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NGO Documents for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development 8th Session, 2000

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An Expression of Concern on Finance, Trade and Investment Issues
Prepared by the Ecumenical Team of the World Council of Churches for the
8th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development

24 April -5 May 2000

Ethical Context

The challenge before us is to reverse the impact of a growth-driven development model that has brought about the worst environmental crisis and world poverty that we have ever witnessed and experienced.

The enormity of the task and the urgency of the situation call upon us to challenge our prevailing notion of development that puts more value on material wealth than people. We believe that the relentless pursuit of this type of development is not sustainable, and that ecological sustainability without social justice has no meaning. Rather, the focus should be that of ensuring a good quality of life for all people within a healthy environment.

The Ecumenical Team proposes that we work toward the building of sustainable communities. Our concept of sustainable communities requires a just and moral economy where people are empowered to participate in decisions affecting their lives, where public and private institutions are held accountable for the social and environmental consequences of their operations, and where the earth is nurtured rather than exploited and degraded. We speak increasingly of sustainable communities because it implies the nurturing of equitable relationships both within the human family and also between humans and the rest of the ecological community .We speak of justice within the whole of God's creation.

Our focus on sustainable communities necessarily leads us to a serious critique of the current trends toward economic globalization, including a concentration of power in the hands of a minority , the widening gap between the rich and the poor, regional and global threats to the environment, and a weakening of political institutions and their legitimacy at the national and international level. We are particularly concerned about the impacts of economic globalization on the most vulnerable, including Indigenous Peoples, women and children. Within this ethical context, we would like to address issues related to CSD8 agenda items on Finance, Trade and Investment.

Finance

On Debt Cancellation: The CSD should encourage the cancellation of 100% of the debts (both bilateral and multilateral) of Africa and the least developed countries without Structural Adjustment conditions attached, along with a process for the comprehensive write-down of middle-income country debts.

The CSD must call for a deeper, faster, broader debt relief and cancellation processes that encompass:

an effective, equitable, development-oriented, and durable debt relief and management strategy;
breaking the link between debt cancellation and conditionalities;
developing an international lending-borrowing mechanism which involves civil society in the process of debt relief and the prevention of future debt crises.

On Official Development Assistance: We reiterate the NGO caucus' call for the CSD to require governments to reaffirm commitments to 0.7% GNP or a substantially higher percentage for ODA, and to agree on target dates. There is also a need to ensure that ODA will go to the financing of sustainable development efforts and activities, and that a proper monitoring system is in place to track ODA financing for sustainable development.

Trade

We call on the CSD to help correct the imbalances and inequities in the world trading system. Because of these historic inequities, special and differential treatment needs to be accorded to developing countries with regards to agricultural subsidies. Subsidies for agricultural products need to be reduced in developed countries, in order to increase market access for products from developing countries. Conversely, developing countries may need to implement or increase agricultural subsidies in order to offset low commodity prices and dumping of developed country products in their countries. Developing countries should not be pressured to further open their markets to import food products, and should be encouraged to implement policies which support food production for the local market, with particular focus on small farmers.

Investment

On Foreign Direct Investments: Not all Foreign Direct Investments contribute to sustainable communities. In many cases, activities and operations of transnational corporations in developing countries have contributed to the degradation of the environment, and have resulted in the displacement of local communities and Indigenous Peoples. We therefore call for a shift from voluntary initiatives to binding codes of conduct in order for Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and Financial Investment Institutions to effectively fulfil their social responsibilities.

On Portfolio Investments and Currency Transaction Tax: Unfettered capital flows and excessive financial speculation are directly linked to the impoverishment, unemployment and social exclusion of millions of innocent people. We call on the CSD to work toward the establishment of a new global financial architecture, which will effectively curb excessive financial speculation and make resources available for poverty eradication and supporting sustainable communities .

Specifically, we urge the CSD to call for a Currency Transaction Tax, or a tax on international currency trades, that would discourage excessive speculation on world money markets, promote greater financial stability and could raise much needed revenue for our communities.

Alternative Models

In our search for alternatives, we only need to learn from the experiences of Indigenous Peoples to realize that there are in fact existing models of sustainable communities. Unfortunately, economic globalization is seriously undermining the ability of indigenous peoples to continue living their sustainable practices and lifestyles, just as colonisation has, in the past, jeopardised these same practices and lifestyles. Perhaps the best proof of their sustainability , despite colonisation and re-colonisation, is that they have survived and persisted until now.

Change of Heart

We reiterate our vision for an alternative global community whose interdependence is not reduced to trade and markets. We call for a change of heart which recognizes that real value cannot be expressed in monetary terms; that life- and all that is essential to sustain it -cannot be commodified. The role of the economy is to serve people and communities, and to preserve the health of the earth. We affirm our common destiny as co-inhabitants of the one earth for which we all share responsibility and from which we should all equitably benefit. A moral vision calls for the full participation of diverse communities of poor and powerless people in the economic, social and political decisions which affect them. The aim of economic life should be to nurture sustainable, just and participatory communities. Building such communities will require nothing less than profound moral courage and the willingness to be open to new ways of living and working together .

1 May 2000, Ecumenical Team

 

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