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Gender /Economy and Financial Affairs - Mon Nov 24 2008
Source: AWID
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Issued from different organisations during the 11th AWID forum held in Cape Town (14-17 Nov). Sign on is open until November 26.

Please disseminate and send your sign on to write to Nerea Craviotto

On November 15, 2008 the Heads of State of the Group of 20 (G20) participated in an urgent Summit organized by the U.S Presidency to react to the current international financial crisis and to agree an action plan. The Heads of State of more than 170 countries were not invited, and the newly elected U.S President Barack Obama decided not to participate. Please consider signing the statement by November 26, 2008.

We, the undersigning organizations and individuals gathered at the 11th AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights in Development in Cape Town, South Africa (November 14-17, 2008), question the diagnosis offered by the G20 of root causes on the financial crisis and hence its outcomes. We understand that this is a systemic crisis, part of a crisis cycle, thus not a new phenomenon nor entirely unanticipated. Now, it is clearly touching developed countries’ interests, and therefore named global. The current crisis is multi-dimensional (financial, economic, food, energy and climate change), and requires a new approach for sustainable development strategies. We are suffering the result of converging liberalization economic and financial policies that favor large capital interests at the expense of people's lives and sustainable livelihoods.

Quick action has been taken under the format of the G20 to deal with the current situation; however, we are dismayed that the actions proposed do not depart from the current economic model and mechanisms in place. Furthermore, the action plan proposed is not geared to protect the interests of the poor and particularly women, to promote sustainable growth and to resolve the global food crisis. This crisis has life and death implications for countless millions women, men and children; it has not been addressed and carries a much lower price tag. We highlight that the UN’s amount (of approximately 1 billion US$) for immediately solving the food crisis is just a mere fraction of the massive bailout being raised for financial institutions.

We do not recognize the G8 or the G20 as legitimate convening bodies to address the systemic crisis. We note here that the G20 Statement proposal of a new financial architecture or reform of such is not new or a radical point of departure. Discussions of a new financial architecture and reform of the international financial and monetary systems has been ongoing since the 1990’s and is a topic to be discussed at the upcoming Financing for Development (FfD) United Nations (UN) Conference to review the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus signed in 2002.

As gender advocates and women’s rights activists working to improve women’s and their families’ lives worldwide as well as to promote their empowerment, we must point out that the lives of women in developing countries have been severely negatively impacted by numerous financial crises in the global economy. Structural adjustment programs (SAPs) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank shows that these crises disproportionately impact women’s livelihoods and rights at many levels. Yet, the IMF and World Bank, the very same actors whose misguided policies uniformly wreaked havoc on the lives of those living in poverty, are now to be strengthened by the G20 action plan.

The crisis, admittedly the worst since the Great Depression, will have impacts on the lives of women and children in the developing countries as well as on the lives of the most vulnerable in the ‘developed’ world.

Civil society organizations and women’s rights groups, along with many developing countries, have consistently called for reform of international financial and monetary systems, including democratization of the IMF and the World Bank. These calls were repeatedly rebuffed by the rich countries led by the U.S. Indeed, the 2002 FfD conference, which resulted in the Monterrey Consensus, attempted to include these issues on its agenda but was harshly rebuked. It was reduced to a pledging conference.

It is indeed bittersweet to see that the very mechanisms and proposals that were floated six years ago are at least being rhetorically recognized by the G20. However, this response is too little, too late and not enough. Too little, the scope of the reform is not wide enough or deep enough considering the severity of the crisis and its interlinkage to food, energy and other livelihood issues. Too late, the institutions and mechanisms that are being relied on fail to provide early warning of the crisis or to propose adequate measures to contain the crisis.

Simply including some developing countries in the IMF and World Bank decision making structure is not good enough. The IMF and World Bank macroeconomic policies have failed consistently to generate development or inclusive growth. These policies themselves need to be significantly rethought, developed and implemented by a more inclusive and democratic process, UN-led. At this time to do less than that represents merely cosmetic changes.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Development Round of trade negotiations failed because it did not address the critical needs of developing countries: poverty eradication and sustainable livelihoods. Successful conclusion of the Doha round cannot adequately deal with the food, energy, or financial crisis. Indeed, Doha has been implicated in the food crisis. It is useless for resolving the energy crisis. And it has no mechanism to deal with the financial crisis and will reinforce those neoliberal policies affecting women’s livelihoods and rights (trade liberalization, privatization, deregulation of all markets, etc.).

The G20 approach does not address sustainable livelihoods, decent work, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Despite mentioning the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), it does not increase resources to ensure a successful achievement of these goals and other Internationally Agreed Goals (IADGs), although it is widely known that they are on a failing path.

Reform of the international financial architecture requires the participation of the maximum number of stakeholders: governments from all countries, multilateral agencies and civil society, including women’s rights groups. The UN, with its limitations and obstacles, is still the most appropriate multilateral space to deal with the current systemic crisis, ensuring inclusiveness. The upcoming Financing for Development Conference in Doha in late November will be an opportunity to challenge the current economic and development model and start an inclusive transformation process.

Signatories (Please sign on before November 26th 2008; write to Nerea Craviotto


Women in Development Europe (WIDE)
Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN)


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