The WCC recognizes that the exchange of goods, services, ideas and information has always been a feature of human history. It is a source of authentic human development, provided it spreads in ever-expanding circles. However, if left to itself, it will impoverish those at the edges of the system, sucking out their substance to increase the means at the disposal of the powerful. This current economic system increases rather than eradicating poverty.
Human development within sustainable communities is the vision guiding the WCC’s approach to economic globalization. Such a vision can become reality only when economic, financial and ecological justice issues are addressed holistically, with democratic participation at all levels. It can not be realized while the material overabundance enjoyed by a small part of the global community continues to grow at the expense of the majority of people in the world. The unquenchable thirst for more power, profits and possessions of some individuals, social groups and corporate entities is unsustainable, and deprives many communities of the ability to meet their needs in harmony with their environment.
Today, globalization is one of the main causes of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, between the North and the South. A fundamental question for the ecumenical movement is whether or not MDGs can be achieved within this detrimental system.
SEE: Further background information on the work of WCC on economic justice
Millennium Development Goals (MDG)
By the year 2015, all 191 United Nations member states have agreed to meet the following goals:
1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2) Achieve universal primary education
3) Promote gender equality and empower women
4) Reduce child mortality
5) Improve maternal health
6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7) Ensure environmental sustainability
8) Develop a global partnership for development
For more detailed information on the goals and their background,
see the UN website.
In 2004, the secretary-general of the UN, Kofi Annan, released a report on the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, adopted by the world’s leaders at the Millennium Summit of the UN in 2000. The report declared that although there has been progress on the MDGs, there are numerous obstacles standing in the way of achieving the 8 goals.
(To see this report, go the the UN website and select "Implementation of the UN Millennium Declaration - Report of the Secretary-General (2004) " )
Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US, questions of security in the face of increased terrorism have overshadowed other issues, including those addressed in the MDGs. Other massive human rights violations and civil conflicts have also struck at the spirit of the MDGs, and have required significant attention. The report notes that, despite these grave issues, "We have the knowledge and technological instruments that are necessary to achieve real progress in combating poverty and to share more equitably the benefits of globalization." What is needed now is the political will to provide sufficient resources and respect for the rule of law. In 2005, the UN will have a high-level event to address the implementation of the Millennium Declaration and to address the status of the MDGs.
The status of the MDGs in 2004 shows that there has been some progress and, in the case of the goal of achieving equal enrollment of girls in primary education, many regions of the world have met this goal or are on track. Unfortunately, in the cases of the goals for combating HIV/AIDS and providing clean water and sanitation, most regions have seen very little progress, and some have seen negative change. According to current trends in Africa, primary education will be delivered not in 2015 but in 2130. That is 115 years too late. Avoidable infant deaths will be eliminated not by 2015 but by 2165. That is 150 years too late.
The WCC will focus advocacy on the Millennium Development Goals by assessing their present status and asking the question, "Are the Millennium Development Goals likely to be achieved within the current system and plans?"
The ecumenical efforts towards economic justice have focused on four possible methods for realizing the MDGs:
1. Improved trade access for poor countries
2. Deep debt cancellation
3. Increased official development aid
4. Direct financial investment
Through the NY Advocacy Week, discussion will focus on the extent to which these methods and ideas have been implemented and could be encouraged.
Deeper debt cancellation for poor countries
Debt relief must be a contribution to eradicating poverty and building sustainable community and not a means to achieve debt sustainability.
Since its inception in 1996, the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative has been subjected to stalling and delays. To date, only 10 out of the 40 countries on the HIPC list have seen actual reductions in their debt repayments. This reduction was not sufficient to pull these countries out of the cycle of poverty. A new condition demands that HIPCs produce "Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers" with the participation of civil society. At the rate at which the Initiative is being applied, it will take more than 15 years to provide relief to the 40 highly-indebted poor countries.
Churches are called to suggest alternatives to current short-term debt relief initiatives. The WCC/JPC supports the efforts of NGO coalitions - Jubilee South - to implement their new proposals.
During the WCC Advocacy Week, advocacy on deeper debt relief for poor countries will focus on encouraging the Bretton Woods Institutions to cancel illegitimate debt for poor countries and to ensure that the debt-poverty cycle is eliminated. Initiatives to stop capital flight from poor countries to rich countries will also be discussed.
SEE: Documents and press releases on WCC work on finance and shocking figures about resource transfer from poor countries to rich ones.
A group of theologians, economists, sociologists and ecologists has produced a background document for the churches on how they can respond to the policies of the International Financial Institutions. This document is called "Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Churches' Response to the Policies of International Financial Institutions". A group of staff from the WCC, the World Bank and IMF has organized two joint encounters on the neo-liberal economic paradigm; wealth and social justice, and debt. The reports are in form of books. An internal encounter on the policies of the World Bank and IMF was organized for churches and agencies in September 2003 and produced a book entitled "Passion for another world".
Another seminar on Illegitimate Debt and Arbitration was organized by WCC in June 2003 to assess where we are in solving the debt problem; a report entitled "The Debt Problem for Poor Countries: Where are We?" was produced.
Odious Debts: Essays and reports - Multilateral Development Banks:
October 29, 2004 Statement
US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
MDB Roundtable Discussion
on Multilateral Development Bank Corruptionby
executive director, Probe International, Toronto, Canada
director, Probe International Foundation, New York, USA
Trade is a basic act in any society and trade can bring about good in our world. An exchange between parties, if fair, can be of mutual benefit and increase human wellbeing.
But trade on unequal terms is damaging, creates and maintains inequities, and can lead to violence and conflict. Trade should be a means to share the bounty of the earth and the fruits of human labour, yet too often it is a force that produces poverty, despair, injustice and death.
Current global trading systems are dominated by a few economic powers – including rich country governments, transnational corporations, stock markets and multilateral institutions – whose control of capital, technology, political influence, cultural persuasion through the international media, and military influence are overwhelming and preclude access to the global market on an equitable basis.
Within poor countries, powerful elites make an alliance with the rich countries in the north and, through corruption, exploit billions of people. International trade and the related liberalization policies provide the means by which power and advantage are translated into disproportionate wealth for some in the world, while inequalities between countries and within countries continue to widen and vulnerable people are further marginalized.
At the 2004 Advocacy Week in New York, discussion will focus on the inequities encountered in the trade arena, subsidies, trade barriers and how to resolve them in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
SEE ALSO : Documents and press releases on WCC work on trade and the document called Justice: The Heart of the Matter: An Ecumenical Approach to Financing for Development, January 2001.
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and WCC work on trade issues ( all trade issues especially trade and human rights and the role of the church)
Increased Official Development Assistance (ODA)
For poor countries, Official Development Assistance (ODA) is still the principal source of financing for development and, in this case, meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Yet ODA continues to decline in proportion to goods and services produced by the rich countries. The continuous fall in the levels of ODA over the past decade is an indictment of the industrialized countries' unwillingness to return to the South, through aid, even a small portion of the sums they appropriate through other means.
ODA has fallen to less than 0.24 of many industrialized countries’ gross national product (GNP). This decline makes the donors’ 1969 promise to increase aid to 0.7% of GNP more elusive than ever. Justice demands that donor countries recommit themselves to meeting the target of dedicating at least 0.7 % of GNP to ODA. Moreover, the quality of aid must be considered just as important as its quantity. In order not to contribute to the debt trap, ODA should be in the form of grants, not low-interest loans.
At the 2004 Advocacy Week in New York, discussion will focus on how rich countries can be urged to increase Official Development Aid as one of the four measures to meet the Millennium Development Goals.