Copenhagen's challenge

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6979.544 (Published 04 March 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:544
  1. Dorothy Logie,
  2. Andrew Haines
  1. General practitioner Melrose TD6 0ST
  2. Professor of primary health care University College London Medical School, Whittington Hospital, London N19 5NF

    To balance budgets without unbalancing lives

    With the end of the cold war comes an urgent need to address what the United Nations' secretary general, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, defines as a “new crisis in human security.”1 The symptoms are worsening internal conflicts, urban slums, rising social tensions, and the disaffection of large numbers of people from their societies, governments, and institutions. Internationally, population growth, increased numbers of refugees, the weapons trade, drug trafficking, and the threat to the biosphere from overconsumption and pollution all call for a shift from providing security through arms to providing it through social development.

    Underlying many of these problems is the increasing economic division between rich and poor people. In Brazil, for example, the wealthiest fifth of the population receives 26 times the income of the bottom fifth.2 This may be an extreme case of national inequality, but globally the contrast is even starker—the richest fifth have 150 times the income of the poorest fifth—the disparity having doubled over the past 30 years or so.

    At next week's world summit for social development in Copenhagen the UN will examine some of the seemingly intractable social and economic problems that are devastating parts of our planet. On the eve of the UN's 50th birthday the summit will bring together around 100 heads of state to discuss three …

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