Re-thinking economics and legal reform

London & Edinburgh, March 23, 2012: The Christian thinktank Ekklesia, which looks at how beliefs and values can reshape policy and action on public issues, is co-sponsoring an innovative conference on ‘alternative economics’ and has just published a briefing on the UK legal justice as it effects poor countries.

“The common issue here is how the practices of economy and law need to give priority to those in greatest need, rather than being monopolised by the interests and problems of the rich and powerful,” said Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.

“Calling wealth to account and defending legal justice for the excluded are two of the most insistent demands of the ancient Hebrew prophets,” he commented. “This tradition is explicitly picked up by Jesus, and is echoed in religious and non-religious movements for social change across the world. Governments and corporations should serve rather than push aside the needs of the many in a fractured world.”

On Saturday 24 March, Ekklesia is supporting and facilitating a major conference in Bristol entitled ‘The Eye of the Needle: Biblical Clues to a New Economy’. The keynote speakers will be Professor Ulrich Duchrow of Kairos Europa and professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Heidelberg, author of Alternatives to Capitalism and other books, along with Dr Molly Scott Cato, Director of the Cardiff Institute for Co-operative Studies and author of Green Economics.

The event – looking at the contribution of radical Christian faith to shaping a new post-financial crisis economic order – is sponsored jointly by the ecumenical Churches' Council for Industry and Social Responsibility, Ekklesia, and the Anglican Dioceses of Gloucester, Bristol, Bath and Wells, Salisbury, Exeter and Truro.

Ekklesia has also partnered with CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency, in putting out a briefing examining the global implications of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill currently going through the UK Parliament.

The Bill threatens to make it much harder for people in poor countries to seek justice in British courts for human rights breaches by UK multinationals. The briefing, prepared by CAFOD staff and others, explains the background to the issues. It looks at the current procedure and the nature of the changes being considered, and cites some specific cases which may be harmed by present proposals.

Amnesty International, CAFOD, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and Ekklesia are backing a social media initiative to gain support for amendments to the Bill, whch returns to the House of Lords on Tuesday 27 March 2012.

“Both the conference and the report are based on substantial research, the experience of people at the sharp end, and a values-driven, transformational approach to change,” explained Ekklesia’s Simon Barrow.

Notes to editors:

1. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia examines politics, values and beliefs in a changing world, from a Christian perspective in dialogue with others. More information here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/about

2. More on the conference ‘The Eye of the Needle: Biblical Clues to a New Economy’, from which further papers will follow: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16436

3. Read the research briefing 'Human rights litigation against UK-based multinationals' in full here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16447

4. A social media initiative to gain support for amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is happening through Twitter (hastag #CourtShort) and via a poll on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/soundoffjustice. For more information: http://soundoffforjustice.org/

5. Further comment: Simon Barrow (simon DOT barrow AT ekklesia DOT co DOT uk), 07850 120413 on both issues. The 'Eye of the Needle' economics conference: Simon Topping, Social Responsibility Officer,
ISR, simontoppingATccisrDOTorgDOTuk (07584 126240). The Legal Aid bill and people in poor countries seeking justice in British courts for human rights breaches by UK multinationals: Pascale Palmer, CAFOD Senior Media Officer - Policy and Campaigns, ppalmerATcafodDOTorgDOTuk (07785 950585).