Consultation Facuing up to Globalisation

10. 3. 2005 - DOCUMENT
A. CONFERENCE STATEMENT 1. Introduction The ecumenical movement has been responding to the challenge of globalisation through a process of consultations in different regions. Two of these have been in Europe – in Budapest, 2002 for churches from central and eastern Europe and in Soesterberg, 2003 for western Europe. The first pan-European consultation on globalisation was held 28th February – 6th March in Prague. The participants came from all regions of Europe and from churches, local initiatives, universities and social movements. All the main confessional families were represented in the dialogue about how to face up to globalisation. The aim was not to repeat the critique of globalisation but rather to contribute to the building up of hopeful alternatives. The consultation was organised by the Ecumenical Academy - Prague and the Work and Economy Research Network in the European Churches in conjunction with the Conference of European Churches. 2. Process & Method The consultation started with encountering the impact of globalisation through intensive visiting programmes. These explored the issues and alternatives developed in cities in relation to migration and social exclusion and in rural communities related to the production and distribution of food. These visits provided a strong background to the consultation, where the main work was carried out in structured workshops on the following themes:  Food, Agriculture and Rural Life  Work, Income and Time  Social and Economic Rights  Trade Markets: Local and Global Alternatives  Multinational Corporations and Economic Democracy The programme also included a keynote speech on alternatives. This encouraged the participants to engage with the political strategies that support hopeful alternatives and emphasised the significance of local and regional economic and social initiatives. A theological panel provided an impulse to consider the motivation for action, personally and by the churches. The theological critique of the economy and the contribution of different actors to alternatives - persons as well as churches and civil society at different levels - were also addressed. The consultation was accompanied by a creative workshop in which participants were able to respond to the theme in refreshing ways. The consultation was an exercise in ‘learning by difference’. The need to combine different experiences and positions is very important to developing creative alternatives. The dialogue between participants who emphasised structural political change and those committed to local action was a very important element. The creative possibilities that come from churches working together with civil society were emphasised not only for pragmatic reasons but also because of the need for mutual learning. 3. Motivation The search for alternatives to globalisation on the present model has its roots in personal experience. For many people and communities, alternatives are growing up which go beyond the survival strategies in the extreme situations of poverty and hunger. For others it comes from the encounter with the people and communities that are impacted most negatively. But it was also emphasised that the building of alternatives to the present globalisation gives positive meaning to personal and community life. The recovery of solidarity and processes of learning are important elements of creative alternatives. The motivation to search for alternatives is also grounded in the Christian faith and tradition, which witnesses to the imperative for Christians to respond to poverty and the destruction of human dignity and community which accompanies economic globalisation. The consultation explored the understandings of economy in the Bible and the Christian tradition. This clearly points out that unchecked economic activity results in growing inequality, poverty and immiseration. The need for constant intervention to address these negative consequences and to support a different, more realistic approach to economic life is a strong motivation for Christians and churches. These interventions should be in the direction of global justice and sustainable community, understood in the broadest sense to include humans and the whole of creation. 4. Alternatives The starting point for the reflection on alternatives is the need to recover the confidence that action can make a difference. One of the impacts of globalisation discourse is to sap the confidence of people that there are possibilities to work for change. This is a process of dehumanisation that has to be countered. The consultation was a lively demonstration of the variety and dynamism of alternatives that are growing up in both rural and urban contexts. The creation of alternatives is also a demonstration of different values in action. For example, the globalising economy tends towards commodification of more and more aspects of life. It also turns needs into desires – which are insatiable. These two processes create damage to human relationships and lead to an economy that is environmentally destructive and socially unsustainable. Alternatives combine the meeting of needs with a strong emphasis on human value not just market value. With this approach and if people in local communities are viewed as actors and not as ‘victims’, there are resources and know-how to make a difference. The working groups elaborated on this theme via many practical examples. The globalising economy also disrupts relationships and tends to push risk to the individual level. The ‘dry bones’ of broken relationships and injustice is one result of this process. Therefore a central emphasis of the theological reflection in the consultation was on the need to restore relationships and create new solidarities. The meaning of covenant as the basis for human relationships and the relationship between persons and God and persons and the earth was a key theme of the theological reflection. The process of restoring relationships includes the possibility for reinterpretation of