Race to finish blueprint

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 1995, 12:00am

DIPLOMATS were racing against time last night to complete a programme of action against world poverty, aware that its compromise formula is likely to be roundly condemned by poor nations and development agencies.

More than 120 heads of state are due to arrive for the United Nations Social Development summit in Copenhagen today and tomorrow in what has been described as the biggest meeting of heads of government ever.

The US$30 million (HK$231.69 million) summit has already been described as a charade. Non-government agencies running their own 'summit' elsewhere in the city say it is a 'wasteful talking shop' and there was every suggestion last night that the meeting would fail to deliver what the Third World wants to see.

The poor countries in what is known as the Group of 77 want the rich to come up with an overall formula for debt reduction.

But the developed world, or at least most of it, has been reluctant to consider wiping out debts across the board, with delegations making clear that they would rather consider each debtor country's case on an individual basis.

Social democratic Denmark, the host country for the summit, has set an example in unilaterally wiping US$180 million off the debts of Angola, Nicaragua, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Bolivia and Egypt but its example has not been followed by any other countries.

A new commitment to respect workers' rights has been agreed although last night there was still resistance in some areas, believed to include China, on statements on human rights.

The Group of 77 had also wanted an international fund for social development to be set up. This has been rejected by the summit.

To demonstrate their presence at the summit, the 2,000 non-government organisations yesterday formed a human chain from their own alternative meeting to the summit venue outside the city centre.

South African President Nelson Mandela is expected to make an appeal for integrated and coherent social and economic development when he arrives today.

Many of the developing countries feel that although the summit has failed in its main objective it will still nonetheless deliver important guidelines for the future.

Meanwhile Danish police were continuing to search for three divers who were shot at on Wednesday as they emerged from an inlet between Copenhagen island and Sweden. No sign has been seen of the frogmen.

In separate security scares, the police revealed yesterday that body searches of those entering the summit had produced three knives and a can of tear-gas so far.