The top leaders from the World Council of Churches (WCC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) gathered at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland, for a “high-level encounter” between the three organizations, on Oct. 22, 2004. The encounter, which will take the form of a round-table discussion, will mark the final session in the series of talks between the three groups that began in February 2003.
In preparation for the round-table discussion, the WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia met with the IMF deputy managing director Agustin Carstens and the WB president James D. Wolfensohn for a brief morning conference.
During the short informal conference, Kobia affirmed that the goals of the three organizations are one and the same: making a firm commitment to bring justice to the poor.
Kobia explained that the “World Bank’s vision of a poverty free world resonates well with a substantial portion of the Council’s analysis,” since the goal of “poverty reduction rather than eradication, is a trickle-down approach to development that implies that some people are expected to remain poor".
Kobia also highlighted the concerns of the Council to put people at the center of economic development.
"For us, it is essential to listen to the cries of the people in order to achieve a new, just, global order," he stressed.
"Since millions have borne the social, political and ecological costs of the tenacious cycle of debt, the churches understand themselves to have been called to seek effective ways of breaking the stranglehold of debt, to redress its consequences and to ensure that subsequent debt crises will not recur," Kobia stated.
At that end, Kobia said he is “troubled by assumptions of growth without limit, and neglect of the ramifications of growth as regards issues of equity and the ecology.”
He also said the IMF and WB – organizations that were created post WWII at the Bretton Woods conference, should reassess its internal power structures.
The WCC is “profoundly concerned about the issue of human rights and justice in regard to the acknowledgment of voices and apportionment of votes in the governing bodies of the Bretton Woods institutions," said Kobia.
Nonetheless, Kobia affirmed that the meeting was a "critical engagement in the search for viable pathways towards global justice, so that all people can have their fair share in the common wealth of all,” and that “through mutual listening and dialogue, we have reached a basis of understanding which allows the WCC and the IMF and World Bank to engage together on areas of mutual concern and identify areas of disagreement.”
The three leaders will meet for the round-table discussion at 3-5pm local time, with other top officials of the institutions. Discussion topics will include poverty eradication, human rights, the progress with Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, and the governance of Bretton Woods institutions. Following the discussion and presentations, the groups will present a Joint Statement and conclusion to the series.