The massive tragedies provoked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have pushed all other news to the margins. But urgent challenges remain:
- climate change – extreme weather events will only increase (even as some politicians demand more oil and gas production)
- vaccine apartheid – the global North continues to hog the means to stop the spread, while ignoring risks posed by new variants
- debt-loads sustained by the most impoverished countries have risen as health and other emergency costs increased
This week, civil society organizations around the world are calling for renewed conversation about Financing for Development (FfD). For all of its flaws (including the Security Council veto held by each of the 1945-era global powers), the United Nations is still a space where on some topics at least, countries can gather as equals.
In the face of the power accrued to international financial institutions (IFIs, including the World Bank), developing countries and civil society organizations are demanding a fourth global conference, sometimes referring to “FfD4.”
“The FfD process is unique, as it is the only truly democratic space where global economic governance is addressed, while having the issues of climate change, inequalities and human rights at its core,” say the organizations pressing for a new global conference.
“FfD4 should ensure democratization of global economic governance, recognizing the right of every country to be at the decision-making table, and not only those with concentrated power or resources.”
“Globalizing the Fullness of Life”
Twenty years ago, in Monterrey, Mexico, the first International Conference on Financing for Development happened in Monterrey, Mexico.
Concerned that whatever goals we had for the “development of peoples” (a phrase offered by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Populorum Progressio in 1967) were being sacrificed by corporate-led globalization, I attended an ecumenical pre-event that was organized by the Council of Latin American Churches (CLAI). Some participants stayed on for the UN event.
My own presentation focused on good experiences I had had in Canada and Mexico of church collaboration in ecumenical and multi-sector coalitions, encouraging participants to join with others beyond their Protestant churches to achieve goals of economic justice.Our closing declaration said participants were motivated to speak out because:
“Poverty, exclusion, misery, unemployment, underemployment, labour instability, the bankruptcy of small and medium-sized businesses, and the deterioration of the environment, have reached an unsustainable limit.”
We then affirmed several proposals and ethical principles:
- The market must not define the life projects of our countries.
- All economic growth must have the objective of improving the conditions of all of all of society, without exclusions.
- Globalization must be regulated with clear and just rules. This implies:
- Strengthening participatory democracy in decision-making.
- Creating mechanisms for control and arbitration at the national level that promote codes of conduct to regulate investments, capital flows and loans.
- Creating an international arbitration agency and mechanisms for the cancellation of foreign debt.
- Reforming the international financial architecture, transforming its institutions and revising its mandates, methodologies and decision-making processes.
- The urgent need to cancel the debt of our peoples, so as to provide sustainable social development. But we firmly sustain that the roots of the debt be investigated, and that the creditors and debtors in the North and in the South who irresponsibly contracted these debts be made to pay them.
- The need to amplify the access to information and technology by our developing countries.
Our declaration closed with a call on “the powers of this world” to “place the market and the international financial system at the service of all people.” We added: “We affirm that the Reign of God is justice and that the blessing of the creator will be with those who hear the cry of the people.”