World Council of Churches Office of Communication
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9 June 1999

WCC CHALLENGES G8 GOVERNMENTS TO TAKE MORE RADICAL APPROACH ON DEBT CRISIS


The World Council of Churches (WCC) has strongly criticised the G8 proposals for solving the debt crisis in a statement released during a press conference here on Wednesday, June 9. In the statement, WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser with Sam Kobia, director of the WCC cluster "Issues and Themes" called on G8 leaders to adopt a more radical approach at their meeting beginning in Cologne, Germany, on June 18.

"It is a lack of political will rather than financial resources that has made it difficult to find a lasting solution to the debt problem", explains the WCC statement. It calls on G8 governments to accompany initiatives for debt cancellation with reform of the financial and trading systems and to respond positively to the demand for greater control of the transnational flow of capital by governments and civil society.

Referring to the eighth assembly of the WCC in Harare, Zimbabwe, last December and its support to the goals of Jubilee 2000 coalitions, the statement appeals to the G8 leaders to recognize the urgent need to:

"a. cancel the debts of the poorest countries to enable them to enter the new millennium with a fresh start.
b. substantially reduce the debts of the middle-income countries within the same time frame.
c. accept that debt cancellation cannot wait until conditions set by creditors are met.
d. introduce a new, independent and transparent arbitration process for negotiating and agreeing upon international debt cancellation.
e. implement measures to promote accountability of debtor countries when debts are relieved. These measures must be determined and monitored by local community organizations, including churches and other representative organizations of civil society, to ensure that debt cancellation leads to a just distribution of wealth.
f. use their powers to ensure that funds illegitimately transferred to secret foreign bank accounts are returned to debtor nations.
g. engage, in consultation with civil society, in a process of global economic reform toward a just distribution of wealth and preventing new cycles of debt."
[Click here for the full text of this statement.]

"Cancel the debt - and what next"?
At a public round table on the question "Cancel the debt - and what next?" which took place after the press conference, Dr Susan George, associate director of the Transnational Institute (TNI) and president of lObservatoire de la Mondialisation, identified new issues of concern which go beyond the Jubilee 2000 campaign.

She warned of any extension of the powers of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and proposed a thorough examination of the impact the WTO has had up till now on employment, consumers, the environment, development, human rights and democracy. Referring to the recent decision-making process on the international bananas trade, Dr George described the WTOs dispute settlement mechanism as being in the process of establishing a profoundly anti-democratic law.

Delegation from Inter-Continental Caravan visits WCC

Earlier that day, the WCC received an Inter-Continental Caravan delegation, including over a hundred farmers coming from India to Geneva to protest at the WTO against the mechanisms of the free-market economy. Welcoming the delegation, the WCC general secretary underlined WCCs "longstanding commitment to work with people as they define for themselves the priorities for development."

"In our own efforts... to come to terms with the dynamics of globalization, we are convinced that it is not enough merely to confront the major actors but [we need], in addition, to search for just and sustainable alternatives," said Raiser. "By building links with other partners in Europe, including international organizations like ourselves, and by coming to the headquarters of the corporations affecting the basis of your livelihood, you have contributed to the development of a new dynamic - globalization from the grass roots," he added.


For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
Full text of WCC statement to G8 governments

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, 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.