World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

"Geneva 2000" statements

18 June 2000

June, 2000 

From ‘Faith in a Global Economy', report from the Board for Social Responsibility, of the General Synod of the Church of England

"We are seeking new and overlapping systems of responsibility and control. It is significantly an affirmation of the political task and vocation, facing up to the following arguments:

1. the need to recognise the three orders of creation (the political, economic and cultural) as relatively autonomous realities in an interactive relationship with each other, and requiring appropriate forms of citizen participation in each.

2. The need to refashion the practices and procedures of democracy, given the tendency of majorities to exclude minorities, especially the marginalised. This argument over the culture of contentment applies within Western societies but equally between them and the least developed countries. How can the marginalised be given a proper stake in society and the world?
3. The need to rethink the function and influence of the nation state and regional nation-state groupings, as a counter-force to harmful tendencies in globalisation processes.
4. The need to affirm the growing importance of those civic groups, such as NGOs, as counter-movements to the power of international interests and lobbies harmful global processes, and as effective partners in collaboration with public and private sectors, at all levels, not just local."  

Church of Sweden Statement, ‘The Fight against Poverty must be put on the Agenda', to the Government of Sweden

"There is an inherent problem in assigning responsibility more and more to individuals and in the encouragement to privatise facilities through structural adjustment programmes, both in Sweden and elsewhere. To focus on the individual leads to an idea of individualism, which pre-supposes that all parties are free to make equivalent and egalitarian choices within the welfare system. In reality we observe the way in which this idea favours strong individuals in society and encourages acquisitiveness and a possessive instinct.

To speak of focus on human beings must rather imply considering the human being in a wider context, in which we recognise our mutual dependency. As human beings, we are part of a context in which we are expected to take responsibility and to be stewards of the world and the creation in which we live a common life. Creation is an integral unit and all people are dependent on God and on one another. Such a basic understanding is an important pre-supposition for discussing economy and politics. Then the individual can never be reduced to becoming only a cog in the wheel of production or only a receiver of social benefits. She must also participate herself in her own developments. In order to restore human value it is necessary to bridge the economic gaps between the rich and the poor of the world.

The perspective of the marginalised
The role of the church includes making the gaps visible and revealing situations that cause marginalisation. The churches have frequently taken on the role of supplying welfare, and society often expects them to fulfil that task. Primarily it has become a matter of taking care of people who are not profitable. In our opinion the role of the church is rather to strengthen the forces - people, structures and institutions - that work for a society of common responsibility accepted in solidarity. Charity without careful consideration may easily lead to people becoming passive, whereas well-considered solidarity can lead to people being set free and mobilised to a higher degree...

Sometimes there is a need for a pause in order to reflect on where developments are going. In the past people were needed as labourers. Today, in the global economy, large numbers of population of the world find themselves outside the process. They are apparently not needed. In order to create a future real globalisation in which all and everyone counts, there is nothing more urgent than the embarkation on changes designed to achieve greater participation, decreasing poverty and increasing equality.

In view of the follow up of the Social Summit of 1995, the Geneva 2000 Summit, we encourage the Swedish Government to

  • give the fight against poverty first priority on the agenda and to allow this issue to permeate its entire political activities
  • intensify efforts to achieve the cancellation of debts for those poor countries who are unable to pay their debts
  • take active measures to limit international economic speculation
  • focus all development work on human beings, and thus to improve the opportunities for individuals to influence their own future
  • strengthen global co-operation within the UN-system, on economic as well as political issues."

From a letter from the Church of Norway to the Norwegian Minister of Development Cooperation

"Among the most important challenges we will focus on the following:
1. The need to work coherently against the bias in every institution, also international institutions, to favour of the most powerful;
2. The Promises made by many of the developed countries are in no way fulfilled, and there is an increasing gap between verbal intentions and practical policy;
3. The ongoing debt negotiations must provide a substantial solution of the debt problem;
4. The burdens of currency speculation and financial imbalances fall disproportionately on the poor, while public money are used to bail-out those that are to blame - to secure financial stability.
5. The trade policy of developed countries does not build on fair and equal terms, as the amount of export subsidies and increased tariff escalation on processed goods, allow producers in developed countries far better conditions;
6. The global patent regime (TRIPS under WTO) permits transnational corporations to patent - and through this secure exclusive rights to - seeds and life-sustaining biological material, and therefore undermining the self-sufficiency ad sustainability, especially for Indigenous Peoples; 7. The people of many developing countries are excluded from taking part in decision-making processes, but rather build their power base on ethnic or particularistic foundations, thereby causing social unrest and violence."

