Our Future is Public: Santiago Declaration for Public Services
Jan 26, 2023
From 29th November to 2nd December over a thousand representatives from over one hundred countries, from grassroots movements, advocacy, human rights, and development organisations, feminist movements, trade unions, and other civil society organisations, met in Santiago, Chile, and virtually, to discuss the critical role of public services for our future.
We are at a critical juncture. At a time when the world faces a series of crises, from the environmental emergency to hunger and deepening inequalities, increasing armed conflicts, pandemics, rising extremism, and escalating inflation, a collective response is growing. A large movement is building and concrete solutions are emerging to counter the dominant paradigm of growth, privatisation and commodification.
Hundreds of organisations across socio-economic justice and public services sectors, from education and health services, to care, energy, food, housing, water, transportation and social protection, are coming together to address the harmful effects of commercialising public services, to reclaim democratic public control, and to reimagine a truly equal and human rights oriented economy that works for people and the planet. We demand universal access to quality, gender-transformative and equitable public services as the foundation of a fair and just society.
The common political framing of coloniality helps us to recognise the structures and mindsets that have historically constructed and continue to drive economic inequality, injustice and austerity - that have left public services chronically under-funded for decades. The neoliberal economy, magnified by the current pattern of hyper-globalisation, is defined by perpetuating extraction, control, dependence, subjugation, patriarchy and the current global division of labour, disproportionately impacting the Global South.
The commercialisation and privatisation of public services and the commodification of all aspects of life have driven growing inequalities and entrenched power disparities, giving prominence to profit and corruption over people’s rights and ecological and social well-being. It adversely affects workers, service users, and communities, with the costs and damages falling disproportionately on those who have historically been exploited.
The devaluation of public service workers’ social status, the worsening of their working conditions, and attacks against their unions are some of the most worrying regressions of our times and a threat to our collective spaces. This is deeply linked with the patriarchal organisation of society, where women as workers and carers are undervalued and absorb social and economic shocks. They are the first to suffer from public sector cuts, losing access to services and opportunities for decent work, and facing a rising burden of unpaid care work.
Austerity cuts in public sector budgets and wage bills are driven by an ideological mindset entrenched in the International Monetary Fund and many Ministries of Finance that serve the interests of corporations over people, perpetuating dependencies and unsustainable debts. Unfair tax rules, nationally and internationally, enable vast inequalities in the accumulation and concentration of income, wealth and power within and between countries. The financialisation of a wide range of public actions and decisions hands over power to shareholders and undermines democracy.
This gathering in Chile follows years of growing mobilisation around the world. It builds on the 2019 international conference in Amsterdam and the resulting book The Future is Public: Towards Democratic Ownership of Public Services, as well as a series of groundbreaking events that brought together thousands of people online, and the adoption in 2021 of the Global Manifesto for Public Services and the related Manifesto on Rebuilding the Social Organisation of Care.
Our Future is Public
We commit to continue building an intersectional movement for a Future that is Public. One where our rights are guaranteed, not based on our ability to pay, or on whether a system produces profit, but on whether it enables all of us to live well together in peace and equality: our buen vivir.
A Future that is Public is one where neither women, nor Indigenous Peoples, nor persons with disabilities, nor the working class or migrants, nor racialised, ethnic or sexual minorities, bear an unfair and unequal burden in our societies. It is a future where the continued legacy of colonialism is broken through meaningful reparations, debt cancellation and a complete overhaul of our global economic system, including through reducing material and energy use by wealthy economies.
Who owns our resources and our services is fundamental. A public future means ensuring that everything essential to dignified lives is out of private control, and under decolonial forms of collective, transparent and democratic control. In some contexts this means decisive local, regional and/or national interventions by the state. In other contexts this means strengthening people’s organisations, including trade unions, and expanding spaces of self-government, commons, collective and community control of resources. We value public-public or public-common partnerships, but we resist the public-private partnerships that only serve to extract resources from the public for private interests.
A Future that is Public also means creating the conditions for enabling alternative production systems, including the prioritisation of agroecology as an essential component of food sovereignty. To that end we need to take back control of decision making processes and institutions from the current forms of corporate capture to be able to decide for what, for whom and how we provide, manage and collectively own resources and public services.
The public future will not be possible without taking bold collective national action for ambitious, gender-transformative and progressive fiscal and economic reforms, to massively expand financing of universal public services. These reforms must be complemented by major shifts in the international public finance architecture, including transformations in tax, debt and trade governance. We need to seize the momentum generated by the recent successes of African and other Global South countries towards creating a UN intergovernmental framework on tax and the 4th Financing for Development Conference.
