders the well-being of the population in the affected countries;

(f) Increasing food production, through the sustainable development of the agricultural sector and improvement of market opportunities, and improving access to food by low-income people in developing countries, as a means of alleviating poverty, eliminating malnutrition and raising their standards of living;

(g) Promoting the coordination of macroeconomic policies at the national, subregional, regional and international levels in order to promote an international financial system that is more conducive to stable and sustained economic growth and sustainable development through, inter alia, a higher degree of stability in financial markets, reducing the risk of financial crisis, improving the stability of exchange rates, stabilizing and striving for low real interest rates in the long run and reducing the uncertainties of financial flows;

(h) Establishing, strengthening or rehabilitating, inter alia, through capacity-building where necessary, national and international structures, processes and resources available, to ensure appropriate consideration and coordination of economic policy, with special emphasis on social development;

(i) Promoting or strengthening capacity-building in developing countries, particularly in Africa and the least developed countries, to develop social activities;

(j) Ensuring that, in accordance with Agenda 21 2/ and the various consensus agreements, conventions and programmes of action adopted within the framework of the follow-up to the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, broad-based, sustained economic growth and sustainable development respects the need to protect the environment and the interests of future generations;

(k) Ensuring that the special needs and vulnerabilities of small island developing States are adequately addressed in order to enable them to achieve sustained economic growth and sustainable development with equity by implementing the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. 3/

10. To ensure that the benefits of global economic growth are equitably distributed among countries, the following actions are essential:

(a) Continuing efforts to alleviate the onerous debt and debt-service burdens connected with the various types of debt of many developing countries, on the basis of an equitable and durable approach and, where appropriate, addressing the full stock of debt of the poorest and most indebted developing countries as a matter of priority, reducing trade barriers and promoting expanded access by all countries to markets, in the context of an open, equitable, secure, non-discriminatory, predictable, transparent and multilateral rule-based international trading system, as well as to productive investment, technologies and know-how;

(b) Strengthening and improving technical and financial assistance to developing countries to promote sustainable development and overcome hindrances to their full and effective participation in the world economy;

(c) Changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, taking into account that the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances;

(d) Elaborating policies to enable developing countries to take advantage of expanded international trading opportunities in the context of the full implementation of the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations; and assisting countries, particularly in Africa, that are not currently in a position to benefit fully from the liberalization of the world economy;

(e) Supporting the efforts of developing countries, particularly those heavily dependent on commodity exports, to diversify their economies.

11. Within the framework of support to developing countries, giving priority to the needs of Africa and the least developed countries, the following actions are necessary at the national and international levels, as appropriate:

(a) Implementing effective policies and development strategies that establish a more favourable climate for social development, trade and investments, giving priority to human resource development and promoting the further development of democratic institutions;

(b) Supporting African countries and least developed countries in their efforts to create an enabling environment that attracts foreign and domestic direct investment, encourages savings, induces the return of flight capital and promotes the full participation of the private sector, including non-governmental organizations, in the growth and development process;

(c) Supporting economic reforms to improve the functioning of commodity markets and commodity diversification efforts through appropriate mechanisms, bilateral and multilateral financing and technical cooperation, including South-South cooperation, as well as through trade and partnership;

(d) Continuing to support the commodity diversification efforts of Africa and the least developed countries, inter alia, by providing technical and financial assistance for the preparatory phase of their commodity diversification projects and programmes;

(e) Finding effective, development-oriented and durable solutions to external debt problems, through the immediate implementation of the terms of debt forgiveness agreed upon in the Paris Club in December 1994, which encompass debt reduction, including cancellation or other debt relief measures; inviting the international financial institutions to examine innovative approaches to assist low-income countries with a high proportion of multilateral debt with a view to alleviating their debt burden; developing techniques of debt conversion applied to social development programmes and projects in conformity with Summit priorities. These actions should take into account the mid-term review of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s 4/ and the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the 1990s 5/ and should be implemented as soon as possible;