Extract from a letter from the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia to the Australian Prime Minister

"The call to eradicate poverty is at the core of the Christian gospel 'to bring good news to the poor'. Poverty can be overcome. This can be achieved through many initiatives including:
1. The cancellation of foreign debt. We must actively work towards improving the HIPC Initiative to bring about freedom from debt;
2. Promoting the attainment of full employment. In 1994, the Uniting Church in Australia adopted a Call to Justice Concerning Employment. This commitment stated: 'Australia should adopt the goal of full employment at adequate wages in an ecological sustainable economy, and adopt appropriate measures to ensure that this goal is met, through the cooperation of government, business and unions.'
3. All member of the community being valued, and promoting an end to racism and economic isolation of countries and communities;
4. The fulfilment of the fundamental human rights of all peoples expressed in the dignity and worth of the human person and in equal rights of men ad women (Universal Declaration of Human Rights);
5. The right of all peoples to determine the individual future of their local community; 6. Access to health services for all regardless of their isolation or poverty or racial background;
7. Promoting the further development of sustainable local communities;
8. Trade, both local and global, which values local communities, does not exploit the poor and which encourages local development."

An extract from ‘Communication and Globalisation', an ecumenical statement from the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), London

"The constitutive presence of information technology is evident in every conceivable sector of human activity... it is clear that many of these new technologies are beneficial to social development and that it has led to new opportunities for sharing, networking, building relationships and solidarity.

However, in spite of the tangible benefits, it is fairly clear that the gaps between the world's information rich and poor, between those who have access to and control the world ‘s knowledge resources and those who do not, have continued to grow. There is a world of difference between the few magnates who control the backbones of the information economy and the ordinary person living in sub-Saharan Africa, in Bolivia or Burma, whose priorities are dictated by the pressure to survive. Another face of globalisation, it would seem, is indebted poor countries and their forgotten peoples who are forced to survive on the margins of humanity."

Extract from a letter from the Raad Van Kerken in Nederland to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands

"... the best way of spending the many financial windfalls of the last months will be the cancellation of foreign debt on the international level and the improvement of public education and healthcare in the Netherlands... The Council and its Member Churches will keep the issue of globalisation and the struggle to create alternatives to the present situation of injustice on its agenda in the coming years. It will be more attentive to the links between national and international developments and trends. Inspired by God's option for the poor, the churches are convinced that the fundamental criterion for all economic decisions and policies cannot be other than this: they must be at the service of all people, especially the poor."

Richard L.van Houten, General Secretary, Reformed Ecumenical Council, USA

"The Reformed Ecumenical Council calls on its member churches to encourage their governments to work towards internationally accepted standards for 'national bankruptcy'. This will provide insight into the extent of the burden that the international debt imposes on a country, and will create guidelines about how much debt a country can bear. The Reformed Ecumenical Council calls on its member churches to ask their governments to re-examine the conditions that accompany international loans and loan negotiating which are imposed by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Paris Club of Creditor Nations. These conditions, known popularly as 'Structural Adjustment Programmes', should be evaluated especially for their impact on the health and education programmes of the highly indebted countries. The council stands firmly on the side of the poor, and believes that the prosperous nations must be willing to bear some of the consequences of poor loan decisions since 1973. The high interest rates of the 1980s, which rebuilt the economies of the wealthy countries, have been a cause of the inability of poorer countries to repay loans negotiated with floating interest rates'."

From 'Justice for the Poor' - Statement of Bread for the World (Germany), published March, 1989; and 'Justice for the Poor', statement published November, 1999

"BREAD FOR THE WORLD wants to make its contribution to

  • Overcoming extreme inequality and enabling all people to enjoy adequate living conditions
  • Abolishing the causes of war and acts of violence Preserving the earth with all its riches also for future generations.

    Although in the course of time there has been a shift in focus and approach of BREAD FOR THE WORLD's activities, the fundamental concern remains the same: to support people living in misery to improve, through help for self help, their own situation and to make a contribution to creating a just , participatory, peaceful and sustainable societies. Our partners in the South are urging us to complement project support with activities that are apt to bring about change here in the North and on a global scale. In theb context of our work we are therefore required, in co-operation with our partners in the South as well as Europe and North America, to concentrate even more than in the past on recognising, naming and explaining conditions that are unjust and incompatible with human diginity and sustainability, before linking up with others in an effort to remedy them.

    Additionally, greater significance will accrue to supporting and monitoring subject-specific and interdisciplinary processes of dialogue, with the aim of reversing the one-way transfer of knowledge from North to South."

Extract from "The response of the Protestant Church in Indonesia towards the current Global Issue", signed by Rev Dr D.J. Lumenta, General Chairman and Rev Hallie Jonathans, General Secretary, the Executive Board of Protestant Church in Indonesia, May 31 2000

"The basic human needs and rights of individuals and communities and the protection of the environment should take precedence over debt repayment... New structures and mechanisms, involving participation and dialogue between creditors and debtors are critically needed... Now is the time... to cancel the debts, to build international finance institutions which are more democratic, transparent, and responsive to the needs of the people. We would rather call it people than countries. The more partners on this effort to overcome the debt crisis, the better for all, especially for the poor... Globalisation since we have known has never been able to prove itself a blessing for Indonesia. On the contrary it has led the country to further monetary problems, because of the raising of taxes and cutting the not-promising projects and slowly but surely will push the people into an expensive life which is unbearable."

