THE EARTH TIMES
SEPTEMBER 14, 1995
JAN PRONK: After Beijing, what?
BY JACK FREEMAN
AND ASHALI VARMA
If you ask Jan Pronk, Development Minister of the Netherlands, people are paying too much attention to the issue of resources in the Platform for Action being finalized for the Fourth World Conference on Women.
“If a donor country is having its own budgetary shortage,” he told The Earth Times last night, “its government can hardly go to the Congress and ask it to pass more money for aid—just because some document calls for ‘additional resources.’” Conversely, he said, “If a weak formula emerges here, I am not going to reduce the aid that we provide.”
The basic point, he said, is that “one should not judge the success of a conference by its section on funding.”
Regardless of the language of the Beijing Platform for Action, he said, the Netherlands will continue to provide “substantial, adequate funding” for development.
Because he believes that “we should not lose the momentum of this conference, he is proposing that a special trust fund be set up to provide resources for implementation of its action program, and he said the Netherlands’ government is prepared to provide “adequate co-funding.” He said such a fund might focus its attention especially on the needs of Africa.
In any case, he said, the importance of the Beijing Conference is rooted in its taking up the issues of unremunerated work, human rights and, perhaps most of all, sexual rights. “And don’t think these are ‘Western.’ They are universal—and have great importance for men as well.”
Pronk said he finds it somewhat puzzling that this Conference has found it so relatively easy to reach consensus on issues involving cultural values—which, he said, are usually much more intractable that economic issues.
“It may be, “he said, “that the real issues at the grassroots level in many countries are not being represented here because all of the people here belong to a shallow elite in the world. We all speak the same global language, we all belong to the same cultural class, and possibly the same social class as well.”
Nor is he convinced that NGOs taking part in the Conference are really representative.
“I think it is more important for NGOs to lobby at the national level, as part of the democratic process, rather than lobbying here in the corridors without any democratic framework,” he said. “A very vocal group may or may not be representing many people.”