(f) Supporting the development of strategies adopted by these countries and working in partnership to ensure the implementation of measures for their development;

(g) Taking appropriate actions, consistent with the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, 1/ in particular the decision on measures in favour of the least developed countries and the decision on measures concerning the possible negative effects of the reform programme on the least developed countries and the net food importing developing countries, in order to give these countries special attention, with a view to enhancing their participation in the multilateral trading system and to mitigating any adverse effects of the implementation of the Uruguay Round, while stressing the need to support the African countries so that they can benefit fully from the results of the Uruguay Round;

(h) Increasing official development assistance, both in total and for social programmes, and improving its impact, consistent with countries’ economic circumstances and capabilities to assist, and consistent with commitments in international agreements, and striving to attain the agreed upon target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product for official development assistance and 0.15 per cent to the least developed countries, as soon as possible.

12. Making economic growth and the interaction of market forces more conducive to social development requires the following actions:

(a) Implementing measures to open market opportunities for all, especially people living in poverty and the disadvantaged, and to encourage individuals and communities to take economic initiatives, innovate and invest in activities that contribute to social development while promoting broad-based sustained economic growth and sustainable development;

(b) Improving, broadening and regulating, to the extent necessary, the functioning of markets to promote sustained economic growth and sustainable development, stability and long-term investment, fair competition and ethical conduct; adopting and implementing policies to promote equitable distribution of the benefits of growth and protect crucial social services, inter alia, through complementing market mechanisms and mitigating any negative impacts posed by market forces; and implementing complementary policies to foster social development, while dismantling, consistent with the provisions of the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, protectionist measures, and to integrate social and economic development;

(c) Establishing an open market policy that reduces barriers to entry, promotes transparency of markets through, inter alia, better access to information and widens the choices available to consumers;

(d) Promoting greater access to technology and technical assistance, as well as corresponding know-how, especially for micro-enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises in all countries, particularly in developing countries;

(e) Encouraging transnational and national corporations to operate in a framework of respect for the environment while complying with national laws and legislation, and in accordance with international agreements and conventions, and with proper consideration for the social and cultural impact of their activities;

(f) Adopting and implementing long-term strategies to ensure substantial, well-directed public and private investment in the construction and renewal of basic infrastructure, which will benefit people living in poverty and generate employment;

(g) Ensuring substantial public and private investment in human resource development and in capacity-building in health and education, as well as in empowerment and participation, especially for people living in poverty or suffering from social exclusion;

(h) Supporting and paying special attention to the development of small-scale and micro-enterprises, particularly in rural areas, as well as subsistence economies, to secure their safe interaction with larger economies;

(i) Supporting the economic activities of indigenous people, improving their conditions and development, and securing their safe interaction with larger economies;

(j) Supporting institutions, programmes and systems to disseminate practical information to promote social progress.

13. Ensuring that fiscal systems and other public policies are geared towards poverty eradication and that they do not generate socially divisive disparities calls for:

(a) Enacting rules and regulations and creating a moral and ethical climate that prevents all forms of corruption and exploitation of individuals, families and groups;

(b) Promoting fair competition and ethical responsibility in business activities, and enhancing cooperation and interaction among Governments, the private sector and civil society;

(c) Ensuring that fiscal and monetary policies promote savings and long-term investment in productive activities in accordance with national priorities and policies;

(d) Considering measures to address inequities arising from accumulation of wealth through, inter alia, the use of appropriate taxation at the national level, and to reduce inefficiencies and improve stability in financial markets in accordance with national priorities and policies;

(e) Re-examining the distribution of subsidies, inter alia, between industry and agriculture, urban and rural areas, and private and public consumption, to ensure that subsidy systems benefit people living in poverty, especially the vulnerable, and reduce disparities;

(f) Promoting international agreements that address effectively issues of double taxation, as well as cross-border tax evasion, in accordance with the priorities and policies of the States concerned, while improving the efficiency and fairness of tax collection;

(g) Assisting developing countries, upon their request, to establish efficient and fair tax systems by strengthening the administrative capacity for tax assessment and collection and tax evader prosecution, and to support a more progressive tax system;

(h) Assisting countries with economies in transition to establish fair and effective systems of taxation on a solid legal basis, contributing to the socio-economic reforms under way in those countries.