life by all those involved. When the consultation came to the question of structural change it was clear that there are both the resources and the knowledge to create more just and environmentally sustainable structures which will also enable local alternatives to flourish. The linking of local initiatives with efforts for structural change is a key factor in developing the momentum for change. It is here that the churches also have a contribution to make. 5. Strategies The impact of economic globalisation is to disrupt and ‘disorganise’ local communities in ways that also create environmental damages. Therefore hopeful strategies must begin with restoring just relationships through processes of networking and empowerment. Organising and solidarity building ‘from below’ was seen to be essential. But it is also necessary to work for the political changes to create a political framework that is supportive of the values shared by Christians and civil society. This framework should prioritise sustainable community over against profit maximisation, creating an alternative to unlimited economic growth. The consultation considered that the continuing development of open networking is essential to link the various strategies. This has implications for the kinds of projects supported by the churches. Because the situation is turbulent there needs to be more focus on dialogue and open-ended experimental approaches. Finally, the consultation recognised the need for personal action in daily life and for the churches to promote the change of heart necessary for all to enjoy the fullness of life God intended. 6. Invitation The final sessions of the consultation dealt with concrete strategies related to the different working group themes and the main lines are summarised in the following pages. Consultation members invite churches, faith communities and civil society to join in the follow up process. B. SHORT GROUP REPORTS 1. Food, Agriculture and Rural Life Members of group had identified the following issues as the most important: The process of globalisation has a negative impact on farmers in Europe and disastrous impact on agriculture and rural life in developing world. It is observed that the rural space is understood only as production and economic space by some decision-makers influenced by the neo- liberal economic paradigm - this often causes disintegration of rural communities. The problem is that the alternatives and imaginative ways in rural space on many places already exist, but they have no adequate space in the public sphere and in the media. The fact that EU wishes to be more competitive economically by 2010 can be dangerous for environment and social solidarity. Recognising these issues and challenges we recommended Churches to:  Support education on rural issues in all types of schools including the theological colleagues;  Build networks of Christian families, farmers, and other committed Christians interested in alternative ways - this can be supportive to diversity in agricultural production, eco-agritourism, direct marketing, labelling, improvements in rural community life and support for those who try to live self-sufficiently. Practical steps to minimise the environmentally hazardous transport of food and supporting local consumption should be enhanced. The group suggests to the Churches to declare the Decade for Sustainable Life with the special concern for rural regions. As the immediate steps for improvement of Churches work in rural space it was suggested that a dialogue with our colleagues from the ECEN should be established and web pages should be established as the initial exchange platform. At the same time Churches, international ecumenical organisations and foundations are asked to allocate initial funding for various projects in all areas stated above. The group emphasised that the rural life is based on deep relationships among people, plants and animals and by this it offers a unique value to over-urbanised society. On festive occasions Churches should include blessing of specially home-made and local food (e.g. Easter, harvest festivals etc.). Christians should also strive to defend and enhance unique heritage of the rural space. 2. Work, Income & Time Work is an important form of participation in society and means of serving one’s neighbour. Work must therefore be an opportunity for every worker to live their vocation fully and effectively as human beings expressing their humanity. The education of new generations of free and responsible citizens is an essential prerequisite. Labour is far more than a factor of production. The generous gifts of God need to be fairly distributed to everyone in the world community, many of whom cannot be reached through remuneration for work. Forms of distribution need to be established – or re-established – which underpin freedom, ensure that no one is excluded, while also ensuring that resources are carefully managed and stewarded. Life moves according to its rhythms. The Sabbath is one of the days of creation. The rhythms of work and rest, through the day, the week, the year and the whole life should be cultivated so that humanity, society and creation may flower. Follow-up actions - Support collective bargaining - Join BIEN (The Basic Income Earth Network ) - Join an ethical shareholder movement - Churches could be active in creating multi-stakeholder forums. 