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International affairs, peace
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  • UN Commission on Human Rights
    - 2005
    - 2004
    - 2003
    - 2002

    61st session of the
    UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR)

    12 March - 22 April 2005

    Item 10 of the Provisional Agenda

    Written Statement submitted by the Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches


    (1) The Commission of Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC) submits that one of the purposes and functions of the Council as enumerated in its Constitution is breaking down of barriers between people, and promoting one human family in justice and peace and upholding the integrity of creation so that all may experience the fullness of life. The VIIIth WCC Assembly meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe noted: “the pressing new challenges to human rights of peoples, communities and individuals resulting from globalisation of the economy, culture and means of communication, including the erosion of the power of the state to defend the rights of persons and groups under its jurisdiction, and the weakening of the authority of the United Nations as a guarantor and promoter of collective approaches to human rights. Globalisation threatens the destruction of human community through economic, social and other forms of exploitation and repression; and to weaken national sovereignty and peoples right of self-determination. It preys especially on the most vulnerable members of society.” Globalisation today poses significant challenges to the churches as they approach their human rights tasks, because there is an intensification of global economic integration under the neo-liberal commitment to free market.

    2. It is submitted all power is accountable to God. If economic or political structures fail to serve life, they need to be reformed. Christians cannot accept structures and systems created by humans that are powerful and unjust. The destructive effects of globalisation undermines the social fabric of communities, their livelihoods and, indeed the very basis of future life and survival of humankind and other life forms. Social justice and care of the earth are both essential dimensions of the economy. Life on earth forms one interrelated web, the earth community. It is decisive for the future of life on our planet how societies and international relations are structured politically and economically and how people relate to each other and to the earth. The goal of life in just and loving relationship is an imperative now and for the future. The World Council of Churches has always called for the full participation of all people and all communities – especially those marginalised by poverty and disempowerment – in the economic, social and political decisions that affect their lives. The aim of economic life is to nurture sustainable just and participatory communities. The WCC has applied the vision of just, participatory and sustainable communities in all its statements before Commissions of the United Nations on social and sustainable development and in other forums.

    3. Through its programmes in 2004, WCC and its members have engaged in the search for an approach which allows it to express development and economy in relation to our common vocation to live in right relationship with our neighbours, with the earth, with our creator. Such an approach includes the following key affirmations:

    - Recognition that real value cannot be expressed in monetary terms and that life – and that which is essential to sustain it – cannot be commodified.
    - Commitment to an economy whose role is to serve the well being of the people and the health of the earth.
    - Focus on the ultimate aim of economic life to nurture sustainable, just and participatory communities.
    - Responsibility to uphold the right of all people – particularly the diverse communities of the poor and excluded – to participate in the economic, social and political decisions which affect them.
    - Belief in the inherent dignity of every person, and a priority on creating the conditions of dignified life.

    4. In its work on economic justice, the WCC challenges the current trade practices that have contributed to global inequality and injustice. The present neoliberal ‘free trade’ endeavours are driven by the endless search for wealth and profit. It attempts to regulate market for the benefit of the owners of capital, as such it is inherently unjust. It also violates the gospel value of love of the neighbour, participation and just sharing. It is true fair trade is an important step in recognising trade inequities, but justice requires much more. Just trade is based on solidarity of exchange of goods locally, nationally and internationally. It complements other life sustaining economic activities and is a more conducive approach to economic empowerment and justice.

    5. The World Council of Churches welcomes the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) signed by 190 countries in 2000 that are aimed at reducing poverty by the year 2015. While the Council appreciates the goals that have been set, it is of the view that these are not likely to be achieved within the current economic system. The ecumenical efforts towards economic justice have focused on four possible methods for realising the Millennium Development Goals – improved trade access for poor countries; deep debt cancellation; increased official development aid; and direct financial investment.

    6. At the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, CCIA made a written submission with regards to the situation in Indonesia with particular reference to the violations of social, economic and cultural rights of the people of Papua. These violations are a result of the discriminatory and unfair policies and practices of the Indonesian government. The Council has repeatedly drawn attention of the government to the denial of social, economic and cultural rights of the Papuan people and have urged it to resolve the grievances of the Papuan people through equitable sharing of economic resources, fair and honest implementation of the autonomy law. The way forward for the government is to ensure the implementation of National Dialogue as the people of Papua are committed to peace through a process of consultation and multilateral decision making. It is regrettable the special Autonomy Law passed by the House of Representatives in 2001, that provided hope for the realisation of social, economic and cultural rights of the Papuan people was never seriously implemented. In 2001, the troubled province of Papua was granted around Rp. 1.2 trillion for implementation of the above law, but the life of the people remain unchanged and impoverished. Presently, instead of concentrating on the implementation of the Autonomy Law the government has insisted on pursuing its controversial plans to divide Papua into three provinces. As a result economic development of the province has suffered a setback because of unrest amongst the people.

    7. Since June 2004, the government policies of dividing the province have been challenged in Court. In the ensuing legal battle more controversy and conflicts have been created. This has once again set back the fulfilment of the aspirations of the Papuan people. On 11th November 2004, the Constitutional Court in its ruling on the application for judicial review of Law number 45-1999 declared that the Law was unconstitutional and therefore invalid. However, in its judgement that was based on legal consideration the Court’s verdict was the province of West Irian Jaya (established under law 44 of 1999) and the corresponding implementing legislation were valid. This most recent decision of the Court has divided the people of Papua – many Papuans, have lost faith in the government. This state of affairs has resulted in tension and conflict and has divided the communities in Papua. All this has contributed to the confusion and chaos. According to the Moderator of GKI (Christian Church) Rev. Herman Saud the ruling of the Court was based on political consideration rather than legal arguments. Rev. Saud said the Constitutional Court must remerge West Irian Jaya into Papuan Province and any move to split up the province must be based on Law number 21/2001 on Special Autonomy for Papua. The uncertainty created by the ruling of the Court has resulted in an increase in frustration that there is greater likelihood of people becoming agitated and which in turn may lead to greater repressive measures by the government.

    8. The Indonesian government must provide economic justice to the people of Papua if a lasting peace is to prevail in the Province. To do this, the government must reverse its discriminatory practices and policies towards the people of Papua and ensure due protection and promotion of their social, economic and cultural rights. Papua is a rich province from which the Central Government in Indonesia collects considerable revenue. This revenue earning should be used for upliftment of the Papuan people’s education, health care, transportation and communications.
    9. It is submitted the Commission should urge the government of Indonesia that its present measures to divide the provinces against the wishes of the people can only lead to anger, frustration and loss factors that are not conducive to productivity of the people. Such highhanded actions can lead to further denial of the socio-economic and cultural rights of the people.

    10. The world Council of Churches is deeply disturbed by these most recent developments in Indonesia that have divided the people and is most likely to lead to unrest as a result of which economic progress of West Papua will suffer. The Council is of the considered view that the only solution to the Papuan problem is a serious effort by the Indonesian government to implement the Autonomy law in consultation with the representatives of the Papuan people. If this is not done, the situation of confrontation and conflict is likely to further deteriorate resulting in serious human rights violations. The problems in Papua are basically economic and are a result of the failure of the Government development policies in the area. The Council therefore requests the Commission to urge the Indonesian government to take serious steps to ensure that the province of Papua gets a just share of the proceeds earned from the exploitation of its abundant natural resources also the rights of the Papuan people are duly recognised and economic justice ensured.








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