Human Security and Development for All:
Building a Better World

Communique from the People's Summit Conference
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, June 14, 1995

Since the time of the first G-7 meeting, women and men from around the world have been coming together to analyze, criticize, protest and propose alternatives to G-7 governments. We are doing so again today. With the recent Mexico financial crisis and the persistent calls for reform of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, even the G-7 leadership is asking, "How can we assure that the global economy of the 21st Century will provide sustainable development with good jobs, economic growth, and expanded trade to enhance the prosperity and well-being of the peoples of our nations and the world?"

But not only do men and women of the world have different answers to that question, we also have different questions. For the worlds that women and men want and the worlds the G-7 leaders are encouraging are radically divergent. For the majority of the world's women and men, the exclusive dependence on and glorification of a global market is the problem. Transnational corporations have colossal powers and have outdistanced the capacity of nation-states to regulate and act on behalf of citizens.

Women and men everywhere are calling for a world in support of life, sustainable jobs, freedom to dream; a world which does not separate economy from women and men nor women and men from the earth; a world which respects difference and celebrates diversity.

Human security is the empowerment of women, the recognition of ancient knowledge of the world's indigenous peoples, the absence of all forms of racism, the absence of violence in the lives of women, the absence of fear because of sexual orientation or choice, the end of the exploitation of nature and a world where differences in ability are seen as positive.

We are not helpless. The G-7 leaders must and can be held responsible. Power structures can be changed. Indeed the fact that the P-7 is meeting at all demonstrates the vitality of global civil society. We recognize the skills, insights, ways of knowing, forms of communication and resistance, and profound friendships and relations amongst people everywhere working for a better world.

Women's Security Is Human Security

We are living in a world that has been built by centuries of colonialism, of cultural, political, and economic homogenization, and of oppression of nature, women, indigenous peoples, geographic regions, and workers. This process has marginalized production for life, devalued nature and women's work, and suppressed the knowledge and wisdom of peoples around the planet.

The destructive effect of this process has been felt most extremely by women. For example, UN statistics show that although women do approximately three quarters of the world's work, they receive only 10% of the income and own only 1% of property. In addition, they experience more extreme and more varied kinds of violence; these include sexual violence, infanticide, female genital mutilation, pornography, children, forced marriage, prostitution and sex tourism. One measure of that vulnerability is the fact that of the 25 million refugees in the world, 80% are women.

Ensuring women's security will mean transforming the way the world works. We need a fundamental shift to a life-centred model of social, political and economic organization. It is essential that women are freed from fear of threatened or actual physical violence, that both their paid and unpaid work is much more highly valued. This will require the elimination of traditions, behaviours, beliefs, values, institutions and structures that oppress and subordinate women.

Security for women means that the market cannot be permitted to determine society's central values. Present and future social and economic priorities must be life-centred, cooperative, creative and support a healthy earth and human communities. This means that human security, and more specifically, women's security depends on women's empowerment.

Promoting Human Security Through Democratic Control Of Global Institutions

The human community needs to move from production for profit and death to production for use and life. The relationship among government, business and community needs to change. Women and men, through their democratically elected governments and through strengthened structures of local and global citizen action, must regain control over business and commerce.

There needs to be measurable improvements in the lives of ordinary people. For example there must be: provision of food and shelter for all; improvements in personal and environmental health; reductions in inequalities of power and income along gender, race, class and ability lines; halting military conflict and increasing peaceful settlement of disputes; reversal of environmental degradation; the application of science and technology for life-enhancing purposes rather than the production of weapons of mass destruction; reduction of competition and an increase in cooperation among people.

We propose the creation of new democratic processes and institutions for the control and regulation of monetary speculation and corporate power. We must move power from unaccountable transnational corporations and the so called "free market" to democratically elected national governments, to more effective and reformed international institutions and to the institutions of the community. Decision making at international bodies such as the UN must be made more transparent and accessible; NGO's should be represented on government delegations and in UN restructuring, with an independent source of funding. Possible sources of funding include a Tobin tax, charges for the use of the global commons, or international taxes on transnational corporations. Transnational corporations should pay taxes based on an assessment of their global income, with revenues remitted to government proportional to the their activities in the countries' jurisdiction as well as to international bodies.

Unfettered capital flows exact increasing human and environmental costs and are harmful to international trade that serves the goals of "prosperity and well being of the peoples of our national and the world" as set forth by the G-7 in Naples, Italy last year. We urge a tax on international financial transactions to curb speculation, the proceeds to be used to further human security throughout the world.

Dealing With The Debt

Actions such as the following are needed: - Corporations must be responsible, accountable, and their activities both transparent and truly reflective of international agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child - Cancelling third world debt which reflects the accumulated debt servicing charges and by levying a zero real interest rate on the remaining debt. Interest rates generally must fall. - Effective tax rates on the wealthy and corporations should be increased. - Promote co-operatives, trading between co-operatives, and credit unions, and alternative personal credit systems, for instance, with collateral generated by the community. - The United Nations must be renewed and restructured to represent the interests of people without being dependent on particular nations. - Capital flight to tax havens means that tax revenues are lost and countries forced to borrow funds. International agreement and enforcement is necessary to stop this abuse.

Reconnecting With The Rest Of Nature

The earth and the web of life it supports are sacred. Human beings exploit the environment, other species and each other. The degradation of our planet through environmental racism, sexism, resource depletion and other forms of oppression exemplify this exploitation.

We affirm that human beings are an integral part of the natural world. This means that human beings must now take responsibility to consciously choose policies and actions compatible with the global environmental reality. We urgently need to formulate new economic concepts centred on ecological principles and human needs.

Instead of the unrestricted exploitation of biological and natural resources, unlimited consumption, and environmentally destructive growth, we call for sustainable economic activity, the preservation of biological and cultural diversity, and the equitable distribution of rewards and costs.

We recognize that in the context of the current economic system, all types of education have become colonized. Global competitiveness has become the framework for educational curricula. We call for life, not business, to be at the centre of the educational agenda.

We call for increased educational efforts at formal and non-formal levels for young people and adults which takes into account equitable sharing of global resources, conservation of biodiversity and habitat, overconsumption, overpopulation, and preservation of the global commons. Environmental education must be pervasive and develop spirituality and respect for nature, cultural and racial diversity and gender.

This workshop has been made possible with the financial support of the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada

Posted by Information Habitat: Where Information Lives 15 June, 1995