3. Social and Economic Rights Globalisation is one of the causes of the miserable situation of many unemployed people and migrants in European countries. Governments pretend to have reduced capacities to fulfil their social obligations. It is therefore necessary to develop more local initiatives on economic matters and to support existing ones with a good system of communication between partners on local, national and international levels. Confronted with local economic developments, local groups need easy access to information from country to country on firms in the same sector (employment contracts, social rights, working conditions etc.) in order to avoid people being played off against each other. Such efforts should get support from Churches and Church agencies. Migration to European countries is getting more and more intensive, but not legally recognised. The argument that legalising of migrants already working in Europe would further increase migration cannot be shared nor justified by Christians. Advocating the rights of unemployed people and migrants in their social situation requires legal advisory services on the local level. It should be part of Christian diaconia in all places, undergirded by adequate professional training and with appropriate internet links. Such social services can support individual complaints based on international covenants on economic, social and cultural rights. Such endeavours should be monitored regularly. Local and national governments are often not strong enough in setting conditions (enforcing taxes and social laws) to investors intending to enter their territory. Co-operation with trade unions is part of a strategy of diaconal and social movements to solve the problems of differing social standards in the different European countries. Training and communication services could be offered by the ecumenical diaconal networks in Europe, provided sufficient funding is made available to them. (for example: The Churches Commission on Migrants in Europe, The European Contact Group, The Work and Economy Research Network and the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches) 4. Trade markets and global & local alternatives The members of group shared the opinion that current trade markets need to be transformed and alternatives to be developed. Negative tendencies of global economy Neoliberal economic globalisation creates structures that negatively affect the lives and livelihoods of many people and communities. It also endangers life as a whole.  The global economy of today is dominated by the “big players” – multinational companies and rich states. Their domination is expressed in the systems of international finances and trade. (For example in the decision-making of the World Bank, & the International Monetary Fund and the treatment of debtors in the Paris Club.) Nevertheless the rules in the World Trade Organisation seem to be equal for all its members, but due to the lack of transparency in the talks and decision-making processes the interests of poor countries are often not properly protected.  In addition the equal treatment of unequal partners produces bigger inequality than before. Also the debt crisis of many countries is a product and still remains an instrument of domination.  The European Union is one of the most aggressive actors on the world scale when it comes to enforcing trade deregulation that is convenient to their interests. They use double standards depending on different levels and avoid transparency. Also the internal market of EU is targeted for further liberalisation (i. e. Bolkenstein directive), endangering the public good. Alternatives  Based upon theological and socio-ethical critique we see the need for transparency, democratisation and a stronger regulation of trade for the sake of the poor and disadvantaged as well as for the protection of natural environment.  We appreciate the recent positive developments like the envisaged 100% cancellation of debts of the poorest countries by G8 governments, connected with the taxation on air fuel or first steps in implementing of Kyoto protocol.  We see also the positive potential of developments in existing trade and finance systems (i.e. extension of “Everything but Arms” principles). But much deeper and far-ranging changes are needed to face the still growing inequalities of wealth.  We are looking for alternatives which respect the needs of the producers and consumers and the protection of nature. Therefore we support and wish to develop alternative systems of trade and financing (fair trade, ethical investment banks etc.), local and regional markets (to shorten transport routes and to increase the local sustainability), connected with reasonable limitation of trade and financial operations (i. e. with help of “Tobin” tax, ecological taxation etc.) At the same time major structural changes are needed to give poor countries back their right to protect their people and nature.  We plead for a strengthening of the role of international institutions in UN systems, regulating the economic activities. We also encourage the establishing of new institutions like Fair and Transparent Arbitration Procedure (to deal with debt crisis) or an international court for economic issues. Strategies We identified some strategies how to move in the indicated direction:  join the existing alternative systems (like fair trade, local currencies etc.) or develop new ones  develop notions of solidarity and interdependence  create networks  raise public awareness on trade related issues (economic literacy work, media work)  join trade campaigns (i.e. just trade campaign) or develop new ones  lobby on different levels (i.e. target church leaders, politicians, the decision-making bodies in economic field)  participate in monitoring of trade actors (“watch” systems)  develop consumer consciousness (e.g. boycotting of certain firms)  develop creative new lifestyles emphasizing quality of life rather than quantity of consumption and make them to “a fashion” 5. Multinational Corporations and Economic Democracy Multinational Corporations (MNC’s) have a strong impact on all European societies. Like new empires, they rise and demand local and national structures to adjust to their needs. Thus they often cause damage to the natural environment, transportation systems, industry or farming of the local community where they exercise their business. Their administrative structures decree that immense economical power is concentrated in the hands of a very few persons only. This power is not necessarily exercised for the good of society, but for the maximum profit of their company. There is, however, the possibility of change from within, when organisations of civil society confront MNC’s with