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Date: Thu, 26 Jan 1995 17:14:29 -0500
Sender: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@uga.cc.uga.edu>
From: Peter Pflaum <pflaump@FREENET.SCRI.FSU.EDU>
Subject: Herbert de Souza's speach (fwd)
To: Multiple recipients of list AGE-L <AGE-L@uga.cc.uga.edu>

Peter E. Pflaum, Ph.D. Institute for Human Resources
(904) 428-9609

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 18:07:40 +0000
From: -Dora Ann Lange Canhos <dora@ftpt.br>
To: soc-summit@ssi.edc.org
Subject: Herbert de Souza's speach

Speech delivered by Herbert de Souza (Betinho)

At the Plenary of the United Nations during the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the Social Summit, New York, August 23, 1994

Thank you Mr (or Ms.) Chairperson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to be here and to be able to present some thoughts about the forthcoming Social Summit.

I want to talk about ethics. Ethics was the starting point of the Citizens Action Against Misery and for Life in Brazil, a movement that today mobilizes millions of citizens. Is it ethical to accept hunger, misery and unemployment? The Citizens Action Against Misery and for Life was created to answer these questions. It originated from the basic assumption that democracy and misery are incompatible. From the basic assumption that hunger is not a natural disgrace to which mankind is condemned to live with, observe, accept. The misery and hunger that presently affect the population of all countries are the result of an economical logic which does not include the human being. A logic that has priviledged but the economical side. And that was defeated. the world needs to face the challenges that social development imposes looking through an ethical lens.

It is according to this ethical stand that we have to consider social integration, the struggle against poverty, the generation of employment, which are the topics of this conference. Which values do we want in a world that excludes and condemns its citizens to starvation, segregating them into those who eat and those who dont eat? We want the values of ethics and democracy.

I have a belief. I believe in democracy. I believe in democracy as the sole instrument capable of responding to the questions of social integration, fight against poverty and generation of employment. Democracy has been the inspiration of changes in history all along. Democracy is an ethical value, a set of principles that have to be pursued all the time.

The first principle is equality. Countries are unequal. Some are extremely rich,others are in beggary. But who condemns equality? Everyone favors it, but that is the great challenge of the modern world. How can we make a world for the entire mankind? Equality defies us for, whilst we fight for it, we know that we live in unequality.

The second principle of democracy is diversity. We want equality, but we also want to respect the differences. Equality and difference can come together, because when equality eliminates the difference, there is no longer equality. But we also want everything to be built through participation, which is the third principle of democracy. I want neither my freedom, nor my equality for free. I want to participate in their construction. Democracy is daily participation.

All these values have to be accompanied by and permeated by the feeling of solidarity. We want to restore the emotion of reaching out. We want to say that the strongest emotion a human being may experiment is solidarity. Democracy is also achieved through solidarity.

Finally, the word that has always inspired the great movements is freedom. I also dont want anybody granting me my freedom. I want to conquer my freedom through participation. Every man and woman should be free. How many citizens are actually free today in this world? We are few. All of these five principles together constitute the definition of all we should ever want for the entire mankind.

The economic world, the governments, the institutions and society cannot accept or permit the separation between the economic and the social. To separate them, means leaving the real with the economic and the utopic with the social. This leaves the production of material goods in the economic world whereby the social dimension is only a consequence.

In this division, it is implicit that development is economic and poverty is social. This vision is one of an admirable simplicity, but it has an impressive ideological strength. When workers walk into the factory they are economical factors, when they leave the factory they are a social problem. When governments define their budgets, they are economical actors, when they deal with health and education they are social incompetents, without resources and responsabilities.

The world today shows us a spectacular growth in the concentration of richness. Never so few nations - and so few people inside them - had so much power and richness. The world map of richness shrinks, while the world map of poverty expands. It is fundamental to put social development in the center of any kind of development, particularly in economic development. There is no economic without social. The social is determinant, while the economic is subordinated, derived, a consequence.

The result of the past 100 (hundred) years of experience forces us to radically review everything: market, State, society and their relations. It forces us to question every theory, institution and strategy in the light of a very simple, elementary, central and decisive question: how can we build a planetary, equalitarian, participatory and caring society which is able to place the satisfaction of mens basic needs, regardless of gender, race, religion and age, as the core of its dynamics? How can we place social development as the center of everybodys and every institutions actions? How can we set the values of democracy as a guideline for all actions, as an inspiration for a new world strategy?

