Ottawa, Canada, 1991
We, the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth, believe that the challenges created by the changing world economic environment must be met through sound, equitable and effective adjustment policies at both national and international levels. These policies are vital for achieving the non-inflationary economic growth and sustainable development necessary to enhance human well-being. We endorse the broader approach to adjustment set out in the Commonwealth Expert Group’s Report, Engendering Adjustment for the 1990s, including its three general principles of an emphasis on social equity and economic growth as well as efficiency; full integration of women into the decision-making processes; and a supportive international environment.
We appreciate the determined efforts being made by many governments, inside and outside the Commonwealth, to reform both policies and institutions. Moves towards the creation of a more supportive global economic environment are also greatly valued. But we accept too that much more needs to be done if women are to regain the advances they lost in the 1980s partly as a result of inappropriate structural adjustment policies.
We are convinced that it is both essential and possible to design and implement policies and programmes that will improve the effectiveness, acceptability and sustainability of adjustment efforts. Structural adjustment cannot be sustained, development will be limited and the costs of adjustment will continue to be borne disproportionately by women unless such policies and programmes fully integrate measures to ensure gender equity, greater concern for basic human needs and protection of the physical environment, and are adequately financed.
The full potential of the development process can only be reached if its economic and social aspects, including poverty reduction, are recognised as mutually supportive. It is especially important that programmes in primary health care, nutrition, family planning and education and training are not impaired. Greater advances for women in these areas must be maintained. Investment in the nutrition, health and education of a country’s population is as crucial to the development of its economy and the well-being of its people as is any investment in physical capital.
The structural adjustment process provides important opportunities to re-evaluate the ways in which women and men from all parts of society can best contribute to and benefit from economic and social development. As compared to men, there are considerably more complex demands on women’s time from their multiple roles as economic producers, mothers and caregivers, household managers and community organisers.
Adjustment programmes must be designed to ensure a more equitable sharing between women and men not only of the programmes’ costs but also of the rewards and benefits accruing. It is only in this way that women’s active participation and wide-ranging contributions to the economy - too often unrecognised because unpaid - can be brought into the process.
Therefore, we commit our governments and commend to others the following programme of action:
Submitted by the Third Meeting of Commonwealth Ministers Responsible for ‘Women’s Affairs, Ottawa, Canada, 9-12 October 1990.
Issued at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Harare, Zimbabwe, 16 – 21 October 1991.