World Council of Churches

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

Staying engaged and looking ahead

22 March 2002

Presentation by Dr Molefe Tsele, General Secretary, South Africa Council of Churches / Ecumenical Team - to the Ministerial Roundtable of the UN International Conference on Financing for Development

18 - 22 March, 2002, Monterrey, Mexico

Preamble

I am delighted to address this Roundtable as it deliberates the post Monterrey path. As a South African, I am more delighted because the sign-post points you to your next destination which is Johannesburg, South Africa. Let me add my voice as a member of civil society that all of us in South Africa, from the townships of Soweto that have been theatres of the struggle for liberation, to the large rural reserves of former Bantustan Homelands, we are eagerly ready to receive you with our traditional warm welcome.

It is heartening for the UN to look ahead. As part of a continent that has withstood and experienced the worst human history has offered, we have every good reason to look ahead to a better era.

There was a time when many in the global community were threatening that the time had come for the UN to disengage, especially in matters of finance and trade. The message from Monterrey should be a loud and clear call for governments to stay engaged and take the process of development and poverty eradication to its logical conclusion.

We need to declare though that for us, staying engaged must be matched by meaningful accomplishments. We are not engaged for the sake of it, but because we believe this is the way to extricate our countries from their condition. To that end, this is what we urge the Committee to consider as seriously the following points as we begin the path from Monterrey to Soweto:

1. Not a Repeat of the Past:

We must seriously confront the reality that the past and its dogma of market liberalization has not succeeded in resolving the grave problem of poverty. We must master the courage to admit that the market and globalisation has failed more than two-thirds of the world population who live in poverty. Clearly we must break with the dominant logic of economic globalisation, wealth accumulation and unrestrained exploitation of the earth?s resources. The evidence which is impossible to hide any longer, is that we are now living with the legacy of unparalleled inequality between North and South, impoverishment, and deprivation of barest necessities of life and dignity.

As we cast our gaze ahead, we must work for another world, and an alternative model of globalization and economic system. It is in that context that we urge this International Conference to hear what we are saying loud and clear: we need a fundamental collective change of heart to steer the course for our survival as a global community. This demands an alternative vision which does not reduce global interdependence to trade and market.

2. Debt Cancellation as the basis for a new Future

Amongst some of the noble strategies of the Monterrey Consensus is the courage to tackle external debt of poor countries. We want to declare that for poor countries, there is nothing to look forward to as long as they have to live with the deadly effects of external debt. We can forget poor countries realizing the targets of the Millennium Declaration as long as they have to carry the burden of debt. Our call to the IMF and World Bank is to demonstrate their engagement in the struggle to eradicate poverty by endorsing the call for total and unconditional debt cancellation of poor developing countries. It is not enough to tinker with the margins of the problem by coming with flawed debt relief mechanisms such as HIPC, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, and now the so-called Fair and Transparent Arbitration framework. We need total and unconditional debt cancellation, period!

3. Africa Renewal Initiative

Distinguished members, there is something new and unique happening in Africa, and this is the New Africa Initiative. The New Africa Initiative is a commitment by African leaders that they can no longer continue to fail their people. They have come with an African driven, African owned and African lead renewal and development programme. We as civil society applaud our leaders for their courage. We have waited too long and wasted too many resources and valuable opportunities. We cannot allow this new pan African dream to fail. To that end, we want to caution our leaders never to built the success or failure of New Africa Recovery Plan on the support they receive from the donor countries. We call on them to do their homework at home amongst African people first. They must assess what they can generate from their people, poor as they may be. They must take their people seriously, sell the concept amongst them before they travel capitals of World parading project proposals for their dream. We are saying to our African leaders, the recovery of Africa is an African business. Work with us. We will determine when and how the donors will get involved. To that end, the New Partnership for Africa?s Recovery, NEPAD, is premature. It is a partnership with African leaders without African people. We urge the UN to support the promotion of NAI amongst African people.

Thank You

and we look forward to welcoming you to Soweto, Johannesburg.