World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

20 June 2000

Ecumenical Team at Geneva 2000 concerned about slow progress

(cf. WCC Press Update, Up-00-14, of 23 May 2000)

When the members of an ecumenical international team arrive in Geneva on Wednesday, June 21, they will already have completed a marathon of meetings in preparation for the United Nations (UN) General Assembly's Special Session on Social Development (UNGASS) - "Geneva 2000", June 26-30. The United Nations meeting in Geneva will review progress on commitments made at the 1995 World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is the role of the ecumenical team to monitor critically the Special Session and to bring expert local voices to the UN discussion.

The ecumenical team is supported and coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in cooperation with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Its members represent the Council's global networks, member churches, faith-based groups and partner organizations.

Explaining the team's goals Gail Lerner, WCC UN representative in New York, and Rogate Mshana, WCC executive secretary for economic justice, said that they were giving primary emphasis to the first of the ten commitments in the plan of action adopted in Copenhagen: creation of an "environment that will enable people to achieve social development". Church representatives are also stressing the urgency of the second commitment, eradiction of poverty, they said.

From experience in the meetings they have already attended, the ecumenical team has concluded that Geneva 2000 will not likely bring any major steps towards the goals they consider especially important for social development in the poorer countries. But they point to promising incremental developments in three key areas:

  • debt cancellation;
  • democratization of the Bretton Woods institutions - World Bank and International Monetary Fund;
  • Tobin tax - a currency transaction tax, first proposed by the economist James Tobin in 1972, that could help weak economies both by limiting currency speculation and by raising substantial sums for development (see note on Tobin tax at the end of this release).

The WCC is also among the initiators of an International Public Gathering on Sunday, 25 June, in Geneva, and has participated in the preparation of two events:

Sunday, 25 June:

Worship at the Geneva's St. Pierre Cathedral, with the participation of representatives of faith communities, which UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, will attend.

NGO public gathering: "For a genuine peoples' social agenda", University Uni-Mail, Geneva, with Esther Camac Ramirez, an Indigenous member of the ecumenical team from Costa Rica, as one of the speakers.

Further WCC / ecumenical team events to which media representatives are invited:

Monday, June 26:

Panel Presentation: "Ecumenical team and social development - Seeking a change of heart".
Chairperson: Rogate Mshana.
Ecumenical Centre, 150 Route de Ferney, Conference Hall.

Wednesday, June 28:

WCC panel discussion on "Alternatives to Globalization. Experience and initiatives from various regions of the world."
ITU, salle C, floor 2.

The Tobin Tax : An Idea Whose Time Has Come?
An orderly, stable and just international financial system has yet to be created. The current financial crisis in Asia is just one result of its non-existence. The current system fails spectacularly to channel sufficient funds towards the eradication of world poverty and other social and economic problems.

In the 1990s, the idea of taxing international currency operations - first proposed in 1972 by Nobel Prize laureate for economics James Tobin - was re-floated. Tobin had called for an internationally uniform tax, payable every time a currency was converted. His idea underwent several subsequent refinements; the current version draws upon the work of Professor Paul-Bernd Spahn of Frankfurt/Main University. Considered a workable variant, the proposal may now be able to mobilize enough political will for actual implementation.

The proposed Tobin tax, or currency transaction tax, would be payable every time a currency is converted into another, proportional to the size of the transaction. This would discourage speculation by making currency trading more costly, and also stabilize exchange rates. At the same time, with annual estimates of tax revenues ranging from tens of billions to hundreds of billions of US dollars (depending on tax bases, rates and types of financial instruments taxed), this globally raised revenue, largely outside the control of sovereign states, would create a global revenue base to be devoted to meeting the global challenge of poverty.

Among the members of the Ecumenical team will be:

Dr. Agnes Abuom, WCC President
Taabco Research & Development Consultants

Ms. Mia Adjali
General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church

Mr. Liberato Bautista (Philippines)
General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church

Ms. Esther Camac Ramirez
Associación Ixä Ca Vaá de Desarrollo e Información Indigena
Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indigenas
Costa Rica

Ms. Nicoleta Druta
Partnership for Change

Ms. Wendy Flannery (Australia)
Mercy Global Concern

Mr. Dennis Frado
Lutheran World Federation

Mr. Albert Gyan (Ghana)
Kairos Europa

Ms. Joy Kennedy
Anglican Church of Canada

Ms. Beauty Maenzanise (Zimbabwe)
General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church

The Rt. Rev. Bernardino Mandlate
Methodist Church of Southern Africa

Ms. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda

Mr. David Pfrimmer
Lutheran Office for Public Policy, Canadian Council of Churches

Mr. Jürgen Reichel
Protestant Association for Cooperation in Development

Dr. Molefe Tsele
Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET)
South Africa

Ms. Hellen Wangusa
African Women's Economic Policy Network

Ms. Judy Williams
Grenada Community Development Agency
Grenada, WI

Profile of the team

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.