New financial system needed to curb greed, say theologians and economists

By agency reporter
8 Oct 2012

Theologians, anti-poverty advocates and economists meeting in Brazil to develop principles for a new global economic system have issued a declaration naming over-consumption and greed as key factors to be addressed in seeking a more just distribution of the world’s resources.

The statement was issued Friday at the conclusion of the 'Global Ecumenical Conference on a New Economic and Financial Architecture' in Guarulhos, a suburb of São Paulo.

Sixty delegates met from 29 September to 5 October 2012 at the conference organized by the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in partnership with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Council for World Mission (CWM).

Social inclusion, gender justice, care for the environment and concrete actions to overcome greed are named as criteria for a new economic and financial architecture.

“Governments and international institutions should replace GDP growth as the primary indicator of economic progress by other indicators, including growth of decent work, indicators of quality as well as quantity of health and education, and measures of environmental sustainability,” reads the document.

The statement recommends a series of actions including the formation of an ecumenical school of governance, economics and management and setting up a global commission initiated by the ecumenical movement to forward the work of the Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, chaired by Professor Joseph Stiglitz.

The affirmation of communication rights to advance the empowerment of communities in developing alternatives to the current financial and economic structures was among the proposed list of actions.

Omega Bula of the United Church of Canada, who moderated the drafting group, says the importance of the statement is that it offers clear alternatives to current models.

“It is critical to have something to work with,” she said. “Often we are challenged when we just criticise something and we are asked what we think should be done. So this meeting is critical in providing these alternatives.”

The WCC’s Dr Rogate Mshana said, “The most striking proposals that need to be followed up by an ecumenical panel include … replacing the International Monetary Fund with a new democratic International Monetary Organisation and an alternative international reserve currency.”

Mshana heads the global church council’s programme on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology.

CWM General Secretary, the Rev Dr Collin I. Cowan, stressed the diversity of disciplines present at the conference and the consensus reached. “The outcomes of this conference suggest that there is enough goodwill and courage among us to participate in a process to right the wrongs of a society gone mad with injustice in the economy and the earth.”

WCC Central Committee moderator, the Rev Dr Walter Altmann, added: “There is common ground for people and churches from the South and the North precisely because the financial crisis has shown a dynamics that has affected people everywhere deeply in their life conditions.”

Pamela Brubaker, professor emeritus of religion at California Lutheran University in the United States, is inspired by the final document.

“We have a prophetic document that is deeply rooted in our ecumenical understanding of the Christian faith. We have put together all our perspectives towards an economy of life of all,” Brubaker said.

“I want you to see this day as a beginning of a new era of action,” the General Secretary of the WCRC, Setri Nyomi, declared at the close of the conference.

“I hope that the commitment that we did come up with will be the beginning step towards an economy that serves life rather than what the world has used so far,” he added.

[Ekk/3]

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