B. A favourable national and international political and legal environment

14. To ensure that the political framework supports the objectives of social development, the following actions are essential:

(a) Ensuring that governmental institutions and agencies responsible for the planning and implementation of social policies have the status, resources and information necessary to give high priority to social development in policy-making;

(b) Ensuring the rule of law and democracy and the existence of rules and processes to create transparency and accountability for all public and private institutions and to prevent and combat all forms of corruption, sustained through education and the development of attitudes and values promoting responsibility, solidarity and a strengthened civil society;

(c) Eliminating all forms of discrimination, while developing and encouraging educational programmes and media campaigns to that end;

(d) Encouraging decentralization of public institutions and services to a level that, compatible with the overall responsibilities, priorities and objectives of Governments, responds properly to local needs and facilitates local participation;

(e) Establishing conditions for the social partners to organize and function with guaranteed freedom of expression and association and the right to engage in collective bargaining and to promote mutual interests, taking due account of national laws and regulations;

(f) Establishing similar conditions for professional organizations and organizations of independent workers;

(g) Promoting political and social processes inclusive of all members of society and respectful of political pluralism and cultural diversity;

(h) Strengthening the capacities and opportunities of all people, especially those who are disadvantaged or vulnerable, to enhance their own economic and social development, to establish and maintain organizations representing their interests and to be involved in the planning and implementation of government policies and programmes by which they will be directly affected;

(i) Ensuring full involvement and participation of women at all levels in the decision-making and implementation process and in the economic and political mechanisms through which policies are formulated and implemented;

(j) Removing all legal impediments to the ownership of all means of production and property by men and women;

(k) Taking measures, in cooperation with the international community, as appropriate, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 6/ other international instruments and relevant United Nations resolutions, to create the appropriate political and legal environment to address the root cause of movements of refugees, to allow their voluntary return in safety and dignity. Measures should also be taken at the national level, with international cooperation, as appropriate, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, to create conditions for internally displaced persons to voluntarily return to their places of origin.

15. It is essential for social development that all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development as an integral part of fundamental human rights, be promoted and protected through the following actions:

(a) Encouraging ratification of existing international human rights conventions that have not been ratified; and implementing the provisions of conventions and covenants that have been ratified;

(b) Reaffirming and promoting all human rights and fundamental freedoms, which are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, including the right to development, and striving to ensure that they are respected, protected and observed through appropriate legislation, dissemination of information, education and training and the provision of effective mechanisms and remedies for enforcement, inter alia, through the establishment or strengthening of national institutions responsible for monitoring and enforcement;

(c) Taking measures to ensure that every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate, to contribute to and to enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development; encouraging all human persons to take responsibility for development, individually and collectively; and recognizing that States have the primary responsibility for the creation of national and international conditions favourable for the realization of the right to development, taking into account the relevant provisions of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action;

(d) Promoting the realization of the right to development through strengthening democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and through effective development policies at the national level, as well as equitable economic relations and a favourable economic environment at the international level, since sustained action is indispensable for fostering a more rapid development of developing countries;

(e) Removing obstacles to the realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, in particular of peoples living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, which adversely affect their social and economic development;

(f) Promoting and protecting the human rights of women and removing all obstacles to full equality and equity between women and men in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life;

(g) Giving special attention to promoting and protecting the rights of the child, with particular attention to the rights of the girl child, by, inter alia, encouraging the ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Plan of Action for Implementing the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in the 1990s adopted at the World Summit for Children; 7/

(h) Providing all people, in particular the vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, with the benefit of an independent, fair and effective system of justice, and ensuring access by all to competent sources of advice about legal rights and obligations;

(i) Taking effective measures to bring to an end all de jure and de facto discrimination against persons with disabilities;

(j) Strengthening the ability of civil society and the community to participate actively in the planning, decision-making and implementation of social development programmes, by education and access to resources;

(k) Promoting and protecting the rights of individuals in order to prevent and eliminate situations of domestic discrimination and violence.