sustainability reports, consumers press for fair marketing strategies, or shareholder groups exercise their right to democratic participation by calling for reform. Changes can also be enhanced by the enforcement of existing laws or guidelines on their economic endeavour, or the putting up of new legal frameworks pressed for by trade unions and similar organisations. There is also the possibility to create alternatives and to use consumer choice based pressure to change the behaviour of MNC’s. But often neither the pressure of concerned citizen groups from below, nor eventual legal intervention from above, are able to produce changes within persons and companies caught up in a profit driven mentality much larger than their own enterprise. We, therefore, consider the creation of more grassroots awareness about the structures that lead to the assumption that ‘money is the measure of all things’, as a primary task for our churches and communities. The existing network, which links concerned Christians all over Europe - and not only within the economic expression it finds in the European Union, is a milestone of hope to counter the negative impact of the idol of ‘wellbeing through profit’ only. C. FOLLOW UP ACTIONS In addition to the follow up of the specific working groups through a variety of direct exchanges and other activities and a significant number of personal initiatives, there were a number of specific follow up actions suggested by participants: Specific Issues not in Group Reports: The following lines should up followed up by the network - the role of the state in protecting social and economic rights & develop ties with trade unions - research and exchange on the new economy - developing capacity for analysis of multinational companies in central and eastern Europe and developing shareholder action; supporting networking of investor movements especially those involving churches. - dialogue with small and medium enterprise owners about globalisation Documentation, Exchange & Training: - The web site will be continued as a host for documents on faith and economy and the web site will be developed as platform for following up the various thematic issues and the discussion of the overall theme. - One of the web sites should be used to host a learning base on multi-national companies. In collaboration with ECCR (UK) workshops should be held on multinational companies and corporate responsibility – analysis and strategy for church and civil society. - The Ecumenical Academy will begin to offer regular training workshops on the themes dealt with in the consultation. - Link more closely with civil society including the European and national social forums Infrastructure: - The possibility of WEN, ECG and the Academy having a sufficiently strong infrastructure to carry forward the networking and training function as well as actions on key issues should be explored in collaboration with CEC. This is the minimum needed for effective support in Europe. Further Development: - The planning group for the consultation will meet 1st to 3rd July in Prague, to evaluate the consultation and the follow up. The next meeting of the WEN Assembly will take place in the context of a workshop on Good Work in a Globalising Economy to be held 6th – 11th September in Bochum, Germany, to which all are invited. This will also deal with follow-up. WEN is now a project of the September ECG and the workshop is the General Meeting of the ECG as well. D. EVALUATION The first round of evaluations of the consultation showed that there was much appreciation of the programme and especially the organisation of the event and the planning of a process that had enabled people to participate fully. There was a great deal of support for further work on the issues raised and a commitment to follow up. The following elements were particularly appreciated (in the words of participants): - the step by step approach in the groups and the feeling that objectives were reached. The style of discussion was a balance between personal exchange and analysis and strategy building. - the ‘space’ in the group work, which enabled a deeper level of understanding and the differences of interpretation of various concepts. - the process developed a strong basis for future collaboration, the concrete proposals are very important. - the variety of methods was very impressive and the visits stimulated the desire to deepen knowledge and understanding. - the theological panel was appreciated very much but there was not enough time for a full plenary discussion. - the worship life of the consultation was rich and well planned and the creative group gave new ideas and fun! - Some further comments: ‘there were good inputs for heart head and stomach which will keep me going for a long time’ ‘I leave enriched, informed and stimulated….’ ‘the team was well prepared and therefore the results are good’ ‘I realised that the presence and input of people from central and eastern Europe was very significant and it was absolutely challenging for me’ ‘compared to Budapest the ‘east’ contribution was much stronger, really present in the process’ ‘the conference inspired us to work in our own communities’ ‘the time for being together and sharing directly with people on the issues fills a real need and we lack the possibilities for this’ Contacts for more information and follow up: Jiři Silný at: The Ecumenical Academy - Prague Postal Address: Na Míčánkách 1, CZ101 00 Praha 10, Czech Republic Tel./Fax: +420 272737077 e-mail: Tony Addy at: The Work and Economy Research Network in the European Churches Postal Address: WEN, Žitna 45, CZ110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic Tel/Fax: +420 222211799 Email: Mobile: +420 603 276910 The consultation was supported financially by the European Union. Other support came from The World Council of Churches and church agencies. Nothing in this report should be taken to imply that the E.U. or other funders support any of the ideas or opinions that are included herein.


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