Democratising economic governance towards truly multilateral processes is critical to overhaul the power of dominant neoliberal organisations and reorient national and international financial institutions away from the racial, patriarchal and colonial patterns of capitalism and towards socio-economic justice, ecological sustainability, human rights, and public services. It is equally essential to enforce the climate and ecological debt of the Global North, to carry-out an expedited reduction of energy and material resource use by wealthy economies, to hold big polluters liable for their generations-long infractions, to accelerate the phasing-out of fossil fuels, and to prioritise finance system change.
A Future that is Public recognises the urgent need for international solidarity and globally systemic but contextually differentiated, solutions. It is an essential element of a just, feminist and decolonial transition, that places public service users and workers at the centre, and will enable us to rebuild a sustainable social pact for the 21st century.
Our Future is Public
Join our call for universal access to quality, gender-transformative and equitable public services as the foundation of a fair and just society.Endorse the Declaration
We will take action
We will join forces across sectors, regions and movements to formulate and carry out common strategies and new alliances towards joint proposals for a just, feminist and decolonial transition in the face of the climate and environmental crises. We will work to transform our systems, valuing human rights and ecological sustainability over GDP growth and narrowly defined economic gains.
Working in solidarity with grassroots groups everywhere, including Indigenous Peoples, youth, older persons, and persons with disabilities, we will:
Work transversally and in solidarity between sectors and movements, building our collective analysis and supporting each other’s work and demands, rallying forces behind iconic collective struggles.
Invite each other in sector meetings, share good practices and develop collective programmes and demands.
Report back within our organisations, networks and sectors, and continue strengthening and expanding engagement of our respective sectors as pillars of the broader movement.
Work together to strengthen human rights institutional and legal frameworks for the protection of public services.
Mobilise for a process of organisational, intersectional self-reflection, transformation and action.
Work towards establishing a collective virtual space on Our Future is Public to share experiences and political tactics.
Continue articulating demands for policy-makers across public services, policies, and investments that could take the form of a public services pledge for municipalities and national governments.
Engage with aligned local and national and international authorities to support alternative, fairer models of governance.
Consult about the form, scope, and focus that an Independent Commission on Public Services could take and work together to build it.
Organise regular convening spaces to strengthen groups and movements working on our public futures and explore another global conference within the next three years.
Initial list of signatories:
80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World
A 11 - Initiative for Economic and Social Rights
Abraham's Children Foundation
Academic and Career Development Initiative Cameroon (ACADI)
Academic Ease Stakeholders' Solidarity
Activista defensora derechos humanos mujer rural
Africa Network Campaign on Education For All (ANCEFA)
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Mankind
Alianza por la Igualdad de América Latina y el Caribe
Alliance of Women Advocating for Change
Alternative Information & Development Centre
APIT - Associação Sindical dos Profissionais da Inspeção Tributária e Aduaneira de Portugal
APSEE - Asociación del personal superior de empresa de energía
Armshield Int'l Peace Champions (AIPeC - Kenya)
Art and Global Health Center Africa
Asamblea Territorial Agua Santa-Ferroviaria
Ashuganj power station co ltd sramik karmachary union
Asociación Centro Nacional de Salud, Ambiente y Trabajo Agua Viva -CENSAT Agua Viva-
Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia
Asociación Personal de Organismos de Control - APOC
Assistance Plus Togo
Association for Farmers Rights Defense, AFRD
Association For Promotion Sustainable Development
Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust
Blood Patients Protection Council, Kerala
Blue Planet Project
Brazilian Campaign for the Right to Education
Cabildo Plaza Recreo
CADTM Belgique / Comité pour l'abolition des dettes illégitimes Belgique
CADTM International Network / Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt International Network
Campaña latinoamericana por el derecho a la educación-CLADE
Cenca - Alianza Internacional de Habitantes (AIH)
Centar za mirovne studije (Centre for Peace Studies)
Center for Economic and Social Rights
Center for Economic Social and Cultural Rights in Africa ( CESCRA)
Central Única dos Trabalhadores - CUT Brasil
Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg and the South African Chair in Community, Adult and Workers'Education.
Centre for Financial Accountability
Centro de Análisis Socioambiental - CASA
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios - Universidad Mayor de San Simón (CESU-UMSS)
Civil Society Network for Education Reforms
Civil Society Network for Education Reforms (E-Net Philippines) Inc.
