WSF disappointed in Monterrey Consensus

UN will organize the International Conference on Financing for Development in Mexico late March. Participants of the World Social Forum were openly disappointed in the Consensus paper which was prepared for the upcoming conference.
Ruby van der Wekken

PORTO ALEGRE -- Between 18-22 March, the International Conference on Financing for Development convened by the UN will take place in Moneterrey, Mexico. The Monterrey Consensus was meant to be "a step in the right direction" as also NGO's were having a voice in its drafting. However, to great disappointment of activists at the WSF, most of their principal demands are not figuring on the draft text published on January 27th.

"It started out so hopeful but today we are firmly disappointed as most of our demands do not figure in the text. The hardest positions of the EU and the US have been weakend, but they are still firmly on the agenda," said Laura Frade R. from the campaign "Multilaterals through the Eyes of Women" (Alcadeco, Mexico), during a press conference on Monterrey at the WSF.

Alcadeco is one of five Mexican organizers of the NGO Forum held in Monterrey prior to the UN conference, which hopes to host 20.000 participants.

Upon request by countries in the South who wanted to address the financial crises which had hit them so hard, the UN invited the IMF, WB, WTO, business and NGO's to the upcoming conference in 1998.

A historic happening, since for the first time the UN convened a conference regarding financial issues. For the first time all parties would come together. The IMF was the first to accept the invitation which NGO's saw as the IMF’s reaction to the first signs of their serious crises of legitimacy.

"We negotiated our positions and defined our agenda. Kofi Annan drafted an initial paper with many elements not in the text today. This paper included capital controls and the need for the IMF to provide different structuring tables with regards to investment. These were issues never addressed before by the UN", explained Frade.

NGO's further elaborated on their position after this initial text, including their standpoints on non-conditionality for ODA assistance, more transparency and democracy of the International Financial Institutions, and human rights.

"Today we find most of our demands not in the draft of the Monterrey Consensus. The UN tells us we have to see this as a process since a follow up International Conference to review the implementation of the Monterrey consensus will be called not later than 2005. Although the Monterrey Consensus has already been drafted, we are still holding our NGO Forum before the conference. We believe individual governments can play an important role by raising their voice on issues of concern to their citizens," said Frade

The fact that governments can come out surprisingly was demonstrated during the negotiation process of the demands in the draft. " The US voiced via Sudan the request for NGÓs to leave the room during certain deliberations of their position. The NGO's were on their way out when Iran spoke: No, let them stay!" said Martin Khor, participant of the NGO preparatory committee negotiating NGO demands, during one the biggest WTO seminars at the WSF.

At the WSF different reactions were seen towards the Monterrey Consensus. Many want to completely stay away from the corrupted process they feel Monterrey is.

The 600 parliamentarians who gathered in Porto Alegre for the World Parliamentary Forum on 2-3 February however said to want to be present also in Monterrey despite also their disapproval of the Consensus. Parliamentarians pledged their commitments to urge their governments to raise ODA and to implement the Tobin tax and other taxes on speculative capital. A Mexican parliamentarian invited them to host a World Parliamentary Forum parallel to the NGO Forum, a decision much welcomed by NGO's involved.

"I believe we have to still continue in this process. We need the UN to also be involved in financing, or otherwise the international financial institutions will have a free play," said Frade.

At the Monterrey conference, three main round tables will be organised with the different stakeholders. In each roundtable, seven business representatives and seven NGO representatives will have a seat to engage in a debate regarding the coherence of their partnership for development. However, it seems clear that apparently also the UN turns a blind eye to the evidence coming out from the dramatic events in Argentina.

Web site of the FFD NGO Forum: www.ffdforoglobal.org