G20 and beyond: restless for justice

By Pascale Palmer
November 3, 2011

What a difference a day makes. I sketched out some lines to write on the way to the G20 in Cannes, buoyed up rather by the appearance of Dr Rowan Williams on the front page of the Financial Times on Wednesday.

This was the story of the Archbishop of Canterbury supporting a financial transaction tax, or Robin Hood tax that could raise substantial funds to support poor nations on development and climate change. What was more, was that this front page side bar was not just talking about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for the levy but the fact that he was aligning himself to a great extent to the recent report by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace on reforms to the financial systems.

Now it’s great that the concept of morality in the marketplace is getting a good show in one of the most influential newspapers in the UK and beyond, but what really made it important was that it was written by the FT’s political editor George Parker.

Now you might think, what difference does that make? – the BBC coverage of the same story was deftly analysed by their religious affairs editor – but the difference is the lens through which the media view the story and therefore offer it up to the influencers and general public. Taking it away from the narrower cordons of religion and into the political arena means the FT are saying it’s important in a different way – not just to those of faith, the faith pundits and religious bodies, but to the body politic. It speaks to a wider and different audience.

And elsewhere, although tinged with criticism, the mini-Independent i newspaper had a comment piece praising the ‘messy business’ that is religious ethics - writing in favour of the need to question, the need to keep the ethical debates raging, and the importance of religion’s place within that.

The article by Christina Patterson ended with a fantastic quote from a St Paul’s protestor describing the need for “a commitment to moral restlessness”, the need, he went on, to “never rest secure in the knowledge that you have, you know, nailed it”.

And for a moment, you know, I thought that the world had looked for an answer to some sprawling, tentacular problem and been both surprised and not, to find themselves agreeing with faith thinkers and thinking.

And then I watched Thursday’s unfurling of the Papandreou crisis talks and developments here at the G20 in Cannes, and it felt as though that rent in the fabric of global economic business as usual began to close again, shutting out that shaft of exciting light.

But when I looked closely, I saw that Thursday also brought the glimmer that the US might be softening its anti-FTT stance; the glint that despite no consensus on the issue thus far, France and Germany are still pushing, with Argentina and Brazil joining the FTT talks after the G20, and that South Africa may well be giving support, something Sarkozy has been waiting for.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.


© Pascale Palmer is Senior Policy Media Officer for CAFOD. www.cafod.org.uk

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