General Assembly, Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, May 2000

"We have urged governments to see the collapse of the negotiations at Seattle as an opportunity to think afresh and anew about free trade and what it ought to mean.

Free trade so far has meant the freedom of the strong to exploit the weak, to insist on opening markets for the goods of the industrially and economically developed world while restricting access to the markets of that world for others.

The aim of a just global system of trade must be universal participation. Yet we have seen the GDP of industrialised countries rise inexorably while that of less developed countries has fallen even further behind. We support the call of Christian Aid and other development NGOs for the improved and verifiable standards to be adhered to by multi-national companies, ensuring that environmental standards are uniform. Liberalisation of trade must be accompanied by protection for the weakest and respect for the local communities and national governments to decide what is best for their people and their environment. We believe that regulation is a terror only to those who conduct themselves badly.

International currency speculation, which wrecks havoc with lives about which the speculators know nothing about, must also be brought under control; we support the introduction of the "Tobin Tax" as a realistic means of achieving this."

Extract from a letter from Rev Peter Brain,The United Reformed Church, United Kingdom. April 6th, 2000

"We do not propose to oppose globalisation as such - one might as well resist the tide. However we are determined to join with others in seeking ways to moderate the impact of this process on poor and vulnerable people, for example by advocating universal internet access, by challenging the methodologies of some companies across the food chain, or by supporting campaigns for better regulation of business interests in our own and other countries."

Extract from a statement on Globalisation, National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Ecumenical Jubilee 2000 Campaign Network, Philippines

"First, globalisation is unmindful of the concept of the 'common good' as determined by people in a given society. The omnipotent market arrogates unto itself the prerogative of defining what is 'good', ethically , economically, politically , culturally and biologically... Secondly globalisation requires the undermining or radical alteration of regulatory institutions such as the nation state, the family, and religious o church organisations which compete with the market in defining what is 'good' for human society and creation... Thirdly democracy and constitutionalism are rendered meaningless as democratic tools like elections and parliaments are used to install systems of governance that ensure the primacy of the global financial oligarchy... Fourthly and perhaps more significantly, vast numbers of the world's population have been excluded from the benefits of globalisation... globalisation is a theological challenge because of the Oikoumene clashes with the designs of globalisation."

Extract from a statement by the Reformed Church of France, made at the National Synod meeting in Lyon, 1-2 June 2000

"... to share the worries of the international ecumenical community with regard to the aggravation of the economic situation, as well as the health and social situations of the poorest countries... for a cancellation of a substantial part of the debt of the Third World Countries and a total cancellation of the debt of the poor countries which have the highest debts...to report to the French government this position and to appeal to the government to pursue the decision taken at Cairo, by at the same time putting the human beings in the centre by:

  • fighting against poverty;
  • cancellation of unbearable debts;
  • social financial engagement to promote the social development of everybody"

Extract from a letter from the National Council of Churches, Burundi, quoting the Declaration of the Coalition Nationale Jubile 2000/Burundi / 29 May 2000

"The debt in Burundi kills more than the war does, and is one of the sources of conflict in the country. The international debt of Burundi at the moment: is 1 ½ billion US dollars which is equal to the construction of 800 health centers, or 1000 schools or the annual salary of all civil servants in Burundi.

Recommendations:

a) To the credit giving countries

  • the cancellation of all the debt of Burundi as quickly as possible;
  • tax free financial transfers in favour of reconstruction and development;
  • the acceptance of a democratic economy to avoid the 'dictatorship of institutions such as WTO and World Bank' - meaning: the acceptance of an analysis of the Burundian context
    b) to the government:
  • to ally/link with the other partners ... especially the National Coalition 'Jubilee 2000'
    c) to the civil society
  • to show an interest in the problem of debt and its consequences for the population
  • to denounce the outflow of capital and the cases of misappropriation of funds"

Extract from a letter from the United Protestant Church of Belgium addressed to the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 5 June 2000

"Because of our ecumenical contacts with our partner churches in the whole world, we have learned what globalisation means to the Third World and how much it jeopardises their future. How can we as Christians in the wealthy West be in solidarity with those who ask our governments to take their responsibility seriously to change this situation?

We are increasingly convinced that the present consequences of the economy of the market are in contradiction with the very essence of our faith."

The text includes an appeal to support the Tobin tax.

Extract from a Declaration made by the synod of the Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine on June 18

"The Synod has adopted the WCC dossier 'There are alternatives to globalisation'... 'The Synod directs an appeal to the European Union not to base its cooperation with European countries and with other parts of the world solely on financial criteria according to a liberal economy, but to integrate into their politics the objective of sustainable societies: employment, external commerce, cooperation, development...' ... and a demand that the European Union orientate its politics towards the reduction of the gap between North and South and the division within Europe."