16. An open political and economic system requires access by all to knowledge, education and information by:

(a) Strengthening the educational system at all levels, as well as other means of acquiring skills and knowledge, and ensuring universal access to basic education and lifelong educational opportunities, while removing economic and socio-cultural barriers to the exercise of the right to education;

(b) Raising public awareness and promoting gender-sensitivity education to eliminate all obstacles to full gender equality and equity;

(c) Enabling and encouraging access by all to a wide range of information and opinion on matters of general interest through the mass media and other means;

(d) Encouraging education systems and, to the extent consistent with freedom of expression, communication media to raise people’s understanding and awareness of all aspects of social integration, including gender sensitivity, non-violence, tolerance and solidarity and respect for the diversity of cultures and interests, and to discourage the exhibition of pornography and the gratuitous depiction of explicit violence and cruelty in the media;

(e) Improving the reliability, validity, utility and public availability of statistical and other information on social development and gender issues, including the effective use of gender-disaggregated statistics collected at the national, regional and international levels, including through support to academic and research institutions.

17. International support for national efforts to promote a favourable political and legal environment must be in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and principles of international law and consistent with the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. 8/ Support calls for the following actions:

(a) Making use, as appropriate, of the capacity of the United Nations and other relevant international, regional and subregional organizations to prevent and resolve armed conflicts and promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom;

(b) Coordinating policies, actions and legal instruments and/or measures to combat terrorism, all forms of extremist violence, illicit arms trafficking, organized crime and illicit drug problems, money laundering and related crimes, trafficking in women, adolescents, children, migrants, and human organs, and other activities contrary to human rights and human dignity;

(c) States cooperating with one another in ensuring development and eliminating obstacles to development. The international community should promote effective international cooperation, supporting the efforts of developing countries, for the full realization of the right to development and the elimination of obstacles to development, through, inter alia, the implementation of the provisions of the Declaration on the Right to Development 9/ as reaffirmed by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. 10/ Lasting progress towards the implementation of the right to development requires effective development policies at the national level, as well as equitable economic relations and a favourable economic environment at the international level. The right to development should be fulfilled so as to equitably meet the social development and environmental needs of present and future generations;

(d) Ensuring that human persons are at the centre of social development and that this is fully reflected in the programmes and activities of subregional, regional and international organizations;

(e) Reinforcing the capacity of relevant national, regional and international organizations, within their mandates, to promote the implementation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the elimination of all forms of discrimination;

(f) Elaborating policies, within the mandates and functions of the various international institutions, that will support the objectives of social development and contribute to institutional development through capacity-building and other forms of cooperation;

(g) Strengthening the capacities of Governments, the private sector and civil society, especially in Africa and the least developed countries, to enable them to meet their specific and global responsibilities;

(h) Reinforcing the capacities of Governments, the private sector and civil society in the countries with economies in transition, with a view to helping them in the process of transforming their economies from centrally planned to market-oriented ones.


1/ See The Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations: The Legal Texts (Geneva, GATT secretariat, 1994).

2/ Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by the Conference (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8), resolution 1, annex II.

3/ Report of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, Bridgetown, Barbados, 25 April-6 May 1994 (United Nations publication, Sales No. 94.I.18), resolution 1, annex II.

4/ General Assembly resolution 46/151, annex, sect. III.

5/ Report of the Second United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, Paris, 3-14 September 1990 (A/CONF.147/18), part one.

6/ General Assembly resolution 217 A (III).

7/ See First Call for Children (New York, United Nations Children’s Fund, 1990).

8/ General Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV), annex.

9/ General Assembly resolution 41/128, annex.

10/ Report of the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 14-25 June 1993 (A/CONF.157/24 (Part I)), chap. III.

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