One World Action urges global public services deal

Mathew Little

Anti-poverty charity One World Action is calling for an international agreement on the right of all people to have quality public services.

Government, NGOs and businesses will be asked to sign up to a General Agreement on Public Services, similar in scope to the GATS treaty on trade liberalisation.

The GAPS treaty would oblige states to ensure that public services meet the economic and social needs of their people, regardless of who delivers them.

The GAPS campaign is also backed by Consumers International and Public Services International, the global union federation for public service workers.

The campaign says that more than 1 billion people worldwide are without safe water, while millions do not have basic health care. "We think that access to quality and gender-responsive public services is one of the keys to enable people to lift themselves out of poverty," said Helen O' Connell, head of policy at One World Action.

It will advocate improvements to state services as well as oppose privatisation where it threatens access to services. "Exposing privatisation failures is the easy bit," said campaign coordinator Brendan Martin. "To secure quality public services we need to challenge government failure too, and champion what works well to secure basic rights."

During 2005, the campaign will develop a draft version of the agreement, create a website and invite other organisations to join.

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