We, the participants of the Founding Meeting of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, coming from a variety of backgrounds, places and organizations across the globe, have gathered in Geneva, 7-9 December 2000. We hail from 37 countries, speak over 20 languages and represent the World Council of Churches, regional ecumenical organizations and fellowships, church agencies, specialized networks in the South, Christian world communions, international ecumenical organizations, and Roman Catholic organizations.
We come from diverse Christian communities which together number over one billion people... but here we speak out with one voice against injustice to confront structures of power, practices and attitudes which deprive human beings of their dignity and to offer alternative visions based on our understanding of the Gospel.
Through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can, with one voice, announce the foundation of a new instrument for coordinated action on issues of global justice, peace, human rights and environment. This new Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance will be a flexible and open instrument enabling participating organizations from the broad ecumenical family to work strategically on priorities identified as common to our witness and work. For our work together in this Alliance, we understand ecumenical advocacy as a specific form of witness on political, economic, cultural and social issues by churches and their members, church-related agencies and other organizations which aims to influence policies and practices of governments, international institutions, corporations and our own communities in order to bring about a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.
Opening challenges and shaping the vision
As we began our meeting in worship, our preacher, Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, World Young Women’s Christian Association, called us to our daunting task with the words of the Angel to Mary, "Do not be afraid."
During his opening address, Dr Konrad Raiser, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches challenged us to maintain our uniqueness as churches and ecumenical bodies in this new form of advocacy, recalling that the WCC is but the convenor of the Alliance. Its "owners" are those bodies and groups who share their energy, resources, and competencies in carrying out joint advocacy that becomes broader than any of the individual participants could provide on their own. Mr Bertrand Ramcharan, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded us of the historic link between the Churches and the United Nations, saying that our role is to be the "transmitters of the aspirations of the people" to such international governing bodies. Sister Celine Monteiro, Franciscans International, called us to be in true solidarity in our witness. Mr Baffour Amoa, Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa, reminded us of "our collective desire and drive for a world in which the rights of children, youth, women, and men are protected and opportunities equitably distributed" and of the vast resources and experience we bring to this new beginning.
With these challenges in mind, we gave the Alliance further shape during our three days together, building on the results of a process of consultation and refinement over a year prior to this meeting. We know this endeavour is a challenge and a risk, both in form and content. Yet we are convinced that it is worth the risk to embark on this new venture together.
Selecting priorities for joint advocacy
More than 170 responses to the invitation to suggest issues for the work of the Alliance were received. For the form of advocacy called for by the Alliance, we have chosen as priorities for at least the next three years:
1. Global economic justice with a specific focus on global trade
Global trade is dominated by a few economic powers - including transnational corporations, governments, and multilateral institutions - whose control of capital, technology, political influence, cultural persuasion through media and military influence makes it extremely difficult for many countries to access world markets on an equitable basis. We feel that inequities in trade are a major cause of economic injustice and that a focus on advocacy for equitable trade which benefits the marginalized would be a significant contribution to a just world. Trade is only one aspect of globalization and change will be needed on many other fronts for economic justice to prevail. The advocacy work of the Alliance is particularly needed at the level of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the European Union.
2. Ethics of Life with a specific focus on HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS is acknowledged to be one of the gravest health challenges facing the world at the moment. It is also, arguably, the gravest challenge to prospects of social and economic development and global security. The current impact of HIV/AIDS is a symptom of systemic economic problems, such as the under-investment in health and unequal access to effective treatment. The ethical issues around the HIV/AIDS pandemic make this issue particularly appropriate for church action. While governments, intergovernmental organizations and private companies all need to be targeted for advocacy on this issue, we also see churches as a primary audience. Churches need to speak out on HIV/AIDS - on its causes, prevention, treatment and consequences.
For each of these global advocacy issues, we will develop an educational approach as well as a specific advocacy strategy.
In addition to these two global issues for advocacy, peace and conflict resolution are urgent concerns for us all. Conflict and militarization go hand in hand with globalization and many examples of these inter-connections could be cited. In light of the forthcoming WCC Decade to Overcome Violence where there will be an opportunity for many of these issues to be addressed, we agreed that the Alliance will seek to address peace and conflict resolution through strategic partnerships among participants. We further agreed that the Alliance will stimulate and strengthen coalitions working on particular issues of peace, conflict resolution and reconciliation. We call on participants to use the Alliance network to address more effectively regional conflicts and other issues of common concern.
In submitting these priorities we want to underline the fact that all of the issues identified in this process are issues of life and death. As churches and Christian organizations, our advocacy to address all causes of human suffering must and will continue.
The way forward
This Alliance is initially established for four years. We have commissioned an Ecumenical Advocacy Committee and we support the establishment of a coordinating office hosted by the World Council of Churches. This coordinated action will be promoted through strategic groups on each of the two global advocacy issues and through strategic partnerships to address regional and national situations. The Alliance is comprised of participants who will sign a Covenant for Action. The emphasis and the energy of the Alliance will come from the issues on which people choose to work together.
As participants in the Alliance, we will commit ourselves to:
1. promoting approaches to these global issues based on a shared commitment to the Gospel and expressing concern for those people who suffer injustice;
2. confronting unjust structures and offering alternative visions based on the analysis and full engagement for the people affected;
3. raising awareness within our own constituencies and the public at large on the issues and to mobilise support for specific campaigns or collective actions as proposed by the strategy groups;
4. sharing information with each other, contributing resources and engaging actively and creatively in implementing common approaches at the local, national and international levels;
5. continuing to reflect theologically on this work.
We invite churches and their many related organizations who share our commitment to advocacy on issues of justice and peace to participate in this Alliance.
The Christ whom we seek to follow tells us that when we minister to the sick, the hungry, the stranger and the prisoner, we are ministering to Christ himself (Matthew 25). His identification with the marginalized (John 4) his rage at the moneylenders in the temple (John 2:13-17) and his willingness to challenge established social boundaries in view of the Kingdom of God (Luke 7:36-50, Luke 13:10-17) lead us to a life of confronting unjust structures of power in solidarity with the excluded. With this conviction, and with trust in the grace of God, we launch this Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.