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World Council of Churches
Justice, Peace and Creation

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CH 1211 GENEVA 2

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Oral Statement presented to the Committee of the Whole of the
Special Session of the General Assembly on the Implementation of the Outcome
of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives
Geneva, 26-30 June 2000

Now Is The Time

I speak to you on behalf of the Ecumenical Team which is co-ordinated by the World Council of Churches. In partnership with many others, we have made the journey from Copenhagen in 1995 to Geneva 2000. We have arrived at a critical moment in the process of implementing the commitments made by the world's governments at Copenhagen. From our faith- based perspective, poverty eradication, full employment and social integration are fundamental. Our Jubilee vision includes sustainable, just and participatory communities and an interdependent world in which we share responsibility for one another.

We come to Geneva 2000 with a sense of profound disappointment. Efforts to implement the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action have neither reversed nor significantly improved the situation for millions of the world's people. In fact, the reality for many has dramatically worsened in spite of huge increases in wealth worldwide. In the past five years the few have continued to accumulate excessive wealth, while many still lack basic necessities and are constantly struggling to survive with human dignity and hope.

At this Special Session, we find the absence of a significant number of heads of states disturbing. Is this a sign that governments have abandoned their responsibilities? Does this reveal the extent to which the power of governments to act in the interests of their citizens has been usurped by the forces of globalization? Have governments been held hostage to market forces, and coerced into excluding social development from their central policy agendas?

People around the world are calling upon their governments and political leaders to stand up and to say "No!" - no to the imposition of globalization that allows markets to determine life and death for many; no to the privatization of goods and services necessary to sustain life; no to the illusion of "free" markets that lead to wealth concentration, weaken public accountability, and diminish social responsibility. Some significant voices in the global community are questioning a market system that widens the gap between rich and poor, disables democracy, undermines cultural diversity, and threatens biodiversity and the natural resources upon which life as we know and love it depends. People know the vital distinction between growth that nurtures just and sustainable communities, and growth that aggravates social inequity and environmental destruction.

Now is the time for people, their governments and the United Nations to claim a clear Jubilee vision and move boldly toward it, a vision of a global community whose interdependence is not reduced to trade and markets. This requires a change of heart, which recognizes that real value cannot be expressed in monetary terms, and that life in its many forms cannot be commodified. The economy should serve the well being of people, rather than people being servants of the economy. This moral vision upholds the right of all people - particularly those excluded - to participate in the economic realities that impact their lives. The ultimate aim of economic life is to nurture sustainable and just communities. Building such communities requires nothing less than profound moral courage and political action.

The urgency of the situation, and the Jubilee vision for sustainable and just communities leads us to call yet again for fundamental changes. We call for new financial institutions and systems that include the concerns and participation of developing countries in determining the direction of international financial institutions and trade regimes. We call for a stronger United Nations governance role through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in establishing policy and accountability of international monetary. financial. and trade institutions and monitoring their practices. We support the implementation of currency transaction taxes. We reiterate the need for binding codes of conducts for transnational corporations, and financial and investment institutions to insure they are held accountable and responsible for the social and ecological consequences of their operations. Governments need to fully support the legitimate role of non- governmental organizations and people's movements in planning, fostering, and monitoring social development. Finally, we repeat our fundamental opposition to proposals for an Enhanced HIPC initiative. Debt cancellation is a Jubilee imperative. The governments of the world must take political action to cancel the debt ...and do it now!

Now is the time for governments to recognize their fundamental responsibility for social development, and to take political action to honour the promises made at Copenhagen. Now is the time for the governments represented at Geneva 2000 to have a change of heart, commit themselves to true global solidarity I and dare to address the pressing social concerns of our time with courage and determination. Now is the time for the United Nations to be accorded -and to claim -its legitimate role in building a world in which social justice and the social development of all people is secured. Now is the time for an economics of life and a politics of hope. Those who depend on you to act can wait no longer!

The Ecumenical Team Geneva
26 June 2000

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