Viable alternatives to the international financial architecture responsible for the current global financial and economical crises will be among the topics explored by members of a World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation at this year's World Social Forum.
Taking place 27 January to 1 February 2009 in Belem, Brazil, the ninth World Social Forum (WSF) will gather some 80,000 participants from civil society organizations from all over the world, according to its organizers. Under the emblematic motto "Another World is Possible," the WSF is the main manifestation of the "alter-globalization" movement, which seeks to promote alternative, value-based forms of international integration.
Out of a long-standing tradition of monitoring with a critical eye the evolution and consequences of economic globalization, and in view of the recent global financial meltdown, the WCC and its ecumenical partners participating at the WSF seek to think outside the box and propose viable ways to reform the global financial architecture.
"From a Christian perspective there is no system so sacred that it could not be changed," says Dr Rogate Mshana, WCC executive for Poverty, Wealth and Ecology. How could today's global finances be changed will be the subject of a number of ecumenically-sponsored workshops and seminaries within the WSF programme (for details see media contact below).
As in previous occasions, the WSF includes a strong participation of church and ecumenical organizations. An Ecumenical Tent and an Interreligious Chapel, as well as a series of workshops are amongst the contributions of the churches to the WSF. A World Forum on Theology and Liberation focused on developing a theology for the "sustainability of life on earth" took place in Belem from 21 to 25 January, ahead of the WSF.
Taking place in the city of Belem, the entry gate to the Amazon, this year's WSF calls attention to environmental issues. A second focus of WCC's participation will be centered on the concept of "ecological debt".
Ecological debt is a two-fold concept. On the one hand it refers to the fact that people's consumption of natural resources exceeds the earth's ability to supply resources and absorb the demands placed upon it. By living beyond its environmental means, humankind is "borrowing" from nature and therefore running up ecological debts.
In a more restricted sense, the concept refers to the fact that if every individual is inherently entitled to an equal share of the earth's resources, wealthy nations that use up far more than their fair share of these – including the global atmosphere – are running up huge ecological debts to poor nations.
In workshops and seminaries, ecumenical participants at the WSF will explore issues of eco-justice and ecological debt, with a particular emphasis on the role of churches in promoting eco-justice and advocating for the recognition of ecological debt.