World Council of Churches

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

WCC statement on the "Monterrey Consensus Document"

22 March 2002

to be adopted at the International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD)
Monterrey, Mexico, 18-22 March 2002
Critique of the Monterrey Consensus Document

Financing cannot and must not be seen to be an end in itself. It must focus on people-centered development. But this is a concept which has been pushed to the margins of the FfD process. We should not forget that we live in a world in which the powerful 20% of the world?s population consumes more than 83% of the global income; a world rife with conflicts, most with poverty at their root; a world characterized by economic inequity and competition for the control of resources.

The Monterrey Consensus Document offers too little to such a world. It is not explicit either on control of financial markets or on the promotion of equity and human rights as factors in world trade. There is not even an explicit time frame to meet the commitments set out in the document. We believe that this is what this world expects from the nations and global economic institutions related to financing for development.

It is also evident that the drastic financial liberalization, that has so significantly shaped the results of the FfD process, harms developing countries rather than benefits them. Contrary to the views of those whose ideas have influenced the FfD process, it exposes economies with weak financial infrastructures, to the speculative forces of world financial markets, shaking their socio-economic integrity to breaking point. It is the sovereign right of each nation to take discretionary capital control measures whenever necessary. It is the duty of every nation to promote the common goal of economic prosperity for all and to work to re-shape the future agendas of the International Financial Institutions in such a way as to prevent policy discussions from unilateralism when it comes to capital flows and investment.

Are not the lessons drawn from the financial crisis in Asia and the virtual social, political and economic collapse of Argentina not enough to demonstrate the failure of conventional economic models which ignore the development of the people in favour of the growth of financial capital?

The instrument of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) under the HIPC programme, has failed to solve the financial problems of the Highly Indebted Countries because it is tied Structural Adjustment programmes (SAPs) which shift resources from the poor to the rich, nationally and globally. The WCC flatly rejects such economic models as being contrary to the notion of economic equity sought by Christians.

The Monterrey Consensus Document is notably uncritical especially of the neo-liberal economic model. This model holds out no real hope for eliminating or even reducing poverty, but rather continues to exacerbate it. It increases inequality and excludes communities around the world. This model was neither critiqued during the FfD preparation process nor mentioned in the final document. We are concerned that a United Nations conference will again be dominated by the neo-liberal economic policies of the World Trade Organization, The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The policies of these institutions have not changed significantly from those our general secretary, Rev Dr Konrad Raiser, criticised in his open letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan, at the time of the World Summit on Social Development in June 2000. They have failed to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor or to achieve greater equality. Instead they have contributed to widening the gap to the virtual exclusion of an increasing number of people languishing in poverty, to widespread social disintegration and, by condoning economic crimes and contributing to wars, pose a present threat to peace and international security.

Tangible Commitments and Actions

We have all witnessed how the declarations pile up year after year without serious implementation. Like so many others the Monterrey Consensus Document does not propose any binding obligations. This leads us to the question about which, if any, countries actually intend to implement the six areas outlined for financing for development. We hope our doubts are unfounded, and that states will declare their intention to implement to the full these minimal norms. This will not be considered enough by people in poverty throughout the world. Thus we urge the UN to undertake a critical review of the neo-liberal economic paradigm and to attend to the following three major points:

  • The elimination of structural inequalities in the global trading system and the establishment of mutuality, transparency and public participation in future negotiations.
  • Pursuit of a permanent solution to the debt problem both for poor countries and middle-income countries starting with an immediate cancellation of the external debt of poor countries and setting up, under UN auspices, an independent and fair debt arbitration mechanism for current and future loans which will promote ethical lending and borrowing policies.
  • Strengthen the UN's role in the fields of global economic, finance, trade and social policy through strengthening the capacity of ECOSOC and UNCTAD to deal effectively with these issues.

The WCC advocates a people-centred approach

The WCC has, for almost all of the 54 years of its existence, emphasized both the importance of global justice and equitable sharing of resources as essential prerequisites for human development. The WCC has also advocated appropriate public and non-governmental policies which will be of real benefit to people in poverty. In keeping with that tradition, the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), together with other churches and church-related organizations, have cooperated as an Ecumenical Team to follow the preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, 18-22 March 2002. Other organizations which have joined the WCC on the Ecumenical Team include The Latin American Council of Churches, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church (USA), the United Church of Christ (USA), the Sisters of Mercy, the International Shinto Foundation and the Anglican Communion.

Based on a document entitled, "Justice: The Heart of the Matter - An Ecumenical Approach to Financing for Development", the Ecumenical Team has taken up the six areas identified by the UN Member States and the UN Secretariat as critical in financing for development.

Real value, in the final instance, cannot be expressed in monetary terms. Life, and that which is essential to sustain it, cannot be commodified. We firmly believe, and re-iterate now, that a people-centred approach to financing for development is essential to "remake the world" into a place where no one is excluded, no one deprived of their social power to participate in decisions related to their lives.

The WCC will stay engaged to that end, working with all those who share such a goal. We hope that the "change of heart" for which our ecumenical teams have been calling over these past years, will happen for some in the Monterrey Conference and that we can join hands together for th sake of life, of human dignity and for the human security that justice alone can provide.