World Council of Churches

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

The time to act is now!

01 June 2000

GENEVA 2000 and BEYOND

Continuing concerns of the ecumenical team
June, 2000

The immense and complex problems confronting the global human community require a fresh vision and a change of heart. We call for an alternative vision of a global community whose interdependence is not reduced to trade and markets...We call for a change of heart which recognizes that real value cannot be expressed in monetary terms and that life - and that which is essential to sustain it - cannot be commodified. The role of the economy is to serve people, communities, and the health of the earth. A moral vision calls for economic actors to be accountable to poor and marginalized people and for the voices that have been excluded and neglected to be lifted up. The aim of economic life should be to nurture sustainable, just and participatory communities. Building such communities will require nothing less than profound moral courage and the willingness to be open to new ways of living and working together.

The time to act is now. The world's people can wait no longer.

We address our concerns to delegates of member states, representatives of the UN family, as well as civil society as a whole.

Enabling environment 

Economies should function within a framework of community-based spiritual and ethical values. An enabling environment is one in which economic, social and political measures give priority to creating the basic conditions for a dignified life for all.

The framework for global governance should adhere to the fundamental principles of human rights and full and effective democratic participation, and provide for transparent and accountable processes.

  • We call for the full realization of the relevant international Human Rights instruments and declarations.
  • We call for a stronger UN governance role, specifically through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in exercising its overarching role of establishing the policy and accountability and monitoring the practice of the international monetary, financial and trade institutions.  

The consensus is growing that unbridled capital flows and excessive financial speculation, promoted by the dominant neo-liberal ideology, are directly linked to the impoverishment, unemployment and social exclusion of millions of people. We strongly affirm the initiatives already taken within the UN system to establish a new global financial architecture, specifically the Financing for Development process, which, among other things, seeks to enhance coherence and consistency in support of poverty eradication and development.

Elements of that architecture to be seriously considered include such measures as:

  • a currency transaction tax;
  • the abolition of tax havens; and
  • mechanisms to curb the growing phenomenon of corporate tax avoidance and ‘evasion'.

The crushing burden of international external debt has undermined government capacity to provide and ensure even a minimum of resources for social development. The immediate and full cancellation of this debt is today's moral imperative. We call on creditors to "Drop the Debt - Do it Now!"

Fundamental public policy decision-making needs to remain firmly in the hands of the people through authentic democratic participatory processes; including provision of transparent and accountable processes for the corporate and finance sectors. We call for the development of mechanisms within the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies and ECOSOC to deal with violations of agreed international norms and human rights by Transnational Corporations.

Poverty eradication

Corporate social responsibility should be increased through the development of social and ecological guidelines and benchmarks for business performance, including independent monitoring and reporting. We call for a shift from voluntary to binding codes of conduct for Transnational Corporations (TNCs), Financial and Investment Institutions.

We strongly endorse all efforts which enable and support local, national and regional initiatives working on/with alternatives to the dominant economic model, e.g. new forms of organizing production, fair trade, alternative banking and micro credit, and other financial schemes designed to assist the poor. At the same time we endorse all efforts to curb exorbitant consumption patterns, especially in industrialized countries.

The end of war and conflict and the prevention of further violence is a necessary precondition for sustainable social development. We call for rededicated efforts to redirect resources used for destruction, toward creating a culture of peace.

There is an urgent need to ensure an effective and responsible role for both the mainstream and the alternative media in efforts to bring about the global redistribution of wealth and power.

Efforts to eliminate poverty should be focused on the just and sustainable creation and (re)distribution of wealth, not solely assistance to the poor.

There is a need to distinguish between growth that fosters more just and sustainable communities, (local, regional, national and international,) and growth that aggravates social inequality and disintegration, and damage to the environment. The quality of growth, and equitable access to its benefits, are as important as the quantity of growth.

It is common knowledge that the resources are now available to virtually eradicate poverty in our world. What is required is a change of heart and the political will to equitably distribute wealth along with the financial commitment to do so. We shall continue to remind governments of the growing public unease about the lack of action, and uncritical reliance on global market forces. We will continue to build social solidarity with all those victimized by the increasingly monolithic system of globalization, both in the North and in the South.

The forces of unfettered and unprecedented wealth creation for the few have unleashed forces of impoverishment on millions. In fact, the operation of this model, which puts profit - and not life - at the center of development, has been one of the main causes of growing inequities at both national and international levels, and has worsened the conditions of impoverishment and social exclusion. We call for a global priority of sharing opportunities for all to participate in reversing the trend and in creating wealth that sustains community.

Economic strategies should fit the context for which they are intended, and a single one should not be imposed on all countries by international financial institutions. Different strategies are required for different groups. Whereas policies for poverty eradication in urban areas may be focused around employment, policies for rural areas need to protect the subsistence economies of poor people, which ensure their food security; policies for Indigenous Peoples should be based on access to land and territories and resources on ancestral domains.

Poverty eradication measures must place a high priority on food security, which requires respecting and maintaining biodiversity, prioritizing production for domestic consumption over production for the export market.

We call on all member states to recognize and support the key role of governments in eradicating poverty, and to protect the rights of national governments to adopt trade regulations over foreign investment and corporate activity, in order to secure the well-being of their people and protection of the environment. Governments should uphold and implement the 1974 UN Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, which states that all nations have the "inalienable right to regulate and exercise authority over foreign investment", and that states have the right and responsibility to "regulate and supervise the activities of transnational corporations."

Social integration 

We call for the prompt, universal ratification, and integration into existing national legal frameworks and institutional arrangements of UN and other international instruments protecting the rights of refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and migrants.

We urge the full and active participation of all governments in the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance scheduled for 2001, in South Africa, and emphasize the need to develop practical measures to address and eradicate racism.

We continue to call on governments and civil society to create and support programs and national and international negotiations of frameworks for the prevention and eradication of all forms of violence.

We urge greater integration of the Women 2000 and the Geneva 2000 processes, to ensure the consistency of a gender-sensitive social and economic development framework, and mutual reinforcement and enhancement of the cross-cutting issues.

We call for the enactment of policies and regulations to protect Indigenous Peoples' rights over their land, territories, intellectual property and natural sources of livelihood, to ensure that they are not subject to forced migration, displacement, alienation or denial of access to their land. We also encourage policies to ensure Indigenous Peoples' food security and universal access to primary education and primary health care. We call for the creation and adoption of legislation to prevent the commercialization of traditional knowledge and genetic resources, especially human genes.

We support the implementation of the stated principle of "partnership in action" of the UN Decade of the World's Indigenous People by urging: