TOPICS : Doha talks fall short of expectations

The demand is seemingly simple. “Vote for democratic, people-centred development”, advise civil society at the ongoing inter-governmental review of the Monterray Consensus in Doha, Qatar. With the clock ticking on the outcome of the meeting, that will set the agenda for financing development, civil society has turned the heat on governments locked in closed door sessions to negotiate the final outcome document. “This is a general assembly of the UN, and the G192 should vote on who will decide the outcome document,” urges Roberto Bissio of Social Watch as he button holes delegates and participants in the corridors of the Doha Sheraton, the venue of the four-day Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development.

Civil society representatives, who met over two days in this Gulf state capital, ahead of the official meeting which began on Nov 29, have been watching with dismay as the draft of the outcome document which is currently on the table still fails to provide the decisive, action-oriented direction that they want to see from the 192-member countries. “The Bush administration is trying to block the draft document (that has the support of the EU and the majority of members),” says Sylvia Borren of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) which, together with other civil society groups, held an “emergency meeting” on Sunday to strategise.

The Doha negotiations come at a time of serious global financial crisis and the fear of a shortfall in resources that jeopardise the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions, in the South and the North, and threaten the realisation of the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The current crisis will result in the loss of 20 million jobs by the end of 2009; another 100 million people will be pushed into the informal economy on top of the existing 200 million unemployed and 1.3 billion underemployed workers.

Governments were urged to “take the side of women and men, workers, farmers, youth and children to promote environmental sustainability by taking an alternative economic path” to foster the creation of decent work for all, gender equality and equitable growth and fair trade and investment policies as a key step towards poverty eradication. The call for reform has been watered down in the outcome document, says Nuria Molina of Eurodad, to include the Bretton Woods institutions which are among the major institutions responsible for the current global crisis.

“They have no legitimacy and no credibility (to start a self-reform process). Trade liberalisation, of the kind pursued under the Doha round, has contributed to increased vulnerability of developing countries in key areas,” Molina said. “The UN has a vital role to play,” says Ariane Arpa of Oxfam International. “So far the conference is falling well short of our expectations. A failure to address key issues will mean that it will not provide the concrete and decisive outcome that poor countries had been promised.”— IPS