These are the questions that the United Nations Summit on Social Development is defied to answer. It is necessary to open a path to the construction of a new age, where the challenge is to place the entire mankind as the core of its own work in order to erradicate poverty and misery as the absolute priority of mankind.

The debate on the generation of employment, for example. How can the generation of employment contribute to the construction of social integration? Employment is a right of the individual, it is an ethical value to which society cannot renounce. And what about the fight against poverty? We cannot be indifferent to all human beings that die of starvation around the world. We cannot tell someone who is hungry to wait for structural solutions. The hungry are in a hurry, in urgency and cannot wait until the coldness and indifference with which the worlds elites see the problem today are gone. Or still the question about the democratization of the Bretton Woods system, which has already proved to be a failure in the struggle against misery. Or the differences of gender that are yet unresolved. Reproductive rights and economical equality, just to mention a few examples, are some of womens rights still to be acknowledged by mankind.

Brazil is a country in which social integration, the fight against poverty and the generation of employment challenge economical logic. Brazil is a country with 150 (one hundred, fifty) million inhabitants and centuries of exclusive and authoritarian development. In the eighth economy of the world, the minimum wage amounts to 780 (seven hundred and eighty) dollars per year and 32 (thirty-two) million people starve. Those are the figures of the country with one of the greatest social differences on earth. Those are the figures of a country in which 5.6 (five point six) million people share almost half of the national income from work, while 28 (twenty-eight) million people get only 10% (ten percent) of this income.

Brazil is a country in which 2 (two) million children between 10 (ten) and 13 (thirteen) years old work, in which whites earn twice as much as blacks, in which men earn twice as much as women. Brazil is a country in which the monthly wage averages 280 (two hundred and eighty) dollars and where 12 (twelve) million people earn less than 65 (sixty-five) dollars per month, less than the minimum wage. Brazil is a country in which a great majority is set apart.

It is necessary to change. It is possible to change. And the change starts by not accepting what is considered inevitable. Misery is not inevitable, poverty is not inevitable, social exclusion is not inevitable. This is where Action Against Misery and for Life came in. The energy of change is being revealed in this movement of citizens. This movement is based on the awareness that it is not acceptable, it is not ethical, it is not good to live in a society which banalizes misery and accepts poverty as a natural fact, practically of its own nature.

The State has a role, the market has a role, but there is a new actor, with the power of change, of novelty. Brazilian citizens have proved this power. The power to replace indifference with solidarity. The Citizens Action Against Misery and for Life in Brazil amounts to this. It is a movement that presently gathers 3 (three) million people organized in committees, taking their own initiatives in the fight against hunger and in the generation of employment and income.

The Citizens Action Against Misery and for Life was originated from the Movement for Ethics in Politics, which in 1990 (nineteen ninety) mobilized society in the struggle for the impeachment of the president at the time, Fernando Collor. The Citizens Action Against Misery and for Life went to the streets on April 1993 (nineteen ninety-three), betting on decentralization, initiative and participation of every citizen. The Citizens Action Against Misery and for Life is not compliant to any political party or religion. An opinion poll has shown that 90% (ninety percent) of the population considers the movement necessary and that 30 (thirty) million Brazilians have associated themselves with the movement. Committees were created, food was donated, jobs were generated, public lands were cultivated, children were assisted.

The experience we undergo in Brazil shows that, beyond the problems of the free market and the limits of state action, civil society has been responsible for important transformations, not only in the way of exercising politics, but in the elaboration of a new international public agenda. It is society acting as an important agent of change expecting the worlds social development.

Democracy exists only with these five principles. Until now, I have been talking about social development, but I am actually talking about human development. And human development will exist only if civil society and the nations accept five fundamental points:

1. Every society must be free to resolve its problems, but none has the right to kill parts of its own people. Genocide cannot be tolerated. Mankind should intervene to save men anywhere. The human being is sovereign in relation to the State. It is imperative that ethics stands over politics and that politics stands over economy;

2. Men have equal rights. All types of poverty are unacceptable. All types of misery are intolerable. It is imperative that the struggle against hunger and misery in the world becomes priority number one;

3. Modern society has dissotiated the production from employment. That only deepens the gap between integrated people and outcasts. It is imperative to find the way to generate employment. Without employment, there will be no humanity for all. Tecnology cannot become the rationality of the worlds new apartheid;

4. Development is human, it is either everyones or it does not exist. It is imperative to confer development this universal dimension;

5. It is imperative to democratize international institutions, the Bretton Woods system and to reject the structural adjustment with a human face as a way to fight against hunger and misery;

Due to all that, and no less than that, mankind can no longer wait.

Thank you very much.