Climate Watch Thailand
Coalition Pour Éducation Pour Tous BAFASHEBIGE
Colectivo Nacional por la Discapacidad (Chile)
Confederação Nacional das Associações de Moradores pra tratar do Congresso
Confederacion de Estudiantes de Chile
Confederación de los Trabajadores de las Universidades de America CONTUA/ISP
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Construisons ensemble le monde
Cooperativa de Economia Solidária de Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis do Território Norte de Teresina
CORPORACION CIMUNIDIS Chile
Corporación Ecológica y Cultural Penca de sábila
Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA)
COSYDEP - Sénégal
CSQ - Centrale des syndicats du Québec
DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era)
Debt Observatory in Globalization / Observatori del Deute en la Globalització (ODG)
Droit à l'energie - SOS FUTUR
East Africa Center for Human Rights
Education For All Coalition-Sierra Leone
Enginyeria Sense Fronteres
Etoile du sud
European federation of public service unions – EPSU
European Water Movement
EYATh Trade Union
Federación Nacional de Trabajadores del Agua Potable y Alcantarillado del Perú - FENTAP
Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec-FIQ
Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV)
FEDEVI - Argentina
FIAN Sri Lanka
FNU - Federação Nacional dos Urbanitários - Brasil
Focus on the Global South
Forum for Education NGos in Uganda (FENU)
Freedom from debt coalition
Frente Nacional por la Salud de los Pueblos del Ecuador (FNSPE)
GenderCC Southern Africa
Gestos (soropositividade, comunicaçao, gênero
Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ)
Global Campaign for Education
Global Campaign for Education-US
Global Justice Now
Global Policy Forum Europe
Global Public Investment Network
Global Social Justice
Good Health Community Programmes
Greater Purpose Development Organization Sierra Leone
Groupe de travail pour la démocratie énergétique - Tunisie
Health Poverty Action
Housing and Land Rights Network - Habitat International Coalition (HIC-HLRN)
Human Rights Research Documentation Centre (HURIC)
Iniciativa por los Principios de Derechos Humanos en la Política Fiscal
Initiative for Social and Economic Rights
Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos - Inesc
International Alliance of Inhabitants
International Transport Workers Federation (ITF)
International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)
Junta Cívica Paraje El Pinar (Fuente Clara)
Kabataan Kontra Kahirapan / Youth Against Poverty
Kamgar Sanrakshan Sammaan Sangh
La Langue Ecarlate
Medicus Mundi Mediterrània
Miroir Vagabond (Belgique)
MNI / Movimiento Nacional por la Infancia Chile
Montfort Social Institute (MSI)
Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits Humains (MIDH)
Movimiento de Pobladores Organizados
Mujeres de Zona de Sacrificio en Resistencia Puchuncavi-Quintero.
National Campaign for Sustainable Development Nepal
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
Observatório Nacional dos Direitos à Água e ao Saneamento
Ocupas: cidade, resistência e subjetividade - Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
OMEP World Organization for Early Childhood Education
ONG Sustentarse (Chile)
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation/Fédération des enseignantes-enseignants des écoles secondaires de l'Ontario
Open Society Africa
Organisation pour la démocratie le développement économique et socialL (ODDES)
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
Partners In Health
People´s Health Movement (PHM)
Peoples Health Movement Ghana
Physically Challenged Empowerment Initia
Plataforma Aigua és Vida
Plataforma de Acuerdos Público Comunitarios
Polytechnic University of the Philippines - Students' Party for Equality and Advancement of Knowledge (PUP SPEAK)
Public Services International (PSI)
Public Services Labor Independent Confederation
Red de Justicia Fiscal de America Latina y el Caribe
Red Vigilancia Interamericana para la Defensa y Derecho al Agua, REDVIDA
Regroupement Education Pour Toutes et Tous (REPT)
Remix the commons
Réseau Ivoiruen pour la Promotion de l'Education Pour Tous (RIP-EPT)
Right to Education Initiative
Rural Area Development Programme (RADP)
SATHI-Support for Advocacy and Training in Health Initiatives
Share The World's Resources (STWR)
SINAFETEP, Sindicato Nacional Ferroviario del Tren Eléctrico del Perú
Sindicato de trabajadores hospital universitario San Ignacio - SINTRASANIGNACIO
Social Action for Community and Development (SACD)
Society for International Development (SID)
State and Other Employees Federation
Stichting Mission Lanka
Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec (SFPQ)
Syndicat National Des Travailleurs de la Sante
Synergie des femmes dynamiques pour le développement intégré
Tax Justice Network
TEACH Cote d'Ivoire
Teachers & employees association for change & solidarity, Inc. (E-Net Philippines)
The African Women's Development and Communications Network (FEMNET)
The Alternatives Project (TAP)
The Bretton Woods Project
The East African Centre for Human Rights
The Global Initiative for Economic Social and Cultural Rights - GI-ESCR
Uganda Peace Foundation
Union des Amis Socio Culturels d'Action en Developpement (UNASCAD)
Unión popular Valle Gómez
Vissually Impaired Workers Platform (VIWP)
Water Employees Trade union of Malawi
Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll)
Women against poverty association
Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
Working People's Coalition/International Alliance of Inhabitants
World Economy, Ecology and Development - WEED e.V.
Young Men Action for Education
Youth concern on environment and development (YCED)
Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers Union (ZUCWU)