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Geneva 2000: WCC General Secretary writes to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
The following letter was sent on 28 June 2000 by WCC general secretary Rev Dr. Konrad Raiser to United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. Raiser's letter is a response to a report entitled "A Better World for All" issued jointly by the UN secretary-general with the senior officers of the OECD, the World Bank and the IMF at the opening of "Geneva 2000" - the UN Special Session on Social Development currently underway in Geneva. The full text of the WCC letter follows:
"Dear Mr Secretary-General,
We were gratified by your presence at the Cathédrale Saint Pierre this past Sunday, and for your public words there and elsewhere in recent weeks about what is at stake in "Geneva 2000".
It is therefore with some regret that I feel compelled to write to you with respect to the report, A Better World for All, that you issued jointly with the senior officers of the OECD, the World Bank and the IMF as the Summit opened.
This report was received with great astonishment, disappointment and even anger by many representatives of civil society and of non-governmental organizations gathered in Geneva to support and encourage the Special Session on Social Development following your consistent injunction to move the world closer to placing controls on the negative features of globalization. Among these representatives are members of the Ecumenical Team coordinated by the World Council of Churches.
The consternation of these civil society representatives, and a good many of the government delegates as well, was aroused by your participation in what amounted to a propaganda exercise for international finance institutions whose policies are widely held to be at the root of many of the most grave social problems facing the poor all over the world and especially those in the poor nations. We and many other non-governmental organizations have consistently supported the United Nations and encouraged you in efforts to address the injustices embodied in these institutions. By identifying yourself with the goals and the vision promoted by this report in your address to the General Assembly on 26 June, you have cast doubt upon the will of the United Nations to reaffirm the Copenhagen commitments and translate them into effective strategies for the eradication of poverty and further significant progress towards the goals of a people-centered approach to social development.
The World Council of Churches addresses these concerns to you not as a simplistic criticism of the United Nations or of your role as its Secretary-General. The WCC has been with the UN as a supporter and cooperating body since the San Francisco Conference. While we have not hesitated to issue our critique when it was due, we have done so as an organization deeply committed to the aims of the Charter, and as one substantially involved in many of the aspects of the work of the Organization. You are well aware of our consistent efforts to sustain and support you personally in your enlightened approach to leadership of the world body in challenging and critical times. Thus we warmly welcomed the statement in your Millennium Report that the challenges of globalization need a functioning platform for States "working together on global issues - all pulling their weight and all having their say."
We have noted with dismay in recent years how the UN's development agenda has floundered as more and more responsibility for global economic and trade reform was ceded to the World Trade Organization and the Bretton Woods institutions controlled by a small number of highly industrialized countries. Their policies have not only failed to bridge the gap between rich and poor and achieve greater equality, but rather contributed to a widening gap, the virtual exclusion of an increasing number of the poor and widespread social disintegration. The OECD, comprised exclusively of rich countries can hardly be said to have the interests of the poor nations at the center of its concerns.
By privileging these organizations as your partners in presenting a vision to UNGASS, considerable damage has been done to the credibility of the UN as the last real hope of the victims of globalization. It signals an acceptance of the logic of the market and could further limit space for governments and civil society to develop alternative goals and means to achieving social development through democratic and transparent processes. The question of how major international decisions are made has become one of pressing urgency in the world today. If the UN abdicates its independence and its authority, to whom are the peoples to turn?
I am deeply aware of the difficulties involved in the burdens you have been asked to carry. Repeatedly you have said that the change for which you and we have all hoped through this Special Session would come in large part through the imagination, technical skills and courage of civil society to press the case of the people. You have often appealed to these forces as your source of hope and support. The motto of our own ecumenical team which has participated actively since Copenhagen in the preparation of Geneva 2000 has been: "A Change of Heart." In this spirit, we remain with and stand behind you, encouraging you to hold steadfastly to your oft-stated goals for this Social Summit."
(Click to Kofi Annan's response to this letter.)
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.