Kairos logo Kairos Hearing 1994.


Concluding statements from a global perspective:

Bob Goudzwaard:
The concluding reflecting remarks of this morning will be made by Dr. Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, and Dr. Ulrich Duchrow.
Mr. Defraigne will be leaving in some minutes. So, I will already thank him for the contribution of this morning and the willingness to participate.
The word is to Dr. Konrad Raiser.

Konrad Raiser:
I have been invited to speak as general secretary of an international non-governmental organisation. I am also a citizen of the European Community and happen to be the first to speak after what we have just experienced. Therefore I ask for a point of personal privilege before saying what I had planned to say, because I was not prepared for what we just witnessed. As a citizen of the European Community, I am ashamed at the attitude of contempt and the refusal to enter into critical dialogue with partners of the South, and I am shocked at this example of a total lack of democratic culture in this house of the European Parliament; democratic culture for me means readiness to entertain dialogue with critical citizens. What we have seen, indeed, is that the European Commission is an institution of power. Citizens, citizens' groups, and NGOs are defined by having no power except the power of the critical word. We are here to exercise that power. And if that demonstration of critical power is so intimidating that a person who has been invited to respond leaves, then I wonder what the source of power of the European Community is. That was my point of personal privilege.
The key point in this morning's agenda was the question of sustainable development. At least that was my understanding. I think we would not talk about sustainable development socially and environmentally sustainable development we would not have had numerous UN-sponsored international conferences and voluminous reports about paths towards sustainable development, if the present situation were sustainable. I think we have received ample witness, very telling witness which supplements what all of us can read in the statistics provided by the respective reports that the present situation is non-sustainable; neither socially, humanly sustainable nor environmentally sustainable. I will not go into quoting all the statistical figures again. But we probably need to continue the critical dialogue about which reality we talk about. Do we talk about the reality that is shown in the figures of the gross national product is that the reality? Or do we talk about the reality that the vast majority of people experience? I see most of the people in this room coming out of the work with people in every-day-life-situations. That is their legitimation, not some kind of supposedly alternative ideology. Having to deal with the every-day-life-situation of people, that is very difficult to capture in statistics, but sometimes it even enters the reports of international organisations. That is the only credibility which most of the NGOs and civic groups have and that credibility they should not allow being taken away from them.
If there is evidence that the present situation, in terms of the global economic and financial system is non-sustainable, then, of course, the question needs to be pursued further: What are the principle causes for that? I will not enter into a long analysis of this. It is my personal belief and this belief is based partly on the institutional experience in the World Council of Churches, partly on the careful study of the available documentation, that there are two basic causes. One is the economistic paradigm of development that is still being pursued as the only path for development, and secondly the increasing de-regulation of the financial and capital markets. If that is at least the beginning of an analysis it cannot pretend to be an analysis, I put these as theses then I think the demand that there be some basic change to the system should at least be entertained as a reasonable demand.
Part of the system are the Bretton Woods institutions. The evidence points to the fact that the policies pursued by the BW institutions in terms of development do not only produce non-sustainable situations but they are not even sustainable in terms of the criteria, the stated policy, aims and purposes of the BW institutions certainly not the aims and purposes for which these institutions were once created 50 years ago. It is worthwhile to look into the history and the origin of these institutions and what has become of them. We see that these institutions more and more have become instruments to serve the interests of the powerful, certainly the interest of the economically and financially powerful countries of the North. More and more the real decision making has moved to the Group of Seven, and basically we have seen a marginalisation of what was originally meant to be the centrepiece of the whole structure of global governance, namely the United Nations. If these observations can command any credibility, then we have to ask what re-direction is possible. I believe that after the end of the cold war which had created a situation of confrontational dogmatism also in terms of economic and financial management, globally, we can start a process of critical re-assessment without necessarily getting stuck in the ideological confrontation. We certainly need more effective forms and instruments of global governance. But the sometimes almost exclusive focus on the global level of re-orientation and re-structuring can become a trap. And I think we have received some indication of the trap already in the witnesses this morning. It could be a trap, both, socially and ecologically. Therefore while the discussion about a re-organisation and a re-direction of the institutions of global governance is certainly needed, what we need just as much is all the efforts to re-establish viable ecologically and humanly sustainable communities at local and national levels. All the evidence points to the fact that alternatives will grow from below and will only grow if the people are allowed to formulate their own projects for development.
I come back to the question of global governance first and then end up with a few remarks on viable and sustainable communities.
As far as global governance and the respective institutional arrangements are concerned we have a wide spectrum of proposals: The most, the farthest developed among these are probably the proposals of the UNDP, the United Nations Developing Programme, first formulated in the report of 1992, now further developed in the reports of 1993 and 1994 which go into fair detail and do in fact pick up some of the original intentions that were behind the establishment of the BW institutions. All of this is printed and available, and therefore I do not need to go into any of the details. There will have to be further discussion about the feasibility and viability of these proposals but to call them utterly non-realistic I think is a perfectly non-realistic stance for a political official.
(applause)

Two of the immediate priorities will be to watch carefully the further implementation of the final resolutions of the Uruguay Round regarding the setting up of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). So far we only have the framework and a lot needs to be filled in into this framework, and a lot possibly can still be achieved in getting the beginning of a re-direction and not simply to allow the trinity of the BW organisations to be completed. At least the weighting of voting rights has been overcome in the WTO. The same, I think, needs to be said with regard to the Global Environmental Facility that is nearing the end of its first mandate. The discussions about the re-shaping of this facility are under way, and a lot could be done learning from the experiences and the failures of the first mandate period to enter more critically into the second mandate. A final element at the level of global governance is certainly the proposal to take the question of debt and the legitimacy of debt to some form of international tribunal or to the International Court of Justice. I think the case has convincingly been made, it only needs the political will to respond to the case. We do have the international instruments to deal with the questions. In all our national legislations we do have the respective instrumentalities to deal with fraudulent credit and debt. And therefore it is a matter of urgency to clarify this question of legitimacy of international debt which has been on the table and on the agenda since 10 years at least.
Finally, regarding viable and sustainable communities: The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a NGO including more than 320 churches around the world. Churches usually are closer to the people than to global structures. And therefore I find it important for the WCC to join forces even more clearly than so far with all those groups of civil society and with NGOs a very impressive example was given of the Bretton Woods Reform Organisation in formulating fostering alternatives that are a genuine expression of the aspirations to people. The whole approach in the direction of alternative structural adjustment programmes is something that we will have to take further also in the international church discussion. The churches do have a few areas of genuine experience of their own. The Ecumenical Cooperative Development Society (EDCS) is a model of a new form of conditionality that you could call an alternative conditionality which respects the call for democratisation and which respects the basic call for social sustainability. Certainly, the investment in human capital, in human productivity and efficiency should become more and more the priority over against the investment in resources capital and in capital productivity and efficiency. These are criteria that have been emphasized in the respective discussions among the churches and have been formulated in submissions to the governmental panels from several member churches including member churches in the EU. So we need to continue the critical dialogue within the EU, and some of this will take place this afternoon.
(applause)

Bob Goudzwaard:
Ulrich Duchrow, please.

Ulrich Duchrow:
After what the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches said to what we experienced I don't want to make but one little comment: I also wonder why not only the proposals of the UNDP, that we put forward, but also of the European Parliament were regarded as irrealistic. And we would probably, then, try to take up the question again with Mr. Pooley personally because I wonder about the cooperation between the Parliament and the Commission on these issues as well.
(applause)

The second point is to the architecture of the hearing this morning: I wanted to state clearly that nobody of us, neither in writing nor orally, has challenged the personal integrity of those who engage for development work. The real issue put forward this morning is that, while the EU and we in our national contexts are doing those efforts in development, every year it gets worse, and the question is why. And therefore we have asked you to include into the questions of development and North-South-relations a critical analysis of the global economic and particularly the financial systems that are creating that bigger and bigger gap which we can't cope with by purely development efforts. And so, therefore, this is the key which we wanted to bring out today.
And the third little remark is that, of course, we also know that not even you in the Commission, not to speak of the Parliament, have the power to really address at the present moment the question of the international financial and monetary system, because, indeed, the 12 national governments of the union together with the US government and the Japanese government have major responsibility, and that we can assure you at this point in parenthesis and I particularly thank you, Mr. Defraigne, that you have personally invested a lot in order to invite Mr. Maystatt here for our hearing as a representative of the European Council of Ministers as a finance minister and a governor in the IMF which had not in that case been possible because of particular reasons, but in general we were not able to find a responsible counterpart in the European Council of Ministers on these issues, while at the same time there are structures who prepare for the monetary union. And in that moment Europe will be coresponsible, as you yourself indicated, for the international financial and monetary system, but these committees, e.g. the Committee on Monetarian Affairs, not the Parliamentarian one, but the Council's one, they are not at all in the public exposing the proposals they are developing. So at the end there will be a decision by 12 governments but no participation of the population of Europe, not to speak about the South or the East has been triggered in order to have a common dialogue on this terribly important questions, what the EU will do when there will be a monetary union. That is completely behind the closed door. And that is, although we cannot expose it right now in a dialogue, we have to simply say that and raise that question publicly and also educate the voters that they vote in governments who publicly discuss these life-and-death-issues not only for the South but, and that will be the theme for this afternoon, also for our own people in Europe.
Thank you.
(applause)


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